Yesterday, I received my first copy of the Romance Writers of America Romance Writer's Report (a monthly magazine for RWA members). In it, the editor discussed at length how librarians have discovered that romance novels can help foster a lifelong love of reading and promote literacy.

There has also been discussion at RWA that whereas other genres seem to be slipping in the economic downturn, romance readership is up. In fact, Harlequin Enterprises reported an increase in fourth-quarter sales over the same period last year. That's pretty cool, considering the book industry is feeling the pinch everywhere else.

So, despite the popularity and success of romance novels, why does the romance genre still get no respect?

I think all genre writers feel the same way, unless you're writing hard-core sci-fi à la Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke. But romance novels, in particular, still have such a stigma attached to them. They're viewed as "bodice rippers" or soft porn masquerading as a story. It's so frustrating, because some of the romances I've read are so fulfilling emotionally. Catherine Anderson, for example, has a amazing way of evoking emotions that makes the reader laugh and cry right along with her characters (check out PHANTOM WALTZ, ALWAYS IN MY HEART, and ANNIE'S SONG). I think people who dis romance do themselves a disservice. They're missing out on some spectacular books.

I've seen this dissing first hand.

Because my writing reaches into the sci-fi and fantasy genres, I post on a SF/F critique board at Writer's Digest. The majority of forum members have been very welcoming, despite the fact that I don't write "pure" SF/F. I know my posts occasionally take new members of the forum off-guard, since my writing is more "touchy-feely" than your average sci-fi—it's a romance first, SF/F second. But last week, I actually had someone make fun of the wording I'd used in a gentle love scene, comparing my description of a kiss to the Alien queen in Aliens. I know it was intended as a joke, but still. It got under my skin. I think I'm going to put disclaimers on my posts from now on.

WARNING: This may look like SF/F but it's actually romance. Don't dis the love!


TOPAZ status: Uh...still at Chapter 19. I watched Push last night with the hubby instead of writing.