I am very excited to introduce you to Kelly from Reading With Analysis today. I think her title says it all, so without further ado, I leave you with her . . .
Romance as entertainment, catharsis, and activism:
A limited ethnography of one romance reader
I’ve been a romance reader for a long time. It started with some Harlequin Presents stories I found on my mom’s bookshelf about twenty years ago and went on from there. I find a lot to love in the genre, and it satisfies nearly all of my reading and thinking needs.
For many years, I read for escape, seeking entertainment that would distract me from my difficulties and help me achieve a more positive outlook on life (something I, as a cynical idealist, sometimes struggle to find). I read also for catharsis, seeking out stories whose drama and emotion would help me express the deeply repressed feelings that sometimes held me in a chokehold. Lately, I’ve been finding myself reading for activism, reaching for stories that include and explore social issues within the narrative setting.
Milan’s rather serious and deliberate voice works for me (these books are definitely not carefree and fun, although they are sometimes funny), and I have loved every single book of hers because she sets these love stories in (what seems to me to be) realistic conditions that highlight and validate the emotional punch of love’s triumph.
Dare’s stories are wildly entertaining – full of humor, snappy dialogue, and emotion – and it’s easy to overlook some of the deeper currents. (But they are there nonetheless. The first Spindle Cove novel, A Night to Surrender, can be read as a treatise on feminism in which the community of women withdraws from the world to establish a female-centric society; then a group of men move in and attempt to reassert normalcy (meaning the supremacy of the male); and then both groups learn compromise and find true equality in working together and valuing each other.) With her latest release, Romancing the Duke, Dare eased back on the humor a little bit to reveal a story that touches on more than a few social issues. I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that it’s my new favorite Tessa Dare book.
So here’s what I’m wondering… Is there a tradeoff in terms of the entertainment or cathartic value of a love story when set against the backdrop of deeper social issues, or does the context actually increase that value by demonstrating all the reasons why we need love? I know what the answer is for me, but I’m curious to know whether others feel the same. Join in the discussion! Have you read any books – they don’t have to be romance novels – that incorporate social issues into the story? What do you think: is there a tradeoff?
Thank you Kelly for a very thought-provoking post!