Book Notes: Dangerous Books for Girls

We romance novel readers get a lot of flack. There seems to be an assumption that if you read romance you are shallow, not interested in the deeper things of life and well, we can go on but we shall not.

I suppose the fact of the matter is this - people look down on the romance genre. But why? Especially since it’s the one that rakes in the money for publishers?

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Romance novels and its readers get so much of grief!

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I am a reader of many genres. The only genre I dislike is Young Adult, and that is more of an umbrella genre so I don't think it quite counts. (Why do I dislike the genre? Read this.)

It's interesting that when I people find out that I read romance, they will inevitably say: "Don't they all have the same plots? Aren't they unrealistic? Aren't the books shallow and silly?" I rarely get that with other genres.

The reason why this gets romance readers defensive is because it's almost implied that if you read such "shallow, unrealistic and formulaic" books, that means you're shallow, silly and unimaginative too. Of course nothing can be further from the truth as the readers of romance novels are one of the most diverse around.

The criticisms commonly levied against romance novels can be hurled at books of other genres too. Crime and thriller novels are unrealistic (the killer is caught every time? Sure.), fantasy novels can be silly (dragons exist? Hah!) and many genres are written to a formula of sorts. For example, a crime novel usually starts with a crime and ends with the bad guy being nabbed. This is "genre expectations", after all. Yet these books are not as mocked or vilified as romance novels. 

It's not the whys I am concerned about (personally I think it is misogyny). What I am concerned about is all that is said about this genre will keep curious readers away so that they won't look "shallow and silly" when seen reading it.

I was like that too - turning my nose up at the genre despite many years of entertainment from it in my teen years. Then I grew up and it saved my bacon. Let's just say romance novels lifted my spirits at a sad time in my life. (Tl;dr) 

What changed my mind? Brushing aside preconceived notions and being grateful that this genre instills hope, positivity and happiness in me. This genre does it very, very well! On top of that, I find it fun to hang out with it's readers as they are mostly positive and fun. 

Approach romance novels with an open mind. Know that there's a lot of variety within the genre itself and not all will please you. But when you find it - it will be utterly awesome.

Favourite romance reads of 2016

2016 has got to be the year of the romance novel for me. I must confess sheepishly, that I was one of those people who rolled their eyes at romance novels, declaring them silly and shallow. And yet, I started out my readaholic journey with romances -Judith McNaught, Danielle Steele, Linda Lael Miller and Jude Devaraux were my starter romances. But I began to pooh pooh them after being bitten particularly hard by the literary bug, where I declared fiction that did not change the world was not worth my while.

Fortunately, I have recovered from such delusions and rediscovered the magic of romance novels this year after deciding to read one to break my fiction reading slump (from 2010, I only read non-fiction). Well, golly, it worked and I was swept away by the beautiful magic and I just couldn't stop after that! Here are my favourite romance reads of 2016:

1. CAPTIVE by Grace Burrowes
Hero was tortured for two years by the French. He comes home damaged and well, a little crazy. One day a distant relation - Gillian - comes to his estate and literally bullies him back to health. I love Gillian's strong, no-nonsense personality, and Burrowes captures the pain of PTSD really well. And the hero has got to be the most gentlemanly and kind hero I've ever met. They don't make them like this anymore.

2. NO LONGER A GENTLEMAN by Mary Jo Putney
Again, Putney never fails me! And yes, another hero that was tortured by the French. Hahaha. But the hero is kickass - she literally yanked him out of prison, and together they trudge through dangerous French territory back to England. I literally sighed at the end of the novel - it was that good and I would buy a physical copy just to hug it.

3. A MOST DEVILISH ROGUE by Ashlyn McNamara
I was attracted to this novel because of the cover. No, I'm just kidding. Mine was the super boring UK cover, so there wasn't any sexy butts. But again, strong heroine, who had to face society's condemnation for daring to get pregnant out of wedlock. The hero is a man who sees something beyond her stained reputation. Then there's that convenient cave during a storm. Hot. This is definitely a new author to watch for. 

4. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST by Eloisa James
Sometimes supermarket sushi is what I need, and I definitely love this because of the hero, who is gruff and absolutely rude and without tact. Fortunately, the heroine is as tough as he is.

5. FITZHUGH series by Sherry Thomas
I read the three books of the series in one day - that should tell you how good it is. Yes, yes, miscommunication and lack of talking abounds (like as if we real-life humans do that so well), but the relationships feel very deep and real. The three books, actually, read like one, entwined tale.

Most disappointing book:

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD by Patricia Gaffney
It started so well, Gaffney is an amazing writer, truly. Then the hero tells the heroine: "Don't make this a rape". Yes, it's one of those Old Skool romances where rape is ... I'm not even sure why it's there, really. Was it supposed to be romantic? Sexy? Hot? It was none of that for me and the hero was utterly irredeemable to me after that first rape scene.

 I am surprised that so many people would call this book a classic, and one of the best in the genre. Those who support and talk highly about the book say that the author was painting the picture of a less-than-perfect rake, that as a rake he was what he was. But then, why wouldn't the author paint a real picture of a rape victim? Would a rape victim marry her rapist with love in her eyes?

Perhaps I'm too modern for this book. Perhaps I'm too enlightened, having watching two documentaries of women fighting hard to punish those who raped them, and having society disappointing them again and again because society didn't believe them. Some even thought they deserved it.

After watching these documentaries, there was no way in good conscience can I call this book amazing, enlightening, complex or whatever claptrap description its supporters have foisted on it. This book is perpetuating a dangerous idea in women's heads: That there can be romance after a man rapes you.

#TBR Challenge 2016: I just don't get paranormal romance

I'm currently trying to shave the 99 books in my TBR into an acceptable 20 or so, especially after the wild buying spree in August and September thanks to a series of RM5 book sales. It's time to get serious about reading my own damn books!

Super Librarian's TBR Challenge 2016 was perfect, but October is "Paranormal romance or romantic Suspense" month, two genres that, try as I might, I can't seem to get into.

I read almost anything but these two genres are my most DNFed besides YA.

Perhaps I just couldn't get on with the idea that shapeshifters and vampires are sexy. (I once spotted a Gargoyle-themed romance, and I thought: Hmm. Making love to a demon statue. Sexay. Not.)

Still, this month, I valiantly tried reading two paranormal romances and a romantic suspense romance in my TBR.  

The Reunited by Shiloh Walker had a promising premise: Two lovers, separated by death, are reincarnated and meet again. Joss is an FBI agent, determined to bring down an illegal human trafficking ring while Dru is deep undercover working to bring said ring down. They meet, but Josh is suspicious of her as she's literally the kingpin's fiance.

The dash of suspense makes it even more yummy, but I couldn't get into the novel on account of the numerous disruptive flashbacks. And since I have a strict policy where I'd DNF a book if I couldn't get into it after 50 pages, I have put it into the "to sell/donate" pile - after reading 100 pages and having my eyes glaze over.

Nalini Singh is a great writer, but I find my interest straying each time when the shapeshifters and psychics come in despite how hard I try. 

This is a tad odd for me as I love paranormal-themed books. I'm a huge Preston & Child fan, and their books skirt the edge of paranormal, sci-fi and thriller. These romance books should do it for me.

I'm also a huge lover of Thriller novels, so Captive by Brighton Walsh should also be a good fit, but I found it not ... thriller-ish enough.

I'm sure it's not because I hate these genres.

After all, I adored the Acro series by Sydney Croft (an X-Men-ish outfit that has the randiest operatives ever). Though Three the Hard Way (Book 7) was a marked step down in quality for me, and I DNFed it to my chagrin. I used to race through all the Acro books. That's how much I loved them.

Or ... have I fallen out of love with paranormal romance? (GASP)

But I'm hanging on to hope that perhaps I've not found a writer that sings to my soul. Especially with Romantic Suspense. Because JD Robb's "In Death" series sounds terribly delicious. Maybe she'll be it.