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The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name...
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No, no, don't hide your romance novel. You don't have to wrap it in a quilted cover or slide it in between the pages of The New Yorker. We know you're smart. We also know you like romance novels.
Your romance novels are welcome here. Celebrated. Loved. Cuddled, even, if they're particularly good. Adorned with man titty and paraded up and down the street to acclaim, applause, and perhaps stray dollar bills. We'll occasionally poke -- with savage abandon, even -- at the more ludicrous aspects of the genre, but we kvetch because we love. Our point is:
This is Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels. We're not egomaniacal enough to think it's the Definitive Guide to Romance Novels, but guides written for readers by readers are few and far between. There are plenty of articles and books that dismiss the genre, and some excellent academic examinations that subject the genre to a long-overdue analysis. Us? We're here to throw a party for the genre -- to celebrate its soaring successes as well as its appalling excesses, and to raise a beverage to the continued health and happiness of our favorite reading material. And yes, we're here to throw a drunken yet solidly comforting arm around your shoulders and say, "Oh, yes! We read them! We love them! Even the awful ones, them, too. And people who think we're dumb for reading them? Screw 'em! What the hell do they know? "
There are some things only a reader of romance can understand and appreciate. The bemulleted cover models. The alpha hero whom you love to read about but who'd be fodder for COPS episodes in real life. The heroines who are either so feisty they make your teeth hurt, or the embodiment of every virtue known to man, dog, and Chthonic deities. Deep tongue kissing first thing in the morning after a long night of bonkety-bonk, because romance protagonists do not ever have morning breath.
Then there are the fun parts of romance novels: the escape into a story that's happy and satisfying, but won't insult your intelligence. The spicy passages that feature...spicy passages. The characters you befriend and revisit when you're feeling down or in need of comfort reading. The stories that unabashedly depict love, relationships, and happiness.
There's nothing quite like a beautifully executed romance novel or the afterglow upon finishing an especially good one, and that's why we Smart Bitches are celebrating them.
If you were to gather romance readers into one room, that room would circle the earth seventeen times and do the hokey-pokey while it turned itself around. Most likely we'd all get seasick. But while we fought for the Dramamine, no doubt we'd notice that romance readers represent an astonishing cross section of political, social, religious, and economic groups. According to the oft-quoted statistic from Romance Writers of America (RWA), one out of every five people reads romance. This is, in mathematically correct notation, "a shitfuckton of people." A quick examination of the highlights of those statistics yields numbers with decimal points that are necessary only because that many zeroes become tiresome to type out. In 2006, romance accounted for $1.37 billion in sales, and 64.6 million Americans read at least one romance in 2005. No matter what you do to those numbers, whether you divide them or watch them do a tango, those numbers are freaking huge.
And yet, despite the millions of dollars and those millions of readers and that (quivering alabaster) mound of books sold in every language known...
Beyond Heaving BosomsBy: Sarah Wendell, Candy Tan