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.