I grew up in a family of readers. The only rooms of our house that don’t have books in them are the bathrooms (and the sun room) because we don’t want the books to get any water/weather damage. My father reads Non-Fiction primarily and my mother’s a fan of Romance novels. They both agree on Sci-Fi and Fantasy. In my room, there are three bookshelves and about 24 boxes full of books. They’re the big Xerox boxes of books. I joke that I live in a storage room that happens to have a bed. It’s true, though. One of my dreams is to move into my own space with enough room to have bookshelves for all of my books. I’ll sort them by genre, alphabetize them by author, and put all of the series in reading order. Can you tell that I used to work in a bookstore?
As I was finishing up my History degree, I took a job at a bookstore in Arlington, VA. It was a part of this independent chain at its Crystal City location. The chain, one Olsson’s Books and Records by name, has since gone out of business. I could launch into my list of possible reasons why it failed, but that could be its own blog post and economics and business really aren’t my strong suit. Anyway, Olsson’s prided itself on its selection of Political Science, History, and “serious” literature books. During my first week or so, one of my co-workers asked me what I read. I gave her an honest answer and she laughed at me.
Much as I enjoy Sci-Fi and Fantasy (and even the occasional piece of “serious” literature), if you look at my Kindle, you’ll find mostly Romance novels. Lots and lots of Romance novels. I’m not ashamed of this. I don’t believe in guilty pleasure. I enjoy what I enjoy, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
When I first started learning to read, it was rough and arduous. I hated it. I hated the stuff they made me read. It was no fun and I had better things to do with my time than sit down with a boring book that I had to push myself to finish. Then, my mother handed me Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey. It was the first book I can remember loving. I devoured it. That’s what started my love affair with books. I was seven then. At the age of nine, I read Dune by Frank Herbert. I didn’t get all of it, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I really ought to reread it one of these days.
I don’t exactly remember when, but my mother got me addicted to Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. I remember wishing I was more like Miles. The summer before middle school, we took a trip out to Colorado and the Southwest to see some family friends and do some sight-seeing. Mom gave us Tanya Huff’s Blood series to read. We drove out to the Grand Canyon and neither my brother nor I felt particularly inclined to leave the car more than once because our noses were buried in the books she’d given us. I just finished an amazing book by Max Gladstone called Three Parts Dead. One of my most favorite books ever is Max Brooks’ World War Z. So, yes, my nerd cred (not that I really need it) is strong in Sci-Fi and Fantasy.
In middle school, I started sneaking books out of my mother’s outgoing library pile. Let me explain the system: Mom goes to the library and gets as many books as she can get her hands on, Mom reads the books, Mom puts the books in the pile to go out, when she is low on books or the books are due, she takes the outgoing pile back to the library. There were always many books in the outgoing pile because she, like myself, is a swift reader. Eventually, she noticed that I, the precocious 11 year-old, was scurrying off with her Romance novels. So, she ended up giving me recommendations. We still trade recommendations and read a lot of the same titles, but our tastes do differ slightly these days.
Why do I read Romance novels? Why not? I love a happy ending. I love books that will tug on my heartstrings and make me laugh. Romance novels are, by their nature, very emotionally engaging. Yes, I know that the protagonists are going to end up together in the end. I know that there’s no mystery there, but it’s the journey that’s the point. It’s how they get there and how they grow that keep me glued to the page. I love the sub-genres within Romance: paranormal, intrigue, historical, contemporary. . . There’s a bit of everything under the Romance umbrella and it’s amazing. Mom and I have chuckled in the past about how much we’ve learned from the historical novels we read. We can tell when an author has done their research and, more often than not, they’re very thorough. The History nerd in me really appreciates that.
So, yes, most of the books in my collection are Romance novels. Laugh all you want. I don’t care. I’m going to be a shameless Romance novel reader for the rest of my days. There’s a reason that Romance is still one of the best-selling genres out there.