Romance = Underground Writing???

“Romance fiction is widely reckoned to be a very low form of literature. Maybe the lowest, if we’re not counting the writing at Groupon, or on Splenda packets. Romance fiction: probably the worst! An addictive, absurd, unintellectual literature, literature for nonreaders, literature for stupid people—literature for women! Books Just For Her!

Low or not, romance is by far the most popular and lucrative genre in American publishing, with over $1.35 billion in revenues estimated in 2010. That is a little less than twice the size of the mystery genre, almost exactly twice that of science fiction/fantasy, and nearly three times the size of the market for classic/literary fiction…. people are devoted to something.” (Maria Bustillos, Romance Novels, The Last Great Bastion of Underground Writing)

Bustillos argues that Romance novels are feminists documents  written almost exclusively by women, for women and about women. The underlying belief in the novels is that love conquers all and this solution she feels is ‘feminine’ (I don’t agree with her on that point. )

She explains her title:

Romance literature is underground writing, almost never reviewed or discussed in newspapers or literary rags, or at a dinner party. One is supposed to be embarrassed to have a taste for it. [It is] …a literature without pretense.

I say… let  literary snobs call our stories trivial. Let the critics denounce them as lurid, bodice ripping adventures, or worse, soft core porn. They are missing the point. The modern romance is about women finding strength within themselves to live full lives. I believe the essence of the romance story  is: LIFE IS ALL ABOUT LOVE.

Who in their right mind would fault that?

Any comments?

Author: Jo-Ann Carson

About Jo-Ann Carson Where magic happens … Reports of Jo-Ann Carson’s death on a Gulf Island are greatly exaggerated or, at the very least, premature. The eclectic crew of ghosts that haunt her head spill onto the page in two series: The Gambling Ghosts and The Ghost & Abby Mysteries. A Viking with existential issues, a broken hearted Highlander, a Casanova man-witch and a Pirate with a secret are just a few of the males her strong heroines encounter in tales of fantasy, adventure and romance. A firm believer in the magic of our everyday lives, Jo-Ann loves watching sunrises, walking beaches near her home in the Pacific Northwest and reading by the fire. You can visit her on social media: Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook

6 thoughts on “Romance = Underground Writing???”

  1. Hey, Jo-Ann, I checked in here to look at the post on “What’s Appropriate.” Like you, it was a busy weekend with the grands. How lucky are we!

    After reading today’s post, I have to comment. I used to think maybe what we write isn’t of value, but I remember, before I’d started writing, how valuable I found romance. My mother was in a retirement center and had moved to the health care center. When she wasn’t awake, I read, and what I read was romance. I needed a happy ending I could count on. It wasn’t happening in real life.

    I’ve heard others recount this kind of experience. A flood, tornado, whatever tore up their lives and family, and they reached for a romance to help them get through. For me, that gives what we do value, regardless of what the critics say.


    1. Marsha
      What a lovely story. It gets right to the heart of what we do…connect with readers and make a difference.
      Thanks for sharing it
      ps and yes we are sooo lucky


  2. About ten years, I came down with a serious illness that took away much of my life. I went from very physically active to bedfast, and from a 3.9 GPA majoring in Environmental Science to barely capable of balancing the checkbook. On better days, I could still read romance. It distracted me from the unbelievable physical pain and gave me something to occupy my mind.

    I regained enough over the years to function, and now I write Romance. I’ll probably never do complex math again, but I’ll be able to bring happy endings to others in desperate situations.

    I don’t give a damn if Romance is underground writing. It’s still vitally important to a big segment of society, and those are the people I write for.

    Thanks for bringing this issue into the open!


    1. Kenra
      I’m sorry to hear about your illness. Your experience brings home the importance of good stories in our lives. They carry us through the rough points and bring light into our hearts. Thank you so much for sharing.


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