This Again: Romance and Reality

You guys! You'll never guess! According to Jezebel, your favorite romance novel may not be a perfect blueprint for your life! I know! I was as shocked as anyone.

The very idealized torso of a very naked man, wearing only a wide gold armband around his bicep, standing in front of a venomously pink sunset. The text tells you this is the cover for Truly, Madly Viking, by Sandra Hill.

We here at Olivia Waite have been reading romance novels since almost the very moment we could read. Put down my copy of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish—also probably not a good blueprint for your life, by the by—and picked up Johanna Lindsey's Warrior's Woman. (And then had it taken away by my mom—hi, Mom!—because I was five at the time and so I had to wait until I was old enough to get my own library card and track it down and finish that sucker because I had to find out what happened at the end.) And I have read Sweet, Savage Love and other romances of the sort the Smart Bitches refer to as Old Skool and, yes, sometimes they used to get a little rapey. And that was bad.

So we—we meaning ninety-nine percent of the romance industry, including the large majority of self-published authors—don't write them that way anymore. Because SQUICK.

But when the media wants to talk about romance novels, usually around this time in February WHATACOINCIDENCE, they always turn to somebody who doesn't read them. Somebody with taste, this implies. Somebody whose judgment we trust. Somebody who isn't under the spell of those evil, evil books with their evil, evil pink covers and evil, evil happy endings.

The recent front-page New York Times article about romance's digital sales was the only time I can think of that someone from the media talked to actual experts and actual romance readers. Imagine what would happen if Jezebel had published an article by someone who wrote, "I have never talked to any black people, but . . ." and then proceeded to tell you all about black people. There is a word we would call that person, and that word is not 'expert.'

The torso of a naked male standing against a black background. Red and white text informs you this is Generous Fire, by Olivia Waite--hey, that's me!

In fact, the author of the Jezebel piece apparently Googled around a bit, found the Romance Club tumblr, read the first piece they saw, and called it a day. Because the good people at Romance Club—whose review today is a totally spot-on piece about the awesomeness of Zoe Archer's Stranger and the sexypants inspired by her hero Catullus Graves—saw they were mentioned in Jezebel and had this to say:

And here I thought I had so many new followers just because the Tumblr Directory was really, really effective.

That said, the rapey review I posted this morning was a complete coincidence, and really, the genre has for the most part moved FAR beyond those kinds of plot devices. Free shitty books, while always hilarious, are not the best examples of the genre. I’ve reviewed several books I’ve absolutely loved, and none of them have any kind of forced sex whatsoever.

They not only ignored the other reviews and pieces on the site, but they even ignored the end of the rapey review where the reviewer said she enjoyed everything except the R-word part and went on to read the totally non-rapey and awesome sequel.

And I do know the term for that: confirmation bias. If you think all French people wear berets, and you take a trip to Paris for a week, you will most likely remember the handful of people with berets and forget the hundreds of beret-less Parisians going about their daily life with heads bravely bared a la vent.

If you think romance novels are poorly written and unrealistic and full of sex that makes a lapsed Catholic blush—even a Catholic who's writing for Jezebel, apparently?—then that's fine and dandy, but you're going to be more likely to highlight things that support your opinions. And you're more likely to be asked to talk about them on a major internet platform as well, it seems. Much more likely than those of us who have a stack of them by the bed, or who have filled an e-reader with them, or who write them for a living.