Romance Novel Book Clubs

Book_Club_3_womenFor most of my adult life I have run a book club. This year, I am taking a break and find I really miss it. I love the discussion and camaraderie that come from a good book club meeting. In the past, all of my book clubs have read “serious” literature—Booker Prize winners, classics, indie fiction. I’ve never been in a book club that read just for fun—as opposed to edification. So it was with pleasure and curiosity that I went to a meeting of the Romance Novel Lovers book club at a nearby local library.

The book club is run by Jennifer Lohmann, the librarian chosen by Romance Writers of America as Librarian of the Year in 2010. (Next week I’ll have my interview with her.) Jennifer is a big fan of romance novels and thought running an evening book club at her library would be a great way to introduce readers to the genre. Currently her book club has 27 readers, although on any given meeting—they meet once a month—there are usually around eight to ten members. Jennifer picks all the books and they discuss two each time they meet.  The two books usually share a common theme and she picks books easily found at the library or in paperback. She posts the schedule on Meetup.com months in advance so that everyone has plenty of time to find and read the books.

The night I went, the group was discussing Sherry Thomas’ Not Quite a Husband and Jennifer Ashley’s Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage.  In both books the protagonists are married but separated.  Those who came to the book club that night were women ranging in age from around 30 to 60.  All but one of them had finished both books. We met in a conference room at the library where Jennifer works.  Everyone was there, sitting around the table, by a little after 7 p.m. when discussion began.

Jennifer began by asking the group what they thought of Not Quite a Husband.  Most of the group really enjoyed it and spent some time talking about how interesting the setting was.  (Most of the book takes place in what is now Pakistan, but was then colonized India.) It was interesting to hear how readers felt about the heroine and hero, Bryony and Leo. Listening to the differing perspectives on why they were the way they were and whether or not either was truly capable of great love made me rethink my perception of the leads in the book. (While I love Sherry Thomas, this had not been my favorite of her books largely because I found Bryony and Leo to both be fairly unsympathetic characters.) We talked about all aspects of the book—plot, setting, pace and, fairly humorously, sex. I came out of the discussion really wanting to read the book again—hearing about how others saw it made me aware of parts I had missed or glossed over.

We then discussed Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage which was far less lauded. Several had read and loved the first book in the series, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, and found this sequel to be a disappointment. Others felt the book was a fun read but not particularly believable. Everyone felt the sex scenes were a bit over the top.

In both books, the couples are childless and in Not Quite a Husband appear to never have children. We talked about how unusual that is in romance in general—especially in historical romance. And while we began by talking about parenthood in the two books we’d read, we ended up talking about what women look for in romance novels—often it’s not just a fun read or a happy ending, but characters one can relate to. I was engrossed and I plan to go back next month.

I wonder if there are many other romance novel lovers’ book clubs out there.  I know that in my city —a well-heeled college town—our public library stocks very few romances and the only non-campus bookstore in town doesn’t sell them. I am pretty certain there isn’t a romance novel book club here. I think it would be great if there were.  I got so much out of the discussion at Jennifer’s book club. I was so much fun I’m thinking about starting one. I thought I might start on Facebook—create a virtual book club and see where it leads.

Does anyone else have any experience with romance novel book clubs? Are you in one? If you are, how is it run? If you aren’t, would you want to be in one? Do you know of any in your town? Let us know.

(Thanks again to Jennifer Lohmann and her book club!)

- Dabney AAR

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15 Responses to “Romance Novel Book Clubs”

  1. Livia says:

    It would be wonderful to sit and exchange opinions about romance books. But on Facebook, where my work colleagues can see what I post? Auch :) That would be a giant leap for me :)

  2. Leigh says:

    I post on another board and we had an online book club for about six months. We took a break and just haven’t started up again. I think that AAR tried an online discussion of books too.

    I think part of the problem doing it online is you don’t have the personal connection like you do if you meet in person.

    I don’t know if I would want to be in one. That sounds anti social doesn’t it?
    It just that I find most people prefer historicals. Now I read them occassionally but contemporary books are my favorite.

  3. Tee says:

    I personally have never participated in a book club. I believe they work for some people, but I would probably have a difficult time committing myself to a particular time each week or month just to discuss a book(s).

    So, the AAR forum is my book club, feeling comfortable to listen to what others say about various novels and then choosing to participate or not. The on-line discussions work really well for me and I don’t have a need to want to change that right now.

    It would be interesting to see if a book club discussion group would work on Facebook. I don’t see why not. Except wouldn’t it be almost similar to an on-line book forum, such as AAR? I would probably try it, though.

  4. Jen Tullis says:

    I’m in a book club, but like you it always “serious” material, never romance. Oh there might be some romance in the book, but that is not the focus. Also, my book club consists of people I’ve met through church. Even though, we are mostly liberal Episcopalians, sex would be a very uncomfortable topic in this group. Even though, I don’t have a problem discussing sex in most situations, a group of women from church is not one place I would.

    I don’t have a problem with online bookclubs, but not on Facebook. Plus I’m not sure if FB would allow it. Don’t they have a policy about “appropriate” topics. Anyway, why not start one on Goodreads or Shelfari or some site like them. If you do, I would definitely jump in there with my 2 cents worth!

  5. Barbara says:

    Ah, a book club I could really get into. I have to admit the two books that you discussed are among my top books. Not Quite a Husband is my absolute, all-time favorite, number 1 book. I have read and re-read the book multiple times so I probably can quote verbatim passages throughout the book. I would have loved to discuss this with others who are also romance novel aficionados. Lady Isabella is also a favorite although I would agree that Lord Ian was a better novel. It is not always easy to find other readers who have the same enjoyment and/or understanding from romance novels unless on-line, and I do obviously find them as I am writing on here, but to find a group where the give and take was instanteous would be a lot more interesting and fun!

  6. barbie says:

    what i like about book clubs is the fact that we each “see” the characters in a different light. I enjoy figuring out why they act why they act, or why a particular author protrays a character like that.I really would like to get in a online bookclub but there are none that I know of . Well maybe listening to audiobooks but I want to read/listen one book and then figure the 5 ws. I want to read other people reasons and suggestions about the characters. I also want to have variety. Force me to read historical or a christian romance ! Sorry too much free time !

  7. Carrie says:

    Well, you must be a “neighbor” if you went to the Romance Book Club led by Lohmann. I’d planned to go, but couldn’t get through the book (Not Quite A Husband). I didn’t know about the second book, it wasn’t on the online schedule. I’ve never attended a meeting before, but since I have no irl friends who read romances, I thought it would be nice to be among fellow romance readers. I noticed online the next book was Black Hills by Nora Roberts. Is there a second book for next month? I hope I can make it!

  8. Beret Brenckman says:

    I tried a romance book club a few years ago. We started with Jude Deveraux’s Remembrance. No one showed up but me. So I kind of morphed it into a romance tea that worked pretty well annually. I would love to attend or create a book club such as the one you spoke about. I know I have an audience for the romance I keep on my library’s shelves…I just have to figure out how to turn that audience into a discussion group!

  9. DabneyAAR says:

    Carrie–
    http://www.meetup.com/Romance-Lovers-Book-Club/events/15525687/
    Here’s the link to the next meeting.

    The extra book is by Lisa Gardner and is called The Killing Hour.

    I hope to be there. I had a great time at the last one!

  10. Jennifer Lohmann says:

    We started having a second book at the request of some of the regulars. The second book isn’t in the title of the meetup, but if you click on the calendar to the full post, you should see the second book and we have books picked out through June. The book club is a ton of fun and I hope you can make it next month Carrie.

  11. LinnieGayl says:

    It sounds like you’ve found a wonderful book group, Dabney! I’ve been in book groups off and on for a lot of my life, and like you, most of them only read “serious” fiction (either classics or modern). I finally dropped out of my latest “serious” group, because I just wasn’t enjoying rereading the huge classics I’d read in college. I would love to find a romance book group, but am currently in a very fun mystery book group run by a local bookstore.

  12. Sandir says:

    I’ve always wanted to be in an online romance book club so please keep me informed if you do start one! I don’t know anyone who reads romances (honestly I don’t know that many people who read period) and I’d greatly appreciate being able to discuss books with other romance readers.

    (Although I may prefer to do do it through Facebook as well.)

  13. Carrie says:

    Dabney and Jennifer~ thank you both for the information. I’ve signed up at the link you provided. I hope to see you there. ;-)

  14. How does a new author get her book read by all the members of the romance novel book club? My book, Remembering the Moon: a novel was just published on January 7, 2011 by Authorhouse. The book is available via paperback and ebook formats on Amazon and Barnes and Noble internet sites.

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