Is it Possible?


Trashy.  Smut. Filth. These are words people have used to describe romance novels. Why do some people insist on using derogatory terms to describe (and therefore define) the genre of romance? If you ask those same people what type of person reads a romance novel they will say ‘bored housewives’. Excuse me! Nothing could be further from the truth! Romance readers are educated. According to statistic on the Romance Writers of America website, 42% of romance readers have a bachelor’s degree or higher. And, whether working in the work place or staying at home, we romance lovers have busy fulfilled lives. So, I ask you, how can those of us who love to read romance change the image of the romance novel? 

It seems the people who bash romance novels are people who do not read them. Yet, they lump all romances into one category. The category: Trashy. Because of their lack of knowledge, no matter what the subgenre of romance whether historical, contemporary, western etc it seems these people think romance books are filled with nothing but sex. If they took the time to delve into a romantic book, they would see romance novels are much more than that. They would see romance novels are stories that celebrate the alluring love relationship between a man and a woman. They are stories with intriguing character conflicts and, of course, happy endings which propagate the notion that love conquers all.  

Take my historical novel Slave Girl. Slave Girl by Sheniqua Waters is a tantalizing story of a young Egyptian beauty who is kidnapped from the banks of theNile
River and sold into slavery. She is placed on an auction block in
Constantinople and sold into a Turkish harem. Once there, she must deal with harem politics and jealousy from the other women when she becomes their Master’s, Kudar al Numan’s, favorite. Our hero, Kudar, must overcome tradition, distance and other obstacles to be with the woman he loves. While Slave Girl does contain some ravishing love scenes that is not what the story is about.  
Is it possible to get those who don’t read romance to stop viewing the genre in negative terms and start viewing the genre in a different light? How can we get general audiences to see the genre of romance as one of love, hope and optimism?  What do you think? Is it possible to change the image of the romance novel? 

Sheniqua Waters

11 Responses to Is it Possible?

  1. Lindy

    I’m not sure if there will ever be a widespread change of attitude toward romance novels (more’s the pity), but I agree wholeheartedly with what Laura K said — it would be great if more men would read some of them, to get some insight into what some women want.


  2. Laura K

    I am in total agreement with all of you ladies. Whenever anything gets “feminized” I think society looks at it as a whole, downgrading it. My feeling is whatever floats your boat, doesn’t disturb others, or impinge on anyone’s liberty, is fine by me.

    The great thing about romance is the happy ending. I also enjoy the super steamy to the sweet romances. There’s something for everyone.

    I do find it surprising, though, that once an author “makes it”, the covers get to be more picturesque instead of a couple (or more than a couple) on the cover. Guess men don’t want to be seen with them! I think if more men read them, though, they would understand more how women think and feel.

  3. danette

    I’m similar to Ashley. Growing up I thought romance was fluff. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my second child that I picked up a Sherrilyn Kenyon book and now I’m hooked on romance.

    I think romance novels need to be publicized more showing that they’re not trashy. They’re full of adventure and excitement, key elements that got me addicted.

    Hugs, Danette

  4. Ashley

    Well I used to laugh at my mom for reading them lol, it was some of the sexual terms that I would laugh about! She had me read one and now I’m hooked and have over 1100 in my TBR 🙂

    Some people though will never change, but I’m glad I did read one!

  5. Trace

    Becca, you articulated my thoughts exactly!

  6. Becca

    I think the denigration of romance is part of a larger issue–the devaluation of women and femininity. There is a mindset that masculine gender is superior, a worthy woman acts/feels masculine. Anything that smacks of traditional femininity is perceived as weak. It is like feminism gone awry–Instead of opening doors to a full life for women, women must open doors to a full life by giving up their womanhood and trying to be masculine, fit into the mold.

    I think that romance is idealistic but it acknowledges relationship as the basis for a healthy family, community, person. We are social and sexual beings and most of us to strive for a healthy, nurturing romantic relationship that brings emotional stability and many other good things to our own lives and to the lives of those close to us.

  7. Sheila Gallagher

    I love many genres of books but I probably read more romanace than any other. I know so many people who once a book is labeled romance won’t read them and look down their noses at the book. I also know people, like Melissa pointed out, who won’t read a book because their church labeled it bad. I say make up your own mind. I belong to 6 book clubs and I have to admit it’s the best thing I could do to expand my reading list. Two of them are romance books only. They are the best attended ones. Romance books run the gamut from sweet to trashy to slutty to very well written but so do all the other genres. Take a look around.

  8. Trace

    I think part of the problem is the “fans” themselves who act ashamed of loving romance novels. One thing I don’t get is so called romance fans calling romance books “trashy”. Yeah, I realize it sounds catchy, but does the self deprecation do any justice to the genre?

  9. Betty Ann Harris

    I’m a romance author who writes mostly romantic suspense thrillers. The plots are the meat of the story and usually involve crime and danger, and the twists and turns and details take a well thought out story. The romance is spellbinding but realistic in the sense that two people, a man and a woman who are involved in something together, learn to trust each other and end up falling in love, just like would happen in real life. It’s not trashy or in poor taste. But let’s face it, romance is real!

  10. Clover Autrey

    Interesting things to think about, Sheniqua.

  11. Melissa

    There will always be those that, citing religous reasons, will not read romance novels to formulate an independant opinion. They will rely entirely on the word of their priest or minister. I understand that but don’t subscribe to it – obviously. If a person has been inculcated by their parents and culture from a young age to see sex as “dirty” or only necessary to create children in honor of God (whichever the case may be), then you won’t change their minds. Period.

    However, and this is a biggie, there are a ton of books out there that don’t help the situation. I’ve picked up interesting sounding books by big publishers only to get frustrated after 1/3 of the novel when all I’ve come across (no pun intended) was a triathalon of sex – and not normal sex. In public bathrooms, against a Dumpster of all things, and even on a fire escape watching a parade go by with kids in the crowd below. Then there were the weird positions, contortions and toys. Toys, by and large, are for later in the story line, when characters are more familiar with one another and ready to “play.” Not on the first date when the lead femme is a virgin (or the next best thing).

    Plus, we have to struggle to dispell the old bodice-ripper image of the 70s and early 80s where every woman was raped but came to love the act and the man doing the dastardly deed. That was enough to put me off of reading romance, because it wasn’t, but for the Harlequins by writers who were reknowned for alluding to sex without showing it.

    Top it off, look at our covers. How many of us have naked people? Or at least scantily clad folks. Doesn’t exactly bolster the message of being primarily a love story with sex as an eventual expression of said emotional journey.

    I don’t know if we will ever change the minds of the nay sayers. But if we do, it will be one book, one author at a time.

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