I found this book to be a refreshing change compared to many of the other books I’ve read in the same genre. The characters were likeable, the dialogue was more realistic, and humour was woven in effectively. There wasn’t the level of cheesiness that can often be found in romance novels, and I appreciated that there was the use of normal terminology to describe the sex scenes rather than weird romance novel lingo.
If you’re looking for a good romance novel, this is it! I really don’t know how to write a book review for this genre beyond that, so instead I’ll chat a bit about the genre itself.
Harlequin is probably the most widely recognized romance novel publisher. Originally a Canadian company, they began publishing romance novels in the 1950s. In the 1970’s and 1980’s the genre really began to grow. In the 1980’s and 90’s, the model Fabio graced many a romance novel cover.
According to the Romance Writers of America, in 2016 the romance genre made up 23% of all fiction book sales in the United States. The two defining features of the genre are: “a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending”.
The Romance Writers of America provide a few statistics on readers: 82% are female, 86% are heterosexual, and 73% are Caucasian. The average age bracket of readers is 35-39 years old. Those who read romance novels frequently or very frequently tend to be younger than the average age.
For anyone who’s not familiar with the genre, romance novels contain a lot of sex, and detailed descriptions of sex, at that. Yet from what I can tell there’s not a sense of taboo associated with the genre; it’s not hidden away in a dark room in bookstores, and I remember one my nana would leave her romance novels out on the living room table when she visited. If someone next to you on the subway was reading a romance novel, you probably wouldn’t feel any urge to get up and walk away.
Compare that to porn, which contains a lot of sex in a very different way. Granted, the two formats are very different on many levels, and porn is only about sex while romance novels are about the overarching storyline, but they do often represent stereotypes of what’s likely to turn men on vs. what’s likely to turn women on. I doubt if they even make porn magazines anymore, but if they do, I’m sure they’re not making an appearance at your local bookstore. And if the dude sitting next to you on the train is looking at a porn mag, I’m fairly sure you’re going to be getting up and walking away as quickly as you can.
Obviously porn is visually-based, while romance novels allow you to create your own visual based on the written description. Porn tends to objectify women and focus on the man’s pleasure. In romance novels there’s a much greater sense of mutuality, and the male typically gets the most sexual satisfaction out of giving the female pleasure. There seems to be a fairly classic male takes charge role, but even this is done with the goal of pleasuring the female. There’s also an undercurrent of emotional connection and growing love, which is absent from porn. Again, I’m not likening romance novels to porn, but it’s interesting to contrast two very different ways of approaching sex.
Moving away from the sex side of things, I’m fascinated at how writers can use the same essential formula to create new stories over and over and over. One of the novelists I’ve read before is Nora Roberts, who has churned out 215 romance novels. That’s a lot of books, and to keep it fresh each time seems pretty remarkable.
I think there’s also a balance between fitting in a bit of cliché to make it fun and bringing more realistic elements as well. That was something I thought Anna/Paula did very well in Fiona’s Fling.
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