Reason Magazine: “You Should Read More Romance Novels”
Last week Reason Magazine published an article titled “You Should Read More Romance Novels: The Libertarian Case for Bodice Rippers.” There were so many things about this article that I loved, but there were a few things I wanted to comment on (because apparently I’m having a really hard time keeping my mouth shut–virtually and physically–here lately).
What’s interesting, though, is how often the obstacle is work. While Fifty Shades of Gray has made us all annoyingly familiar with the “mysterious billionaire” subgenre of romance novels, in which the hero has a seemingly endless supply of wealth while apparently doing very little to obtain or maintain it, other romances manage the realism somewhat better.
I’m admittedly not a huge fan of the billionaire hero romances, primarily because those heroes never seem to work. How the hell is a guy who never does anything a freaking billionaire? It just doesn’t make any sense to me (unless it was an inheritance and the money was invested, but most of these guys are CEOs). This is a niche, though, and for every billionaire book on Amazon there are probably two small town romances featuring heroes who aren’t billionaire alpha CEO playboys.
That whole billionaire thing, though, often acts as a way to bring the characters together. Again, I think it’s irresponsible business practices, but I understand it as a plot device. Where this conversation gets even more interesting is a little further down in the article:
It’s a familiar cliché, and it’s as present in contemporary romance fiction as in popular culture writ large: The big company is always the bad guy, and the hero who works for the big company only achieves redemption and wins the heroine’s heart when he realizes that mom-and-pop shops are more important than big, faceless corporations.
I’m gonna share a secret with y’all: this is something that irritates the hell out of me. I’m all about small business (I mean, come on, as a published author I AM a small business). But corporations aren’t evil. Small business and corporations CAN co-exist, just like dogs and cats CAN co-exist. That being said, admittedly not a lot of romance novels explore that relationship and balance, and mom-and-pop shops do almost always win.
There are some authors, though, who do write characters that work for corporations (are even CEOs of said corporations) that don’t try to squash small businesses. Jennifer Probst is the first that comes to mind; her Marriage to a Billionaire series features heroes (and heroines) who are most definitely members of the C-Suite in large, global organizations, but who support small business. (I’ll also note that her billionaire characters actually WORK rather than jetsetting around the world without seemingly a care in the world.) Her Searching For… Series also has similar themes.
So many romance novels, though, feature characters who own small businesses. Out of curiosity I just scrolled through my Goodreads account, and probably 70% of the books I’ve read in the past year feature at least one character who owns a small business (and where that isn’t the conflict, btw, or if it is it’s more the “I’m-trying-to-get-this-business-off-the-ground-and-have-little-free-time” sort of conflict). Hell, my own characters tend to be small business owners (Chase, Owen, Caridad, and Darrin), so it’s clearly something I’m drawn to. If you’re as drawn to the idea of small business owners being successful in life, business, and in love (which is a pretty libertarian principle, IMO), then yeah, romance could definitely be for you.
…complete acceptance of sexual choices in life is a fantasy, of course, but it’s a great one, and a particularly libertarian one at that. The point of the romance novel is not that everyone should have sex with three werewolf lovers beneath the light of the full moon, but that all people should have the chance to make their own decisions and fully live the lives they choose.
So much this. If you’re not familiar with libertarian beliefs, one of the big ones is free will and letting people live their lives with minimal interference. Libertarians don’t particularly care what someone does in the privacy of their own bedroom, and believe the government certainly shouldn’t care. So if you want to have sex with a werebear and a weretiger at the same time? Good for you. If you want to have gay sex, cool. If you want to be tied up and spanked, whatevs. We should be free to explore and make choices based upon what WE want–and not only do romance novels express that idea, but they also offer the safe exploration of choices that we might not feel comfortable making but are curious about (such as menage or BDSM, just off the top of my head).
If nothing else, the genre is an underappreciated vector for teaching the value of work, the importance of trust and other bourgeois virtues, and the individual’s right to choose his or her own life. No matter who you love or how you love them, you’ve got to love that.
People often wonder why I love to read and write romance. “But you’re such a smart person!” is a common thing for romance writers to be told.
News flash: that’s really insulting.
Romance writers–and readers–are actually some of the most educated women around. We’re doctors, scientists, engineers, professors, CEOs, judges…the list goes on and on. More romance readers and writers hold at least a bachelor’s degree than not, with a very generous portion having a graduate degree of some sort (note: I couldn’t find a link to this data, but it was very clearly presented in Love Between the Covers, which I watched last weekend while cleaning the house).
So why would such smart, intelligent women be drawn to a genre that’s often seen as nothing more than “mommy porn?” My theory is that part of it is the fantasy, but a bigger part of it is the fact that romance DOES espouse the above-mentioned beliefs and values. Hard work. Free will and freedom to choose. Trust.
Sure, there are romance authors out there that don’t exactly try to hide their political leanings, and that’s okay. Free will and all that jazz. 😉 But it was so refreshing to see an article written that looks at romance in a positive light, and who’s writers really seemed to get what romance really is.
So thank you, Reason Magazine.
P.S. If you’re a Libertarian romance author who wouldn’t mind having that information out there, feel free to share that info–I would love to compile a list of us for anyone who might be curious. 🙂