Guest blogger: Jennifer Kloester
I love romance. I love it in life and I love it in books and art and music and in the natural world. Romance is inspiring. It has the power to lift and satisfy and transform. It holds out the promise of strong relationships, love, laughter and a happy ever after. Which is a good thing, right? After all, most people want some romance in their life.
One of my favourite romance authors is Georgette Heyer. Amazingly, she wrote her first book when she was seventeen. That was in 1921 (!) and that book, The Black Moth, is still in print along with fifty of her other titles. Heyer died in 1974 but she just goes right on selling. That’s because her books are witty and wonderful with lots of laugh-out-loud moments and truly memorable romance. In 1935 Heyer wrote her first novel set in the English Regency. Regency Buck was romantic, adventurous and filled with great characters and it founded a genre. Today, the Regency is the most popular of all historical fiction genres and Heyer’s novels have inspired many of our favourite Regency authors to write their own great stories including, among others, Anne Gracie, Eloisa James, Mary Balogh, Julia Quinn and Stephanie Laurens.
Georgette Heyer was a very private woman and I had a wonderful time researching her life in order to write my 2011 biography Georgette Heyer. My research into the historical world of her novels also led me to write an illustrated companion, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, complete with drawings of the people, fashion and carriages that she helped make so iconic. Heyer wrote in several different genres but the Regency books were her forte. In 1944, during the War and despite the paper shortage, her novel Friday’s Child sold 250,000 copies in its first two years. By the 1950s she was a huge international bestseller. Today she continues to be one of Random House’s top authors.
None of this success, however, has prevented Georgette Heyer from, at times, being dismissed as ‘Just another romance author’. It’s the kind of statement calculated to rouse both romance readers and writers to justifiable anger. In recent years great organisations like ARRA and RWA have done much to try to correct this bias and there are positive signs that things are slowly beginning to change. There are still those, however, who continue to make negative assumptions about romance and about those who read it and write it.
My pet theory is that it is largely a gender issue. Romance is seen as a genre written by and for women and on that basis alone it appears to some to be worth denigrating. While crime, sci-fi and fantasy genres have their detractors, I can confidently assert that neither their authors nor their readers face the same dismissive reaction consistently levelled at romance. As Georgette Heyer’s biographer, I have been asked all too often: ‘But is she read by men?’—as though an answer in the affirmative would somehow elevate Heyer into the ranks of worthwhile authors.
Of course, the irony is that far more women read books and write books than men, women buy more books than men, and women attend literary festivals and writers’ conferences in far greater numbers than men. The fact is that without women and without romance today’s publishing industry would be in dire straits.
Romance in all its forms should be celebrated. From genre fiction to literary fiction romance is what gives a book its heart—and who doesn’t love a novel where, after enough challenges and conflict, two people eventually find each other? Romance is why many people read and love books.
So I say celebrate romance—in all its bookish forms!
Jennifer Kloester is the author of young adult romances The Cinderella Moment and The Rapunzel Dilemma, published by Penguin Australia.
Lily’s had a charmed life so far, and now she’s off to London to pursue her dream of becoming a great actor. But life at the London Drama Academy is full of surprises – and for the first time, Lily finds that things don’t always go her way.
It’s not just the other students who are making life difficult. Lily’s got a secret she’s not sure how to handle, but she finds that a room in one of the Academy’s deserted towers makes a perfect refuge. Lily can’t stay locked in the tower forever, though. And when she meets the mysterious Ronan Carver, everything starts to change …