I love to read romance and have ever since I read my first chaste, sweet, Harlequin as a young teenager in the 70’s. At the time my favorite books were set in Australia. Then somewhere along the way I chanced across a slightly steamier historical romance and was instantly hooked. I read other genres as well but historical romance, particularly those set in the Highlands, is my go-to when I want a relaxing, enjoyable, escape.
For years I dreamed of being an author and writing my own romantic novels. I even majored in English for a while at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) until I was overcome by a wave of practicality and transferred to Salisbury University for a BS in nursing. Eventually I was able to merge both skill sets and become a successful medical writer. While I dwelt in the world of early drug development, I still dreamed about my novels. Finally, when my kids needed less of my time I wrote Highland Solution, a medieval Highland romance.
When, to my surprise, Champagne Books offered me a publishing contract I was thrilled and wanted to tell everyone I knew. Of course the first question from most people was, “What is it about?”
I generally responded somewhat apologetically, “Oh, well—um—it’s just a romance.” The author inside me who fell in love with romance and worked hard to craft a beautiful story yelled “What the hell is that about?” While the stuffy adult medical writer said, “Well—you know—romance? It’s not very important.”
Clearly, I needed to shut that snotty witch up but I needed to speak her language to do it.
While romance is often scorned by literary critics, according to statistics published by the Business of Consumer Book Publishing and reported on the Romance Writers of America website (http://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=580), romance was the top-performing category on the best-seller lists in 2012 generating $1.438 billion in sales in 2012.
So why do critics turn their nose up? Frankly, I’m not sure. Perhaps the sheer escapism that romance provides combined with the expected “happily-ever-after” leaves them cold. But why would I care about that? The escapism and the “happily-ever-after” is exactly what I seek in a romance. I love the fairy tale qualities inherent in most romance and I suspect I am not alone.
Having effectively gagged the apologetic medical writer with the statistics she so loves, now I answer, “Oooh, it’s a medieval Highland romance. It contains great characters who I can respect, a few villains, a little intrigue and a heartwarming romance. You’ll love it!”