I get this question a lot it seems, and I'm not sure why. What is is about romance novels that make those who do not read them, question me as to why I read them? Is it because they contain *gasp* sex? they whisper. Am I trying to escape from something? they ask knowingly. No, actually I'm not, thanks. Are they serious? These lovely people cannot fathom why I want to read "smut". It's as if they don't consider it literature, and so I quickly tell them that many, if not most romance novels are very well written, and the stories are full of romance, angst, history, fabulous plot lines, and yes, sex. That always gets an eyebrow raise! Usually these conversations are funny, and it ends with me recommending an author for them to start out with if they're interesting in taking the plunge. I have no idea if they actually read the book I recommend, but I've done my part for the good of the genre.
I remember when I first began getting into romance novels, and how I would browse the rows of books every time I went into the drug store, anxious to see if I had missed a book by a favorite author. I could never walk out of a bookstore without at least four or five books. And that was on my own! The group book shopping expeditions are the best, of course. I'll admit, some covers are embarrassing to tote through Barnes and Noble, unless you are in a group of fellow romance novel readers, and you've all got one tucked under your arm. Nooks and Kindles give the most shy reader the means to read whatever she wishes without those covers announcing to everyone that you're reading an romance novel. But...I don't mind the covers. Some, I will give you are very cheesy, but there are some that are very tasteful. I once had a lady tell me she could never read a book with such a scandalous cover. (her words, not mine!) Just think, this person is going to miss out on some seriously good books just because she is afraid of a cover!
So why do I read romance novels? It's for the other world I am transported to, if only just for a few hours. It's the amazing writing I find, the angst-ridden plots that pull at my heartstrings, and it's the love that these characters have for each other. I'm a historical junkie, and part of the thrill for me is the setting in Regency England. Being taken back to that era is an escape for me, and no, I'm not trying to escape anything in my life. So the next time you're in the bookstore, don't pass by the romance aisle with a mere glance. Take a moment to walk down the aisle and see what's there. Pick up a book and read the synopsis on the back. Have a seat and read a chapter. Romance novels aren't "cheap literature" and they aren't insignificant by any means. Sometimes, you just need to read some fluff at the end of the day.