Friday, February 8, 2008

Are you a closet romance reader?

When I was growing up, reading romance novels was something one did in private. For me, it entailed sneaking into the bookstore when no one I knew was shopping, lurking until the coast was clear, and then sneaking into the aisle filled with colorful, bodice-ripper covers. I had to make my selections quickly by skimming the descriptions on the back covers and then, preferably, finding a mainstream novel or book to place on top of my stack so no one could see what I was buying. The tension would continue to mount until I got to the cash register. Since I knew the bookstore owner, I hoped he wouldn’t make a comment as to my choice of reading material. I could hardly wait until he shoved my books into a brown paper bag and I could finally breathe a sigh of relief as I hurried home to pore over my new romances. The same modus operandi was used even at the public library, because, of course, in my small home town everybody knew me there, too.

Things, thankfully, have changed - romance novels don't carry quite the same stigma any more. Either that, or I’ve changed and I just don’t give a darn what people think about my taste in books. Plus, being an author of romance books means I have to believe in the product I produce. And I do. Valid romance novels (not erotica or porn) aren’t just trashy bodice-rippers, nor have they ever been. Historicals are rich with history and facts that are carefully checked while contemporaries often educate the reader about exotic locales and unusual professions. Successful authors take great care and do extensive research to create believable, sympathetic characters, detailed plots and an interesting story. While romantic interludes are key to the genre, there's much more than just love scenes in a romance novel.

Rest assured that readers of romance are continuing to grow steadily in number. According to Simba, a 2006 report indicated that romance fiction accounted for more than 26% of the book market of all genres and types. That's all genres including nonfiction, mystery, and that generic category of "novel". Pretty impressive. That means there are literally millions of romance readers out there.

There is a plethora of online options for those romance readers looking for others of like mind. There are also numerous sites which include forums, review books and give recommendations for reading based on your preferences. Clubs for readers of paranormal, historical, Westerns, contemporary and every other category you can imagine abound. Romance Novel TV ( includes video interviews with authors, excerpts of new books, contests and updates on the latest conferences and events. To find a site that caters to your specific desires, just Google “romance readers websites”. While there are too many to mention specifically, Romancing the Blog (, Love Western Romances ( and The Romance Reader ( are some of my favorites.

And, of course, for the best in romance books, visit to check out the newest releases for 2008 and some of the best from previous years.


P.S. After posting, I found this article on Yahoo! News on Harlequin, Mills & Boon regarding the same subject.


Allison said...

Your description brought on a good laugh as I recalled how my mother had a fit when I tried to read a "modern" romance. I can appreciate the closet reader approach. I remember well how hesitant I was about revealing my life as a romance reader.

And now, I write romance!

Allison Knight

Kimber Chin said...

I've never been a closet romance reader, always been "out there." 'Course I never really cared what anyone thought (I'm one of those people reading the National Enquirer in the checkout line).

I think that covers help a lot. They used to be pretty darn embarrassing (I was embarrassed for the cover models).

Linda LaRoque said...

I remember how I had cloth paperback holders in case the cover was too racy and I didn't want it to be exposed -- like on the plane or in the doctor's office.

Linda LaRoque