Finding My Way to the Romance Aisle
I stood in the romance aisle for the first time today.
So, let me backtrack. In my local Barnes and Noble, the romance aisle is situated right next to the fantasy/sci-fi aisle. For weeks, I would waltz into Barnes and Noble, head held high, walk right to the romance aisle then panic last minute and stop short. I would pretend I was only there to grab the next Star Wars book out of the sci-fi aisle. I would longingly glance out the side of my eye at the beauty of the romance aisle but would never venture into it. Why? That’s a tough one but I’ll try to explain.
When I was younger and first started forming into the reading obsessed fangirl I am today, I realized that the books I drifted towards were different than my family or friends. They all “loved” the classics. (Listen, I know there are many people who genuinely adore classic literature but, let’s be frank, there are also many who love saying they love and adore classic literature when, in reality, they probably only skimmed halfway through before shutting the book closed altogether. Then they look down their noses at genre books.) While my friends SparkNote(d) Shakespeare and my mom tried valiantly to get through the Iliad, I one day found myself holding a copy of ‘The Morganville Vampire’ series, book one, by Rachel Caine. It was the first love story I ever read. The Heroine and Hero were in this slow burn romance that I just couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see how their story would end. Would they get a happily ever after?
After getting caught up in that series, I desperately searched for another book like it. Not a vampire book. But a romance book. I couldn’t get enough of the butterfly inducing moments, the will they or won’t they, the longing glances, and the swoony romantic confessions. I returned to Barnes and Noble and scanned the YA shelves. And there. There it was with a halo shining above it. The holy grail. (Except, I didn’t know it was the holy grail at the time) I stopped in front of a book where two hands were cradling an apple. Interesting. I read the blurb, and this caught my eye “…And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.” BINGO. Romance alert bells went-a-ringing and I merrily swooped up the book. When I showed my mom she eyed it suspiciously, read the blurb and looked at me with this weird face. “A love story? With vampires?” she asked. I shrugged. A love story was all I was looking for.
I took my paperback of Twilight everywhere with me. I could not put it down. Bella and Edward’s story consumed me. A friend of mine, who also loved to read, was sitting next to me in class one day when she finally asked about the book I had on my desk. I handed her my precious Twilight and after she read the blurb…she laughed. My heart plummeted. “That sounds so cheesy and weird.” She said. I took the book back from her and cradled Edward and Bella close. (if I could go back in time I’d have some words with that ‘friend’ but alas, a time machine hasn’t been invented yet.) I remember hiding Twilight from then on. I didn’t read it in front of anyone. I kept my copy secured in the dark corners of my middle school locker. Then what do you know? Fate had other ideas. The year after, Twilight blew up. I couldn’t go a day at school without seeing someone wearing a shirt with a quote from Edward on it. I gotta be honest here guys. I was a little irked but mostly, I was happy to finally be able to talk to my friends about Twilight.
However, the high of Twilight only lasted as long as any trend. It faded into the air and now only exists as memes. Memes that make fun of those young girls (and boys) who adored Twilight for the love story it was. Suddenly, making fun of the Twilight fans became the new trend. Whenever I went to Barnes and Noble, I would longingly glance at the new paranormal romance section that popped up but wouldn’t dare touch a book on those shelves. My friend’s laughter still haunted me and with the new trend of poking fun at romance lovers, I stayed far away from my beloved love stories.
Until, one day, I discovered the magical kindle. This amazing fantastical object that allowed me to roam any book genre privately. This is where I discovered my beloved New Adult romance books. I finally was able to read freely. I found books where romance was front and center! Books filled with tantalizing romantic moments and on my quest to find more, I found something that changed the course of my entire reading life. I found blogs entirely dedicated to the romance genre. On these blogs, people were able to talk freely about their favorite books, favorite couples, and favorite romantic moments. These blogs were like a safe haven.
Now that I’ve recently graduated college I have a long list of things I want to accomplish. One of the first things on that list? Stop being ashamed of the things I love. I’m so thankful to have found the romance community. I follow so many bloggers, authors, and readers who empower each other. We may all have different views on things but there’s one thing I’ve noticed about this community. One solid thread that runs through us all: support. After writing a few posts for Sara here at Harlequin Junkie I’ve had people message me and talk to me about books they love. I’ve made friends. But most importantly, I’ve found a whole lot of courage.
So today, for the first time, I didn’t stop short in the sci-fi aisle. I practically skipped towards the romance aisle. I’ll be honest. I did keep glancing around me. For what? I don’t know. It’s not like someone would jump out at me and scream sexist things (but who knows, this year has been filled with crazy people yelling things). But, I wasn’t going to back down. “AWAY WITH THE PATRIARCHY” I yelled in my mind. I took my time in that aisle. I saw all the authors I loved, their books shining at me. “Buy me” they beckoned, “spend the money you don’t have and buy me”. Of course, I listened. Right now, Silver Silence by Nalini Singh is sitting on my shelf, proudly displayed for anyone who visits me.
I love romance. It empowers. It gives joy and happiness. It gives a community. This was a long post, if you read this, you have my thanks. Now, I’m off to Barnes and Noble to check out what’s new in romance!
Why do you love romance novels? Have you ever been hesitant to read or talk about your favorite romance novels with others?
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