I have been a romance reader for decades and here’s one thing I have learned over the years: there is always someone trying to police your reading choices.
The cover art, the author of the romance novel, and the heat level doesn’t matter. Your age, reputation or educational background makes no difference. If you are a romance reader, someone will think it is their job, obligation or right to monitor your books.
So, what can you do?
Why do you have to do anything? You are an adult! You’re just minding your own business. Why can’t everyone else? You don’t have time for this.
I understand. Romance novels are supposed to entertain and offer escapism. You just want to be left alone. Preferably with a good book. You do not want to take up another cause.
Yet, as a romance reader, you will constantly have to defend your reading preferences and your access to the books you want.
It’s not fair. But it’s reality.
Until you get the same emotional justice in real life as you do in a romance book, choose your battles and stay informed. If you can’t pick up the gauntlet, then find ways to support other romance readers who are fighting against censorship.
In the meantime, here are three actions that every romance reader can do consistently:
Invest in your reading
When a book or author is deemed controversial, there is often a call to ban the book, cancel the publishing contract and stop the book before it’s even released. But publishing is a business and money talks. As long as readers are buying, pre-ordering, or requesting holds at the library, the loud opposition about the book is just buzz.
It’s not always easy to show your support with money, but it tells the industry—and it informs all media—what people want. The numbers of illegal downloads or used book sales don’t get counted. However, getting a print or digital copy from the public library will help. Not only do public library systems pay more than individuals for each book, but it’s another way for the publisher to track readers’ interests.
Have a neutral response ready
There are times when you’re not going to launch into a defense about your reading choices. Maybe it’s because the stranger lecturing you about romance fiction is your seatmate on the plane for the next six hours. Or, you’ve had this conversation countless times with your well-intentioned friend and nothing changes. Time to look at them straight in the eye and say, “Thank you for sharing your opinion.” That’s it. Say it without sarcasm or attitude. You acknowledge their feelings, you are not in agreement, and you are ending the conversation.
And if that doesn’t stop them? You keep saying, “Thank you for sharing your opinion” in the same tone and at the same volume. The lack of engagement might fluster them, or they will get annoyed, but that’s not your responsibility.
Don’t diminish your choice
You like what you like. Take ownership. No apologies, no excuses! People might refer to the books you enjoy as “trash”, but if you don’t think it is, then don’t use the word. And if you call it “trashy” to beat them to the punch or reclaim the word, those tactics are going over their heads. They think you’re in agreement and wasting your time on something you don’t value.
Oh, and if someone believes romance fiction is garbage, they have every right to be wrong. It’s their prerogative. But they NEVER EVER EVER have the right to call the reader stupid or a slut for reading romance.
Want more? Read this blog post and discover why romance novels are considered dangerous.