Reactionary Tales

Taboo or Not?

Today is release day!

My current binge read has been the Hidden Legacy trilogy by Ilona Andrews. I’m finishing up second in the series, White Hot, just in time for the final book, Wildfire; out today.

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I’m thoroughly enjoying these books and then some but it got me thinking.

Does anyone remember when openly admitting that you read romance was taboo? I admit, back in my college days, when I would read a novel that had romance in it and someone would ask me what I was reading, I would say something along the lines of, “it’s historical fiction” or “it’s fantasy” and describe it without literally naming romance.

Traditionally, getting the stink eye for reading romance was a legit possibility. For whatever reason, romance novels were always associated with older women. I remember people dubbing them as “old lady porn”. Fellow readers like myself and others who enjoyed the genre would take pains to mask what we were reading. There used to be a such thing as book covers. They were all different types of designs and colors and were very popular for school books but a lot of us used them to cover up our real reads.

Now you look around and see covers like the ones above and this is normal. It’s actually great. People like to attribute this to the release of things like Fifty Shades of Grey but I think the times just changed and people began to just not care what others thought about in terms of their reading choices. I guess it also helps that 40% (!!) of paperback sales, at least in the United States, are romance these days.

I find it all quite fascinating. I think it takes a great deal of skill to write a good romance novel. For example, looking at the books above, you probably think it’s full of nothing but sex and maybe magic solely looking at the covers. You’d be completely wrong. The tale that is woven throughout the story is completely complex. The authors (it’s a husband and wife team) built this world full of intrigue that takes your imagination places. The tension levels between family members, employers and lovers make you feel like you’re right there, in their shoes, making decisions that may or may not be right. Before I even get to the intimate bits, I’m ready to scream, cry, shout with joy, question why and beg that the author doesn’t leave me hanging.

I look back and wonder why I felt embarrassed about sharing what I was reading. Now I’m proud to share any and every book I read with others. They may not like it, they may not even be interested, and that’s perfectly fine but an author’s hard work should be celebrated no matter the genre they write in.

How do you feel about the romance genre? Is there a different book genre you feel is taboo? Have you ever had to mask a book you were reading from others or downplay the content because you didn’t know how another would react? Let me know in the comments below!

Nel

Happily married, bookaholic, Netflix-a-holic sharing random experiences and interpretations of my world which is brutally honest most of the time.

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58 thoughts on “Taboo or Not?

  1. James J. Cudney IV

    Good morning, Nel. I am not sure I’ve ever read a true romance novel. I remember in the 90s when my mom read Danielle Steele, and I do recall thinking there was a small stigma attached to it. I was a bit too young to know what other people were thinking about it, but romance books felt like something you hid in your room and read when no one was looking, or when you had an unhappy marriage. I agree with you; it’s so not true.

    I don’t read them as I like family driven stories and mysteries. I’d read romance if it was on the border. I generally stay away as reading about love or sex because I’ve always thought it had little plot other than “fall in love.” I’d give it a chance for a good author, story and setting.

    1. Nel Post author

      Morning James and you make a great point. You make great points. Danielle Steel and authors like her, if you notice, would make their book covers quite plain. Either solid colors or flowers on the cover. Very unassuming covers in order for people to just pick up the book because you wouldn’t know there’s romance in it until you read it.
      You can get family driven and mysterious stories from romance novels. Judith Mcnaught, for example, has very family driven, moral stories. Yes, the goal may be for characters fall in love but the tale that is woven before that even happens is the key.
      There are plenty of good authors with great stories in amazing settings. You just have to give it a chance outside of YA.

        1. Nel Post author

          You’re giving me this task??? I already gave you one. It’s called Envy :P. Do you want to to still be around the suspense/thriller mystery plot or you would you like a different genre with romance as the subgenre?

          1. James J. Cudney IV

            Oh, so you only have to find 1 more. I didn’t realize it was considered more romance, but good, now I have 1. Hmmm… yes, historical? fantasy? and thank you!

          2. Nel Post author

            It’s actually considered a thriller. I didn’t know it had romance in it until I read it. And I can do that! I’m thinking a witty one too. Make you laugh out loud 🙂

  2. Silas

    I agree and I love this all that you have put together in this post. Romance novels infact movies were taboo to discuss or openly talk about. I am not really of much age to be saying this but ya in my lifetime I have seen people evolve in this area. I m very lucky to have such parents who are open about everything and you can talk anything with my parents. And I have seen it get better with time. Now me and sister we joke about erotic stuff with our parents, which in here is very strange coz not many Indian parents are so open like mine. Many are still stuck in the old orthodox thinking. I hope the day soon comes when nothing is tabboo. For hells sake there was a time when every human roamed around naked on this earth.

    1. Nel Post author

      You are pretty lucky! Most people do not grow up with parents who openly discuss things like romance and erotica. You are so right! People tend to forget that we’re all born naked and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

      1. Silas

        Ikr! And really I find myself really lucky in this field of getting such parents. Because I see people around me be like “OMG i cant really ask this to my father” and I find it rather strange coz I talk everything.

  3. updownflight

    I haven’t read a romance novel for a while, but I liked to when I was younger. I guess if someone asked me what I was reading back then I’d probably say some poetry, like Wordsworth. I do agree that well written romances have a lot of substance. I particularly liked those set in the past. The good romance writers clearly do a lot of research.

    1. Nel Post author

      Exactly. I agree with you. Quite of few of them have a great bit of substance but if they’re judged on their covers outright, a person would have no idea that they may or not be missing out on a good piece of writing. Yes,they research just as much as any other author out there.

    1. Nel Post author

      Right! Or go so far as to ban a book because of it’s content. I hope the times keep changing.

    1. Nel Post author

      Yesssss! Now I’m going to go search the interwebs for that T-shirt! It has to exist somewhere I’m sure! I have a handful of contemporary authors I love but I’m always on the lookout for more! 🙂

        1. Nel Post author

          Oh I adore Susan Elizabeth Phillips. First book I read by her was Breathing Room. I’ve also read Virgin River books by Robyn Carr. You should read a Judith McNaught contemporary or Gena Showalter. Jill Shalvis has good contemporaries too 🙂

          1. Nel Post author

            Yes they are! I own every book she’s ever written because her writing style is so perfect to me. You should check out the Second Opportunities series first whenever you decided to dive in!

  4. Noriko

    Hi, Nel! Interesting post! I don’t usually feel ashamed of the book I’m reading. Whatever genre it might be, I’d gladly share or gush about the book I’m reading. That said, I made get try to mask the cover if I find it rather explicit, like, with a guy with no shirt on or something. I tend to blush -not ashamed nor embarrassed. Does that make any sense?lol

    1. Nel Post author

      Hahaha yes, it does! You don’t want people to see your reaction more than their reaction to the book itself. I think it’s adorable that you blush. I’m over here like “Look at this sexy man chest! It’s droolicious!” to everyone hahahaha. Then again the old covers were so cliche Fabio. Naked male chest covers have definitely come up in the world.

      1. Noriko

        You have a point there! To me, it’d be like a guilty pleasure, something that I’d adore but SECRETLY… haha!

        1. Nel Post author

          That was me for a while. Now I look at them and I see their chests of course but also how the artist displayed their eyes. If they look deep and soulful, its a good chance the character in this book, who this man is portraying, is probably spectacular. When there’s no face and just chest, then I get even more curious about the character cause not all characters are created equal, no matter the genre. If that all makes sense.

          1. Noriko

            Wow! That was eye opening point of view for me! I never saw it that way! Interesting😊

          2. Nel Post author

            Think your viewpoint on books changes overtime the more you read. Glad to share my interesting views with you! 🙂

          3. Nel Post author

            In that case, you should add this trilogy to your TBR! It’s pretty fantastic. The commentary elements in this story is some of the best I’ve read. I promise you’ll laugh out loud a great deal!

  5. everydaystrangeblog

    I’ll read some romances, but there needs to be something extra going on, like solving a mystery or a supernatural twist. I can’t commit to a whole book that’s just about two people dating.

    1. Nel Post author

      I agree with that. That’s very boring. I need to have some action and adventure or at least some kind of character struggle if it’s contemporary.

  6. cwhiteweb

    Hehehehe great post! For me, not so much. I didn’t read a lot of romance when I got into reading. I was a Sydney Sheldon die hard fan. That was all I read until I read everything he wrote. Then I got into Danielle Steel Cause of my Mom. Then started reading a lot of other things. So I can’t say I can relate to the taboo. I like my romance woven into a really good, solid story line. Not just predictable stuff 😀

    1. Nel Post author

      Yes. I hate when things are predictable unless its spun in a very convincing way. Yes, that seems to be the general consensus and a lot of people don’t realize that there are plenty of those out there but won’t pick it up cause it’s labelled romance you know? Just look at those I-Team books! The covers are like “okay here we go” and then you read the books and you’re completely blown away.

      1. cwhiteweb

        I-Team is a great example!! The covers are something else, yes, I wouldn’t want to read it in public. Thank God for big screened phones and tabs 😅

        1. Nel Post author

          See? Covers don’t bother me now and if anyone asks I’d be like, “So there’s this guy named Julian and…” Hahahaha!

          1. Nel Post author

            Hunt and Julian together. Their bromance is adorable. I liked Kat and Gabe’s story the most and Holly’s. Following Julian and Tess.

          2. cwhiteweb

            They’re adorable, in denial about it, but so adorable!! I need to get to Gabe’s story, cause for now, the verdict is still out on so takes #1

    1. Nel Post author

      I was hoping you’d grace my post with a comment 🙂 I was late to the game when my first romance was plunked into my lap at age 17 but I’ve loved them ever since as well!

  7. mainepaperpusher

    I’ve never been a romance reader, but then again, I’ve never really given it a fair trial. I did read 50 Shades of Gray and was rather underwhelmed. It thought it was rather poorly written and the shock value they intended to convey fell flat.

    When anyone mentions a romance book I think of a boss I used to have who always called them “lust books!” I used to tease her about her lust books until she turned me onto Harry Potter and then my view of her literary perspective was forever changed. My philosophy is read whatever you damn well please!

    1. Nel Post author

      If 50 Shades of Gray was your entrance into the romance genre then I can see why the genre wouldn’t carry any interest for you. If you ever want that to change, I can recommend some well written ones that 50 shades a Gray can’t hold half a candle to.
      Lust books, haha. What’s wrong with a little lust now and then? Keeps things interesting. 😉
      Harry Potter for the win! Good on her for getting you into that series 😁

        1. Keira

          Well 50 Shades of Grey certainly shouldn’t be romantic seeing as it is technically considered rape as the main character never consents.

          1. Nel Post author

            Agreed. People’s perspectives regarding romance are far ranging, that’s for sure.

  8. Keira

    Ah, Ilona Andrews’ books are binge-reading heaven. Thank you for reminding me that the final book came out! Her covers do annoy me though because I feel like they don’t really do the books justice, but that might just be because I don’t like the art style.

    1. Nel Post author

      I don’t like the covers either especially since they have a habit of changing the cover model with these books and Kate Daniels. I agree though that they don’t do these fantastic books due justice at ALL! I’m halfway into Wildfire and I really don’t want it to end!

      1. Keira

        Did you read the Innkeeper Chronicles (I think that’s what its called)? Those covers were actually alright. The first book is called Clean Sweep and if you haven’t read it yet, I definitely recommend it. I found it slightly more tame than Ilona Andrews’ other books, but definitely just as good.

        1. Nel Post author

          That’s actually on my list next since I found out they’re doing Read for Pixels this year and I want to have read all of their series except for The Edge books. I couldn’t get past the first one.

          1. Keira

            Hmm The Edge books are my least favourite books by them, but I have read the first and second. They follow different characters in each, though. What’s Read for Pixels?

          2. Nel Post author

            Same except I didn’t make it to the second one, haha. Read for Pixels is a twice a year event where authors have Google Hangouts sessions to talk about their books while raising money for violence against women. The authors themselves post goodies and swag like signed first editions for us to buy and all proceeds go to the campaign. I got the email about it this morning cause I’ve donated in the past. I’ll send you the link if you’re interested! 🙂

          3. Nel Post author

            Damn you read fast! I just finished it and I agree with you. There’s no way the series is over. Also, Caesar was the last person I ever expected him to be. AND! According the rumor mill, it may not be the end of the series and the Andrews supposedly said if the publisher doesn’t continue with it, they’ll continue without the publisher. My brain is exploding right now. I want to read the whole damn thing all over again.

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