first published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail 15 July 2006
When I first mentioned to a work colleague that my masters’ degree was exploring genre fiction, and that I was focusing on romance, I had to wait a good ten minutes for her to stop laughing before we could continue our conversation. Now, granted, she thought I was researching romance, the practice, instead of the literature, but her response is not that unusual, even from those that heard correctly the first time.
So why does the word romance, especially associated with the novels, elicit this reaction? What images does the term conjure? The stereotypes are well-documented — and less than flattering.
It must be noted that most genre fiction has some sort of disparagement to deal with. Ask any speculative fiction author. Science fiction even had to change its epithet from Sci-Fi to SF to escape the Star trek uniformed, horn-rimmed bespectacled, Klingon-speaking pigeonhole.
In fact, speculative fiction itself is a new term, moving away from the derision associated with the fantasy label. These two label changes have been quite successful, even beyond the genre fiction set.
While some would argue that the plot lines of romance novels force them into the realm of spec fic, general convention states that the two are separate.
Should romance literature explore new names? In this case, would a book by any other name still read as sweet?
A fellow reader suggested ‘rom-fic’. I think it works. ‘Fic’ brings in the fiction element, which contradicts the myth that women read romance as a game plan. ‘Rom’ sticks close to the roots, but avoids the automatic Mills & Boon and Harlequin association.
Further, creating ‘rom-fic’ mirrors the evolution of the genre itself—a new name to reflect the vast changes that have occurred in romance fiction.
Watch for it in the next edition of romance jargon.
Also watch for Karen Hawkins’ Her Officer and Gentleman, out this month from Avon books. Don’t be repelled by the title and exaggerated cover, this novel has a strong centre.
Readers tired of the traditional heroine of other regency historicals will love Beth, the very antithesis of TSTL. Beth has obviously done some reading of her own, because she knows straight off that wealthy, handsome, confirmed bachelors do not pursue on-the-shelf debutantes no matter how charming their smile. Watching the two characters attempt to manipulate each other, both believing the other completely taken in, provides some nice comedic scenes to what would otherwise be a relatively straightforward story.