As one half of SmartBitchesTrashyBooks.com, Sarah Wendell has been reviewing books and blogging about all things romance since 2005. She's been interviewed by the New York Times about how e-readers have improved the lives of romance readers everywhere. Her latest book, Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels, was released in October and has received positive reviews, and she is coming to Jefferson Market Library on February 1, 2012 at 7 p.m.!
Here she tells us about the first romance novel she ever read and why romance readers don't always talk about their love for the genre, and then she gives me some book recommendations!
You have clearly been reading romance for a long time, and a lot of it! What makes a romance novel successful to you? What qualities do you dislike?
Every reader is different, but I love romances with excellent emotional tension, dialogue that is quick and funny and demonstrates smart characters, and plots that are shown, not told to me. I love a good blend of memorable characters and plot, but then, the genre of romance that I'm reading can alter those demands a bit!
You write in your book about the first romance you ever read — Midsummer Magic by Catherine Coulter (and that you got it from the public library!) — and what an impression it made on you. Can you tell us a little bit about those early days of your romance fandom and how it developed?
I had NO idea what I was reading, only that I wanted more of it. I loved the emotional tension of the plot and the over-the-top silliness of some parts (her disguise is so good, everyone but him can see through it!), and I loved that there was an entire rack of books like these that I hadn't known about before that day. Once I learned which authors I liked, which types of plots I enjoyed, and which books I couldn't put down, I kept looking for more.
I have noticed that the romance readers at the Library rarely ask for suggestions or discuss titles with the staff, unlike readers of other genres. But, these books are getting checked out — a lot! Do you have any thoughts on why the readers of romance seem to fly more under the radar than those who read mystery and trade fiction?
Part of it is that romance readers are often mocked for their love of the genre, and so they are hesitant to admit to anyone that they love the genre as much as they do. It might help to put a sign in the romance section offering suggestions of excellent reads, and sign the list with the name (or names) of the romance-friendly and knowledgeable librarian(s). Perhaps if patrons have someone to ask for by name, they'll be able to seek out their next recommendation in person!
The other reason may be that romance readers are terribly well organized sometimes, and we come in with a list of books we're looking for. A healthy romance collection that's cataloged and easy to browse will bring us back frequently!
That is great advice! Thank you. Can you tell us a little bit about how depictions of sex in romance novels have changed over time, and how reading these scenes can benefit readers?
Sexuality in romance novels runs the spectrum from incredibly explicit and possibly defying of gravity to hot and steamy hand holding, or maybe glances across a room. Whatever your tastes, there's a level of heat for you. But reading these scenes, from the most vague to the most explicit, teach you as a reader about yourself: what do you like? What turns your engine? Knowing what you like sexually is very empowering and very important!
Could you recommend some romance titles for me (a romance novice) to read and highlight on our website? I'm going to post one romance review for each week in February!
Let's start with a question for you: what types of books do you like to read? Contemporary? Paranormal? Historical? Fantasy? Rich in world building or set in the present with modern characters? If we can narrow that down, I can find some titles you'd enjoy.
I read a pretty wide variety of fiction... I do love historical novels, and lately I have been reading a lot of fantasy. But I would also like to read a romance in a contemporary setting!
Ok then! Historical: Unveiled by Courtney Milan, and Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. Contemporary: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie, and Something About You by Julie James. Fantasy: The CL Wilson series might really appeal to you, as well as Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison. Dragon Bound might blow your mind, it is so good.
Thank you Sarah!