I Never Thought I’d Read a Romance Novel: Accepting a Challenge

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image from source

Long overdue.

I have been meaning to write this a while back, but life, as you may also know, doesn’t always cooperate with ones plans. Without further introductions, let’s talk about Romance Novels.

Yes, you read that right. I did say Romance Novels. Now, this is, by no means, my cup of tea. I have avoided romance novels as much as I avoid chic lit and best sellers (please refer to my post of being a book snob here). I never seem to care much about love stories no matter how sweet or hot they are. Once I discovered literary fiction, I found myself completely absorbed by it, ignoring anything that fell in a predictable genre. But, I am no longer a book snob. I have, through the years, tried out different genres and have grown appreciation for particular genre-based literature. But Romance Novels?

When I joined Book Riot’s Read Hard challenge I didn’t think I would have to read a Romance Novel. There it was, under task #13 “a romance novel.” Figuring out which romance novel to read was an ordeal. I read a few suggestions and comments.I did a good amount of research. I first settled with a book called Nobody’s Baby but Mine by Susan Elizabeth Philipps. I checked it out at the book store and found that I wasn’t compelled to read it by the first page. I scrapped that plan and did more research. I then tried The Lord of Scoundrels, which based on my research is a popular romance novel. I got to read a chapter of it. I was not happy. I had decided that if I were to read a genre that I wasn’t so keen about, I would read one that can at least hold my attention–a book that wouldn’t feel like I was plodding through a plot. As I despaired over the difficulty of this task, I recalled my senior year in high school. I remember a group of people passing around romance novels. I recall the title “The Wedding,” I googled my way and discovered Julie Garwood.

Julie Garwood saved the day. While I didn’t get a copy of The Wedding, I was able to find the copy of “The Bride,” the prequel to The Wedding. As soon as I opened the book I found myself reading through page 1, then chapter 1, next thing I knew I finished the book.Garwood got me hooked. I enjoyed the historical backdrop by which the story unravels. I like that while there is Romance, it had court politics and war incorporated throughout the story telling. It also helps that her heroine is stubborn and tough ( call this my soft spot), while being extremely clumsy or comedic. If anything, I found myself entertained. It was the mix of all this elements executed well that made this task (finally) enjoyable.

Did I find new appreciation for the genre? I did.

Now, allow me to qualify. I wouldn’t go so far to say that Romance Novels are deep and philosophical. But they can be as engaging as any other novel. I read The Bride in one sitting and found myself quite hungry for more Romance Novel (shocking, I know). The Bride led me to other works by the same author. I enjoyed the twists the author introduced to the story and the historical references. There was research done in the writing, and are accurate to the times. While there is a formula and on occasion her descriptions, especially when the main heroes interaction heat up, are repeated from one novel to another, she adds a few other elements that brings something new into the story. I didn’t expect any of this from a romance novel. I thought I would mostly read about an interaction between two people who are attracted to each other and how all of it slowly heats up. What I found in Garwood was surprising. It definitely challenged my pre-conceived notions about romance novels.

Would I read Romance Novels? Yes, but…
I will probably seek out romance novels that are similar to Garwood. I seem to really prefer historical ones with plots and twists where battles are done through war, deception and connivance. I wouldn’t say I have gained a preference for the genre. I probably will, on occasion, keep it in the reading loop. It something maybe to break my heavy readings.

I suppose, the secret, to being introduced to a genre or classification of novels is by finding the right book or author. I never thought I’d read YA until I read Levithan. I didn’t think I’d read a Russian Novel until I met Dostoevsky. In the end, in literature, it never is just about genre or popularity. A good story is a good story. We must just be willing to find that story.

Book Riot’s Reading Challenge is one of the most satisfying reading challenges I have the chance of participating in. Not only has it widen my reading, it has also enriched my whole reading experience and my view of literature. While I never thought I’d read a Romance Novel in my whole life, I don’t regret picking it up for the challenge.

Have you read something totally outside your comfort zone? Have you had a similar experience as I have? Share your story on the comments below.

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3 Comments

  1. There is this book called The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin and there’s this quote there that says: “the things (such as books) you respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we respond to at forty and vice versa.” And I think that applies to how I feel about romance novels and chick lit. I have had my fair share of them when I was an impressionable youth. Haha. Nowadays though, I like them a little bit less.

    As to books outside my comfort zone, I think David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas totally changed my mind regarding post modern lit. I mean the genre sounds too fancy and high brow. But the ones that David Mitchell writes are pretty accessible and exciting. And perhaps Charles Bukowski’s You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense, which was my first and only poetry collection read. I don’t know how I’d do with say sonnets or more structured types of poetry. But free verse, I think I can get, and will be up to reading them in the future. 🙂

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    1. I’ve seen quite a lot of bloggers talk about AJ FIkry and the reviews have made me hesitate in purchasing a copy. I love that quote. That’s my very philosophy in reading…it comes to you at its perfect time.

      I guess you are right, unlike you, i didn’t read much of chic lit or romance novels. I started, i think with Nancy Drew, then jumped into the abridge classics. The genre-based literature i read a lot growing up was John grisham and michael crichton.

      Ah, I enjoy post modern literature. I made a mistake though of reading Mitchell’s number 9 dream first and it sort of didn’t get me interested.

      Poetry, takes getting used to i think. I too enjoyed the free verse and wrote in the free verse, but in small amounts structured poems are enjoyable. In poetry, I struggle with the old english hence reading shakepseare and yeats can be quite tough for me. But I enjoy, Emily Dickinson, Neruda, Rumi, Mary Oliver.

      thanks for dropping by tin and sharing your thoughts on my posts. 🙂

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  2. […] decided to disengage a lot in the middle of the year. I filled the in-between with my newly-discovered appreciation of historical romance and with light-headed YA literature that tackle LGBTQ relationships, disabilities and mental […]

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