I’m a romance novel convert.
Yup, I write romance, but I haven’t always been a fan of it. In fact, I didn't pick up my first romance novel ever until three years ago. I fell in love with the genre hard and fast after that.
I was still living in Germany at the time and had just finished writing my first novel (the one that shall remain in the drawer). In English, to boot. While researching how to publish it on English-speaking markets, I realized I had to label my story as fitting into a certain genre (oh, the naïveté of yore! How precious little I knew of the publishing world back then…). And, as it turned out to my surprise, it fit into the romance genre, paranormal romance, to be precise.
Up until that point, I'd never once read a romance novel. So, as 90% of the people who have never picked up a romance, my first thought was, “Those books?” Complete with a scrunched-up nose and haughty attitude, of course. Since I kept reading the advice “know your genre,” I decided I had better start sampling other paranormal romances out there, before I dared publish my own. So I picked up Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound, as I'd read a lot of recommendations for that one.
I have been a die-hard PNR fan ever since.
I devoured the rest of Harrison’s Elder Races series, as well as Larissa Ione’s Demonica books, Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunter novels, and many more, branching out into other romance subgenres too. The revelatory feeling I had could best be described by, “Where have you BEEN all my life?”
Well, there are reasons why it took me 27 years to begin to appreciate the romance genre. For one thing, my love for paranormal once trumped my love for romance in a story (for the longest time, I totally rooted for Lady Amalthea in The Last Unicorn to turn back into an awesome unicorn and leave Prince Lir and her wimpy human self behind).
For another, romance novels have a bad rap in Germany, much like in the US. Beside the term Liebesromane, which is a pretty good equivalent to the English “romance novels,” we sometimes call them Groschenromane, which translates to “dime novels” or “cheap novelettes.” Even more pejorative is the word Schundroman – something even worse than “trashy novel” in English. So, like the English “bodice ripper,” there are terms in German which belittle and deride romance novels, as well as the people who read them.
It is certainly ironic that the one genre that centers on love is subject to the most hate and ridicule in the literary world. Growing up with these prejudices, I was surprised to find that not only do I love to read those books, I love to write them as well!
I have come to see romance as the essence that holds the world together. A story without love in it, to me, lacks life itself. Romance is about the deepest connection between human beings, and how that connection is forged and develops is the most interesting part to me in any story. I am proud to write and read books that show how two people transcend themselves and, together, grow beyond what they each were on their own.
I’m a romance novel convert, and I love it.
How did you become a fan of romance? What was your first romance novel? Let me know in the comments, and share your favorites!