Tuesday, March 26, 2013

For or Against Romance Genre

To better promote A Mage's Power, I went to the 'free review' section of Book Tweeting Service and looked for fantasy fans. While scrolling down the list I noticed a pattern: reviewers would either state that they only read/prefer to read romance novels or that would not read/prefer not to read romance novels. I paused my search to figure out why, of all genres, this one was singled out so much.

My first thought was current events: Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey are both smutty romance novels and both have sold extremely well. This means there are many fans who want to read more of the stuff and are willing to give free reviews in exchange for a free copy. They might be looking for the next big thing in romance. However, this didn't explain the people that explicitly stated they did not want to read romance, so I looked to my own experience.

The first book I reviewed as a blogger was a romance and it was awful. In a nutshell, a love triangle displaced a science-fiction/political intrigue and derailed characters.  On tvtropes we call this sort of thing a Romantic Plot Tumor. It's the only book I've ever given an F to. In the months to come I received more romance requests than fantasy, science fiction, or history and finally told Book Tweeting Service to exclude romance from my profile. Perhaps the other reviewers had a similar experience but still the answer eluded me; why romance? I didn't see such a divide in fantasy or thrillers or slice-of-life.

The answer is simpler than you might expect yet hit me like an artillery shell. TvTropes has a 'So You Want To' series for instruction in writing genres: war story, black comedy, romance novel, etc. The first paragraph of So You Want to Write A Love Story states "according to The Other Wiki, (A.K.A Wikipedia) romance novels account for more than 50% of all paperbacks sold." If this is correct then the second half is composed of every other genre combined and thus each one of them is a fraction of this total. The reason for the divide in romance on Book Tweeting Service is because there's so many more of them. If you don't want to read romance you need to make that clear or you'll get more of it then anything else. I still get romance requests occasionally and the author will say something along the lines of 'It's not romance, it's X with a romantic subplot" when the premise clearly states otherwise.

The next question, naturally, is 'why is romance so popular'? TvTropes has a pages long explanation but what do you think?


  1. Personally, I'm with you. I don't like romance novels. I don't read it. I am avidly determined never to pick up Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey (the last of which, from what I understand, is nothing but pure porn.)

    I think romance is popular because it's brainless. I don't mean that in a bad way, those readers who do like it. I just mean it doesn't require a lot of thought to understand. It's light. That's not necessarily a bad thing.... But it's a fact. It's easier to read a romance novel than say, The Lord of the Rings or literary fiction. It's generally not deep. Also, romance and love are very intrinsic parts of the human experience, so people connect with stories that revolve around that.

    1. That 'human experience' point is likely correct. It's a lot easier for the average reader to relate to a Boy Meets Girl plot than a Save The World plot. The more I think about it, the more I wonder why I didn't realize it myself. Thanks for pointing it out.

      I read about Twilight on TvTropes and some of the reviews on Amazon. From what I gleaned there, you are right about the 'doesn't require a lot of thought' part.