Is The Romance Novel the New Love Manual?

Jessica Hoppe

Sarah Wendell, author of the controversial bookEverything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels, is an expert (and lover) of all things romance and she’s not ashamed to say so.

So let’s cast aside our judgment of this bodice-ripping genre for a moment and learn a bit about the benefits of reading fanciful tales that forge unrealistic expectations about forming healthy relationships. (We promise to try — pinkie swear.)

Wendall has been working forSmart Bitches, Trashy Books for years now so she’s likely to have an interesting point of view or at least a good sense of humor. NPR blogger Linda Holmes describes it more as a “feedback loop.” Meaning these stories help people open up about their needs and feelings in relationships by indulging in a fanciful world of love archetypes. And those needs are revealed through the kinds of books and heroes women gravitate towards.

So basically if you date someone who’s really into romance novels (because aficionados of this category of literature usually are) sneak a peek at their favorite story or hero and score some extra points. It might require aruffled topa la Seinfeld but that’s a small price to pay for love, no?

The one interesting point is this — being able to infer things about your potential partner through their romance novel reading behavior. Well that and when the author likens romance readers to gamers saying:

Ironically, many people who disdain the romance genre and look down on the women who read it presume that reading about courtship, emotional fulfillment, and rather fantastic orgasms leads to an unrealistic expectation of real life. If we romance readers are filling our own heads with romantic fantasies, real men and real life won’t and cannot possibly measure up to our fairy-tale expectations, right? Wrong.Wrongitywrong wrong wrong. That accusation implies that we don’t know the difference between fantasy and real life, and frankly, it’s sexist as well. You don’t see adult gamers being accused of an inability to discern when one is a human driving a real car and when one is a yellow dinosaur driving a Mario Kart, but romance readers hear about their unrealistic expectations of men almost constantly.

Um Sarah, I’m pretty sure we judge gamers too. Trust me, we’re equally as appalled by World of Warcraft as we are at the thought of Fabio fondling our heaving bosom.


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