What you’re really celebrating when you read a romance novel
It’s just a romance novel. It’s just a bodice ripper, totally disposable (trashy) book that you buy at the airport and leave behind in your hotel room, the kind of book you read once and forget about. It’s certainly not the kind of book you study in school, have pretentious conversations about at cocktail parties or let gather dust on your bedside table.
But romance novels are still worthy of celebration—full on fireworks, confetti, champagne kind of celebration. Out of millions of reasons why we should celebrate romance, here are three:
Romance novels let you feel all the feelings.
Lolz. Angst. Fiery rage, explosive passion, total fear, fluttering hearts. From page one to the black moment, to happily ever after and all the moments in between, romance novels turn up the emotion to 11, which means the reader gets an emotional adventure—risk free. This effects us as individuals in a way that has implications for human interaction. The New York Times reports on two studies that show “that individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.” To me, this sounds like a recipe for kinder human interactions, which makes for a better world.
Romance novels are pure escape and entertainment.
No, that’s not a bad thing. How else can you go to England for $6.99? Or hell, how else can you get to Medieval Scotland? How else can you, for a few hours, live the life of pirate, princess, or Wild West cowgirl? If you figure it out, let me know. In the meantime, I am taking a temporary break from the dishes in my sink, the epic to do list and my small apartment to immerse myself in a world of castles, servants and nothing to do but make love to a hunky hero (after saving the day, obvs). Then it’s back to work, rested and reinvigorated after a little break.
Romance novels are great examples for girls.
Romance heroines lean in. They live and love to a higher standard—not even Mr. Darcy and ten thousand a year are enough if they aren’t accompanied by love and respect. Romance heroines make disastrous mistakes of epic proportions and then they recover. They come in all shapes and sizes (even before those Dove ads). They manage good relationships with men and women. And the orgasms—these heroines learn to experience pleasure and show the reader how too. Romance novels are stories that tell girls they matter, that they should chase their dreams, that they can have adventures instead of being stuck at home as daughter/girlfriend/wife. Above all, these stories tell girls they can be true to themselves and be loved for it.
Maya recommends…Katharine Ashe (8/1), Miranda Neville, Caroline Linden, Brenna Aubrey and Megan Mulry (8/27).
Questions For The Author
Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.
When I was 19, I moved to New York City with very few friends or connections. It’s been 12 years now and I haven’t looked back.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer.
In my early NYC days, I lived in a very confining dorm room and had few friends to go out and socialize with. So I took my notebook out to cafes, where I would sit and write for hours. I also took creative writing classes in college I figured the homework would be easy (just make stuff up!) and I could do it in a café with a glass of wine. I’ve been lucky to make a career out of that.
Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life.
There are many, but here’s one: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. With that book, I realized that one could write about their life in a funny and profound way even if it wasn’t particularly adventurous, dramatic or unusual. I learned to find the universal, the truth, and the funny in the small moments we all experience. Even the most outlandish fictional romance novel requires these moments to connect with readers so they can ring true.
Maya Rodale began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence. She is now the author of numerous smart and sassy romance novels. A champion of the genre and its readers, she is also the author of the non-fiction book Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation Of Romance Novels, Explained and a co-founder of Lady Jane’s Salon, a national reading series devoted to romantic fiction. Maya lives in New York City with her darling dog and a rogue of her own.
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