Romance myths.

Posted by reviewer | 3:32 p.m. | | 3 comments »

I found this article when I logged on to MSN today. Out of the three authors, I have only read Kathryn Smith.

Romance novels get stripped bare in a sexy new documentary airing on Bravo! this week.
Call it twit lit, bodice-rippers, supermarket trash or smut, but chances are you won’t sway the more than 60 million women in North America who read romance novels at least once a week.

Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings? (airing Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET on Bravo!) happily undresses the romance world through the eyes of three Canadian authors, from its origins to the industry savvy needed to get ahead. (And yes, there’s plenty talk of heaving bosoms and throbbing members to boot.)

“These are really smart savvy businesswomen who really love what they do,” says director Joanna D’Angelo. “And [readers are the] exact opposite from the cliché notion of bored housewives.”

So in the spirit of busting myths – and mythical busts – we chatted with the three Canadians featured in the doc. The result? A scandalous unraveling of eight romance novel myths, and insight into the women who pen them.

Myth #1: Romance novels say women need men to complete their lives
Kelly Boyce: Riiight. [Laughs.] They’re more about two people finding each other and making the relationship work on their own terms.
Kathryn Smith: Romance novels are very much meant to be empowering for women, because these women are often faced with difficult circumstances and they do come out on top.

Myth #2: Romance novels are all about sex
Kayla Perrin: I hate when people say to me, ‘Oh you write those smutty books!’ If you have extraneous sex, like a clearly gratuitous sex scene in a movie, readers don’t appreciate that.
KB: There are varying levels of love scenes – from the ones where it doesn’t go beyond a kiss, to the ones that are more erotic. I’m middle-of-the-road, but when I give the manuscript to my parents to read, I usually mark certain areas NC-17 just so they’re forewarned. [Laughs.]
KS: With my first book, I worried about what my grandmother would say. But, God love her, my grandmother used to work in a condom factory, so… [laughs.]

Myth #3: A romance writer is rolling in money
KS: [Laughs convulsively.] Yes, I don’t work at all. They just drive a truck up to my door and say, ‘Here you go,’ and I answer it in my feather boa! I know writers who’ve been doing this longer than me who still have full-time jobs.
KB: I think romance writers, as opposed to those in mainstream fiction, are at the lower end of the scale – which is a little ridiculous considering the market we have. I think of all books sold, 45 to 48 per cent are romance.

Myth #4: Romance novels aren’t written well
KP: Argh! Where are you getting these? Harlequin gets about 60,000 unsolicited manuscripts per year, and they maybe publish five. If anyone could write them, a lot more people would be published.
KS: The crux of the romance novel is conflict, the force that drives any good novel. So instead of being lesser writers, I may almost be arrogant to say that I think that we’re some of the best writers in commercial fiction next to mystery writers, because everything hangs on that plot.

Myth #5: All romance novels are the same
KB: Uh, no. No more than all mysteries are the same or thrillers are the same. There are different subgenres, and everybody tells the story differently. About the only thing that’s the same is that it’s based on a relationship and you get a happy ending.
KS: And if you don’t have the happy ending, you’d be crucified by romance readers! Romance novels are the same in that all socks are the same because they go on a foot. [Laughs.]

Myth #6: All romance readers are dimwitted housewives
KP: Dimwitted housewives – oh, that hurts! One study proved that the average romance reader is a college-educated woman who works.
KS: That’s not to say there aren’t male readers, and a lot of men write under female names. I had a mother buy a book for her 15-year-old son. She said, ‘If he’s going to be curious about sex, I would like him to read about it in the context of a monogamous relationship.’ Much better than Penthouse, right? Not that I have anything against Larry Flint – I don’t want to get sued!
Myth #7: Romance writers can’t hold down relationships
KB: Ha. Well given that I’m chronically single, I’m probably not the right example [chortles]! But it definitely gives me perspective on relationships that I’m not sure I would have otherwise.
KS: I’ve been with the same man for over 11 years, and we’re very open. He reads my books.
KP: I happen to be a single mother, but I left relationships that weren’t good for me. And I think I epitomize the romantic heroine in that I’m someone who believes she has to be strong and stand on her own and does not need a man. And yet I still believe in the power of love and hope that I will meet Mr. Right, whom I will settle down with and stay with forever.

Myth #8: Reading and writing romance novels is shameful
KS: It’s awful, but people think that way. I hear women talking about putting book covers on their books because they don’t want anyone to see what they’re reading.
KB: I think it’s the bad rap that it got originally, the whole bodice-ripper thing. People said it was porn, and that’s not what it’s about at all.
KP: Romance writers are saying, ‘I get to tell stories about hope and love and empowerment for a living.’ And there’s nothing shameful about that.


  1. Holly // 5:19 p.m.  

    This is very interesting, Chantal. I'm going to tune into that show.


  2. nath // 8:31 p.m.  

    Hi Chantal :D

    That was a really interesting :D The authors also sounds so nice and all :) I have a book by Kathryn Smith, but have never heard of the two others....

  3. Nikki // 3:37 p.m.  

    Thank you so much for posting that article. I wish they were playing this in the States, I would love to watch it!

    BTW, I love your blog!! I just found it!!