I am a feminist.
I read and write romance.
Those two statements do not contradict each other. In fact, I contend that romance novels empower women, which is why I’m so honored to kick off National Read-a-Romance Month. Romance novels have empowered me personally to build a career as a storyteller and a self-employed businesswoman, but I feel that they empower readers in two major ways.
1. Romance novels teach women that we can do and be anything.
The women in romance novels have some pretty fabulous careers. In my latest book, THREE LITTLE WORDS, a Fool’s Gold romance, there’s a female self-defense instructor who used to be an assassin, a female mayor, police chief, firefighter… The heroine of Alexis Morgan’s charming romance, A TIME FOR HOME, which will be out next month, unexpectedly inherits a Victorian home and decides to go into business for herself as a bed and breakfast owner.
There is no limit to what a romance heroine can do. Even in historical romances, you’ll find stories of exceptional women who exemplify the empowered spirit. Author Maureen Child has been e-publishing many of her earlier romances, with strong women who tamed the Wild West… and the men who rode there.
2. Romance novels teach women how we deserve to be treated by the men in our lives.
Romance novels teach us that we should hold out for a man who encourages us to be who we are. In fact, he delights in who we are, and he wouldn’t have us any other way. Sure, a hero may behave badly at times, but then he has to learn something, to grow. He has to earn his happy ending by proving to the heroine – and to the reader – that he is worthy of her love. He has to demonstrate that he will cherish her, respect her, be faithful to her. Anything less, and the ending isn’t happy, and that won’t do.
There’s a fantasy element to romance novels, but it’s mostly about looks – he’s usually tall, handsome, and has the sculpted muscles of an Olympian. Those are superficial attributes that should come with a “for entertainment purposes only” warning label. But look past his gorgeousness (if you can), and you’ll find a decent man with a generous heart and a desire to protect and nurture those he loves.
Those are qualities we should all seek in a mate, aren’t they? Romance readers do. And they find them. Eavesdrop on a conversation between romance readers, and you’ll often hear them talking about the nice things their husbands or boyfriends do for them. Romance novels teach women that we should expect to be treated with kindness and respect.
And yes, that means that we should expect a man who considers our orgasm to be just as important as his own.
See? Empowering, right?
Questions to the Author
What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?
I live in a condo, so space is a major issue. When we moved into the city, I didn’t hold onto anything I considered ugly, so I’ll go with the “craziest.” I love (love, love, love, love to the point of fetishness) purses. Despite our lack of space, I can’t bring myself to get rid of my crazy purse collection. Sometimes I go into the closet just to look at them and to run my finger lovingly across the leather.
If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)
The movie would be titled, “You Can’t Put that in A Book!” and I would be played by Leelee Sobieski, because the wordsmith in me loves her name.
What is the best non-monetary gift you’ve ever been given?
My parents taught me to value reading, and I can’t think of a better gift than that. Reading has touched my life in countless ways.
If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)
Ford and Isabel in THREE LITTLE WORDS are pretty spectacular. While I love all my heroes, Ford is one that I think I could marry in real life. He’s a retired Navy SEAL, so he’s intense when he needs to be, but his personality naturally gravitates toward easy-goingness and a great sense of humor. I have a lot of admiration for Isabel, too, who deals with unexpected disappointments in her life with a can-do attitude. No obstacle is insurmountable for Isabel – she pouts for a minute and then figures out how to move on. They’re going to have a very happy life together!
Susan has generously donated five copies of ALL SUMMER LONG to give away (U.S. only). To enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both. (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.) Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 1 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.
With more than 25 million books sold worldwide, New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery is known for creating characters who feel as real as the people next door, and for putting them into emotional, often funny situations readers recognize from their own lives. With her popular, ongoing Fool’s Gold series, Susan has reached new heights on the bestsellers lists and has won the hearts of countless new fans. Join Susan’s mailing list at www.SusanMallery.com.
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