I’ve seen several blogs and read a lot of comments this last week that disparage romance books or covers. I can understand someone not liking romance books for their own reasons. We’re all allowed our own opinions, tastes and likes. What I would like to point out is that a lot of the reasons people say they don’t like them, are a matter of opinion, and not something necessarily wrong. Several of these blogs have used phrases like, "what is wrong with romance…" and that doesn’t fly with me.
So let me be more specific.
Let’s start with covers. The typical romance cover will feature one of three things:
- Hot Chick
- Hot Dude
- Hot Couple
Sure, it’s not a lot of variety and there are always a few that break those rules to look at something else – and that’s okay! Having some hot abs on a cover is a genre standard. The woman in the period dress will probably get it ripped off her by the man in the kilt. The woman in the leather corset is probably going to kick some ass and then have sex. And they’re all on the cover! As readers, we reconize those tropes and can feel reasonably guaranteed we’ll be swooning, cheering and fanning ourselves accordingly.
It’s been argued that these covers are demeaning. Some even equate it with graphic porn. I don’t care for porn, I don’t look at or watch it, so my knowledge of what book covers look like in relation to porn is nonexistent. I can say that while, yes, some covers are hot, it’s not porn. The Supreme Court ruled that when you look at porn, you know it’s porn, so I do acknowledge that to some very straight laced individuals, even my cover will be considered porn. (Did you like that blatant promotional bit there? I did.) Porn is made to be entertaining and encourage a sexual responce from the reader. Romance books are to give us a bit of fantasy and escapism. Some of them lead us to a point where the results are like porn, but that’s in the reader’s mind. Saying romance books are like porn is to say that runway model shows are porn. Outside of the porn market, there are any number of things that can press a person’s button firmly ‘On’. It’s personal taste.
Books are about fantasy. We read them to escape, to get away from real life. We don’t have to be reminded of our imperfections, of the things we can’t do well enough, because we’re in fantasy. While I like a hero or heroine I can relate to, I don’t want to read about someone boring or uninteresting. The covers are a reflection of that fantasy. Of being able to read and pretend we’re there for a little while. I like a sexy, nerdy hero, but I want him to be attractive as well. And what’s wrong with that? Nothing!
One of the most infuriating arguments is accusing the models themselves of being depraved or part of the problem. Holding it against the cover models or the characters because they’re attractive is a petty complaint in my opinion. We all want to be attractive, so why tear down someone who is? I’ve contracted a book with Ellora’s Cave. They’re known for their Cavemen, the troupe of sexy men who appear on the covers of their books. I haven’t met them, but I know people who have and say they’re perfectly nice people. So why insult them? Why does nameless-internet-person need to toss rocks at someone else? Is it insecurity? An inability to enjoy things of a sexual nature? Sounds like personal problems to me, and nothing the cover models can do about it.
As much as people want to complain about it, sexy sells. A book with an attractive male chest will sell before one with a hairy pot belly.
I have feminist friends who really don’t like the type of models used for the women. I respect their opinions, and to some degree I will agree with them, but within reason. I’d love to see some different body types featured, but again – books are about fantasy. If you’re a woman, you’ve probably wanted to be skinnier and prettier. I don’t know about you, but I’m never going to be ‘That Girl’.
Moving on from the covers!
The content of romance books varies to sweet, steamy and graphic. I have never understood people who pick up a romance book and then complain about the romance. At least when I finally took the blinders off and read my first romance I went in knowing there would be sex and steamy stuff.
This argument goes back to knowing your tastes. If you want something sweet, don’t read an erotic book. Many of the more graphic books come from certain lines at a publisher, or certain authors. It pays to flip through a book that looks interesting and sample some of it before you walk out of a store with a book you aren’t going to like, and then point fingers at the author as if it’s their fault you bought the wrong thing. It’s like going to Target and needing a pair of size 9 jeans and walking out with some size 1’s. Whose fault is that?
I’m not going to touch on the argument that romance really isn’t a worthwhile genre. The numbers speak for themselves as far as the ‘worth’ of the market.
In the end, it is all about personal taste and preference. Widen your horizons a little, but if you don’t like it, don’t blame it on the author or the models.