IMHO continues our series of pre-Valentine’s day posts (from Feb 7 - 13) with the theme of “Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance.” Please help me welcome Madeline Hunter, a repeat offender on IMHO and a bestselling author of historical romance--who also happens to be a very smart university professor.
Your persistent naysayer claims: "Only lonely, desperate women read romance."
Your smug reply (statistics from the Romance Writers of America pressroom): "Hmm. That's interesting. While it's true women make up 90.5 percent of the romance readership, men actually make up 9.5 percent. And, romance readers are more likely than the general population to be currently married or living with a partner. The heart of the U.S. romance novel readership is women aged 31–49 who are currently in a romantic relationship, and you can bet their men reap the benefits of that. Doesn't sound desperate to me. Sounds pretty smart." Smackdown!
Oh, and want to see another stereotype shattered? Check out Murder She Writes and see who had their picture snapped with a romance book (you'll need to scroll down for the picture). It will make you smile.
Now, on to Madeline!
Madeline Hunter: Do You Read Those Kinds of Books?
Well, yes, I do.
There is a woman I know. She is a friend of a friend, and I see her periodically, which isn’t nearly infrequently enough. Whenever we meet, she goes out of her way to ask about my writing. How nice of her! However, she raises the subject for her own agenda. It is mostly an excuse to be able to say that she does not read “those kinds of books.”
She isn’t the first to have said this to me, and she won’t be the last. But it gets under my skin with her because of the way she says it. Her tone, her expression---her point, if you will---is that she is too intelligent to read my books.
Not reading romances is a badge for some people. For them, it is not just about simple preference in stories, or liking mysteries or lit fic more. In declaring they don’t read those kinds of books, they think they are staking out some higher intellectual ground that proves they are better than women who do.
I find this humorous, because the reader who first put a romance novel in my hands had a Ph.D. from Yale. The women in the romance community are as smart as the ones I have met in academe. Often they are one and the same.
The women who read romances are smart. For one thing, they are reading. It is impossible to be a lifelong reader, no matter what is between the covers of your choice, and not become smart even if you didn’t start out that way.
Not long ago, if a woman with a Ph.D. wrote a romance, it was treated as a “man bites dog” story by the industry. Imagine that! Do you think she actually reads those kinds of books too? Even the publishers and editors were impressed by the apparent anomaly. It makes one wonder how they saw their market then.
Those days have passed, because readers and writers of romance looked around their community, and everyone realized it wasn’t an anomaly at all. Irrespective of the readers’ formal educations, the overall intellectual level is very high. With the web, we have all been able to meet each other, and communicate, and we now know for a fact what we had always suspected from our anecdotal experiences---smart women (and men) read romances.