I remember my introduction to the romance genre very clearly. At the time (thirteen) I had been enjoying Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and so on thanks to my aunt's bookshelf. Then one day I came across a book with a cover I'd never seen before: a man held a woman in a heated embrace, holding her from behind, their faces gripped in passion. The title was The Flame and the Flower. Intrigued, I took the book from the shelf, settled in and started reading.
From the start, I was hooked.
There was just something about Heather, the unfortunate girl who finds herself in a strange American's embrace. An American that, despite his good looks, was alpha and possessive and a bit of an asshole. As their relationship evolved, I was right there with them. It was the first book I didn't want to put down. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. Full of love and hate, it was the perfect combination of the things I loved. As soon as I finished, I hit up my aunt's library looking for more, and I found them. She was a fan of the greats like Heather Graham, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Johanna Lindsey, and Connie Mason. I poured over them all, eager for more. This continued through my teens and well into adulthood.
Then something horrible happened.
One day I had company at my apartment. I had a book on my coffee table (a romance) and I got blasted for it. I still remember how embarrassed I was, of the looks everyone gave me, of their rude snickers and comments. The jibes were bad but the implication that I was somehow less "smart" for adding romance to my reading list hurt in ways I can't describe. As a result, I put romance away. It was nothing but horror from that point forward. More Stephen King for years. It wasn't until I had my first child that I got a hankering for romance and returned to the genre. Only now, it wasn't exactly the genre I remembered.
People used words they didn't previously (you know what I'm talking about -- think roosters and kittens) and the sex was far more explicit. To my surprise, it didn't turn me off. In fact, the sexual content added a depth and dimension to the books that was somewhat lacking in the past. I immediately returned to reading erotic romance, going through as many as 5 books a week. When I hit The Death Star (Wal-Mart) I always checked the books on sale. This led me to being a fan of The Black Dagger Brotherhood. So many awesome books were uncovered during this time, and I knew that no matter what I'd never stop reading romance again.
I think that a lot of people have issues with romance in general. I'm not sure why. Those I've spoken to believe that romance is for the simple minded, or that the material is purely porn. Readers know this isn't true. While it's true there are books created entirely to titillate, there are also books with a back story, plot, and enough heat to make the pages burn. Those are the books I enjoy, when I can get involved with the characters, care for them, and want them to find their happily ever after.
I recently spoke to a very good friend about the issue and she said she didn't want to make others uncomfortable, therefore she didn't discuss reading romance with them. That I can understand. However, I do think that women should stop hiding what they like. E-readers are great and allow you to read a smutastic romance without anyone knowing, but if a book comes to print first, there's absolutely nothing wrong with carrying that sucker around and getting your romance on. There is a reason romance continues to sell year after year. It continues to grow, to find a broader audience. That's not going to change.
So when you read your erotic romance (or romance in general) I ask that you do so with your head held high. No one can make you feel embarrassed about what you read unless you let them. And if you enjoy erotic romance, you enjoy erotic romance. Hell, come hang out with me. I'll take the weight on my shoulders and tell anyone and everyone that I love the books. Not only do I read them, but I write them as well. There is a reason for that.
Now that I've put away my soapbox, it's back to work. I have a lot to get done. I hope you're all doing well. Happy Hump Day!