Name: Jessica Luther
Place: Austin, TX
I’ve read hundreds of romance novels.
I sometimes write about them, too:
- Beyond Bodice-Rippers: How Romance Novels Came to Embrace Feminism at The Atlantic (March 18, 2013)
- Does Writing Romance Novels Kill Masculinity? No! at Bitch Magazine‘s blog (February 14, 2013)
- At Your Pleasure by Meredith Duran – A Guest Review by Jessica Luther at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books(June 4, 2012)
My Favorite Romance Novels (in case you want some suggestions).
My project to collect scenes in novels where anyone other than a cis man gets head and their partner is happy to give it: Happily Going Down.
The Story Behind This Blog:
In 2011, I traveled a lot for conferences. I found myself reading lots of books on the many planes on which I flew and in the multiple hotel rooms in which I stayed. I’m not even sure how it happened that I stumbled upon romance novels. I had never even considered reading them despite the fact that I’ve been reading loads and loads of books since I was five years old. My reading habits did change slightly in graduate school as reading for my life’s work made me less likely to read for pleasure.
But discovering romance novels three decades into my life and nine years into graduate school was a revelation.
There are many things I find problematic about romance novels.
Most are heteronormative, though there is a robust amount of gay romance novels but apparently not many lesbian ones [also, this important piece by Flavia Dzodan on penis-centered erotica].
The vast majority feature white people, many of means. I particularly love regency romance novels (19th-century English, Jane-Austen time period novels) that are mostly about the gentry and people with titles.
There are also many, many moments in these novels where consent is fuzzy and in some cases the sex should be called rape [for example]. So many, “No I don’t want to but he kisses so well that I can’t resist and am now glad that he started kissing me even though I didn’t initially want him to” scenes.
Almost all of these books are about finding love, and they end with marriage and a huge amount with babies (not all, at all, but lots). And women in the books often WANT marriage and babies (of course part of this is that I read from a time period and a class of women who have little else going on). My response to a recent book I read, “TOO MUCH TALK OF BABIES!”
But there is plenty I do love about these books. Let me list some:
- You know (relatively) how it is going to end
- The stories are generally easy to follow so you can put them down and pick them back up
- The hot sex
- The emphasis on women’s pleasure, how necessary that is for the male protagonists
- Many of the women in these stories are strong, willful, and heroic
But also this:
I was embarrassed for a long time to admit how much I loved romance novels. Then, one day, I saw Maureen Johnson on Twitter railing against the term “trashy books” and talking about how only a certain type of book, those (mainly) written and consumed by women, get this derogatory title. And that the truth is, most literature is crap. Among “trashy books” there is total shit, but there are also amazing gems written as well as the best literature I have ever read. Johnson’s tweets were timely for me because I had just read Lisa Kleypas’ Love in the Afternoon, which is one of my most favorite books ever and I didn’t want to put it on Goodreads at the time because it was a romance novel. But I also felt compelled to tell everyone about this amazing, emotional, and beautiful book I had read.
So I decided: fuck it.
I started to proclaim loudly how much I loved romance novels and, wouldn’t you know, lots of people in my life have admitted to me how much they love them, including not a few academics.
And multiple people have asked me to write about my favorite romance novels. So, that is what this blog is for.