The Case for Romance: A List of Essays

A few weeks ago something happened in my offline life that had me chomping at the bit to defend romance (and my writing of it, of course). BTW, if you know me offline and you ever want to talk to me face to face about how I reconcile being an Episcopal priest and a writer in the genre of romance, I’d be honored. And the coffee’s on me.

The apologia I began to mentally compose would make a sweeping and unimpeachable case for the genre, demonstrating its intelligence, scholarship, feminism, and positive sexuality that empowers women and (in my opinion) makes our whole culture safer by setting the norms of consent and mutuality.

Then I remembered I'm trying to get Not Another Rock Star ARCs out into the hands of reviewers and early readers next week, plus work the day job and be a mom. Suddenly, I recalled lots of brilliant apologists had already written these essays and probably better than I could.

So I asked social media for recommendations instead. Here’s what I heard back (and I’ve included thanks below.)

First off, here’s an amazingly comprehensive list at Socially Scientific Romance, blogger @donnie_clair’s blog.

And now here’s a few articles that I enjoyed, or got me thinking, or made me hopeful:

How Romance Novels ‘Imagine a World in Which Women Can Win’ (Rewire, May 2016)

A review and summary of the documentary Love Between the Covers, which critiques the bias against the genre with industry pros. “Abby Zidle, senior editor at Pocket Books, tells director Laurie Kahn that “the story we’re looking for is one that says, ‘You deserve to have your desires—whether they’re for career, love, or sex—validated.’””

Can You Enjoy Romance Fiction and Be a Feminist? (Aeon, Sept 2015)

Explores female sexual fantasies and their implications. ‘We always have moral panic when it comes to female sexuality. God forbid a woman should know what she wants sexually and it should be different from what a guy wants to do.’ -- author Lilah Pace

DANGEROUS BOOKS FOR GIRLS - The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained

The website for romance author Maya Rodale’s book about the genre. Here I’ve linked to her excerpt, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Fabio.” Hint: we’re talking about a hunky and humorous icon so we DON’T talk about women’s success at writing and empowerment in romance novels.

Beyond Bodice-Rippers: How Romance Novels Came to Embrace Feminism (The Atlantic, March 2013)

Includes quotes by great feminist romance writers about the inherent feminism and its tensions in the romance genre.

History in Color: A Black American Romance Roundtable (The Toast, April 2015)

About the (finally) broadening scope of Historical Romance beyond Regency England, full of hope that, as these more widely representative books are published, the genre’s readership is exposed to a broader view of history and its makers.

Inside the Push for a More Diverse Romance Genre (Jezebel May 2015)

Analysis of the multicultural romance market and its changes.

No Guilt In My Pleasures: How to Critique and Still Enjoy (The Mary Sue, Jan 2015)

“For me this means being more discerning about what kind of musicians I listen to and how they perform and more critical of the kinds of romances I read. I have started tracking authors that I think do a better job than others and reading more of their books, while reading the reviews of any new author thoroughly.”

How Jane Austen Continues to Inspire Romance Authors, (Bookish April 2017)

About the timeless ideas in Austen’s novels, including the celebration of intelligent women, the value of looking beneath appearances, that people can change (even unlikable heroines), and that women have the right to be happy.

How I Learned to Stop Being a Literary Snob and Love Romance (Bookish April 2014)

“Romance being somewhat ignored or dismissed by highbrow society has allowed it to flourish on a very personal level, where authors and readers are not trying to out-snob each other, but they’re really just reaching for this emotional impact that is very powerful when achieved.”

Good Romance: Sex is not Embarrassing (Author Blog, Oct 2012)

An analysis of the Christian Ethics of romance novels by theology doctoral candidate Celia Wolff

Thanks to Ruby Lange, Celia Wolff, JC Lewis, Adele Buck, Colleen Davis for these recommendations!