This post is partially inspired by Krystal’s Recently Read Rant.
Reading her post reminded me that I intended to blog one day about what are the things I actually like about the romance genre, since they’ve changed over the years. The reasons I read them now are not the same reasons I read them when I was 15.
Most of the romance novels I’ve read are historical romance, because that’s just what I gravitate towards. I’ve always loved the idea of people living two hundred years ago, wearing what we think of as pretty clothes, getting into adventures, mining and healing their hang-ups and issues, becoming better people in order to keep or win or feel worthy of the love of another person. Plus, add in heavy doses of the lack of women’s rights, residual issues from Waterloo or other Napoleonic War battles, social classes, poverty, Actual Historical Events and it all adds up to a dramatic, full-of-feels novel. Sometimes you just need that.
Now granted, when I was 15, I was mostly reading them because I was a history geek and because of the sexytime passages in those books.
By college, I was still firmly in historical romance land–I would climb out to read Lord of the Rings or the assigned reading for classes or historical fiction or some chick lit, but yeah, I was almost exclusively reading historical romance. And when you read so much of the same genre category, the books get repetitive. Okay, so some duke is running around the English countryside chasing after a disreputable heiress instead of…I don’t know…doing whatever it is dukes actually do? Not to mention that as I grew more aware of history, upper class characters lost their shine.
Their tea plantations in India, mentioned in a throwaway line? The plantations in Jamaica, mentioned in a dialogue aside. A black servant they might have in the household. Connections to Ireland. Mentioning these aspects of English colonialism might have been a step towards representing more of actual history, but after a while, simple mentions weren’t cutting it for me anymore.
And I think that’s the thing now: I want to read books in my fave genre that represent more of the world I live in, which is a very diverse corner of the globe. And most of that is reflected in contemporary romance these days.
I’d read contemporary romance here and there. Contemporary romance has just as much conflict, but it’s different. In historicals and other sub-genres of romance, couples are maybe easier to keep apart with certain tropes. Contemporary romance has to take different angles to keep the tension and the draw between the characters high but not let them get together too quickly.
But actually, I’ve come to like the interpersonal and psychological conflicts between characters in contemporaries. Sometimes there are social barriers, other times the barriers of working together or being long time friends or not wanting the same things are the conflict in contemporary romance, like in real life.