Sparks and Tarts: F*** you, romance is awesome

Photographed by Christopher Sardegna. Unsplashed.

I am a reader, and I am happy that there are so many of us out there. I am totally part of the You Do You category of reading, where I expect you to like what you like and leave the rest for the ones who like it. I know that there are people who don’t like love stories or stories with happy endings (¯\_(ツ)_/¯) and I will never try to force them to embrace my love of romance. But I still expect those people to respect and appreciate my love of romance and not shit all over my joy.

We’ve had a busy month.

There was a Big Article in a Big Important Publication recently, and while it spoke to some people, I guess, it also broke some people’s hearts. Readers, publishers, editors, and authors who were excited to see a three-page spread in the nation’s most well-known newspaper got to experience what it was like to be shit on by an editorial staff that doesn’t care about their feelings, and they were heartbroken.

Some of us, it just made us angry.

Not only did the 86-year-old grump they got to write it—who probably still longs for the days when a man had to sign off on his wife getting her driver’s license—approach romance with very little understanding of the genre and its readers, but he also decided to be racist while he was at it.

Even if I hadn’t read the book in question, my head would have been spinning to see that someone at the fucking New York Times had let “they’re African-American, but you’d never know” past any kind of editorial read-through. This is the kind of racism that publishing has to deal with, which is why so many of my favorite authors of color got their start and (some) continue to flourish in self-publishing. Which this Big Important Publication will not be covering. I could write a book on what kind of marginalizing bullshit this is, but I want to move on with my life.

Let’s talk about how awesome romance is right now. It continues to make money while other genres have fallen in sales because people just want to be happy and read happy shit. It continues to be one of the most diversely written and diversely read genre, in part because its authors believe in invoking real people. Even when they’re writing historical, fantasy, paranormal, or science fiction. Or hell, even when they’re writing about famous people. But don’t just take my word for it, look at some of the books that are being published right now.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Cover of The Duchess Deal by Tessa DareTessa Dare managed to slip a “nevertheless, she persisted” into The Duchess Deal and it wasn’t even the best thing that happened in the book. This book, which is a play on Beauty and the Beast with less Stockholm Syndrome and more sex in the library, is hilarious, adorable, and all around wonderful. There is also the bonus of Khan, the misanthrope Duke’s butler and basically BFF whose droll deadpan leaves you in stitches. Tessa, if you’re reading this, can we get a Khan novella? I just want all the Khan.

Cathy Yardley’s One True Pairing is technically the second in a series, but you don’t need to read the first to have All The Fun. Jake is the third lead in a show that sounds like Supernatural-Meets-Merlin and loves it with his very soul. Hailey lives in the town where the show’s first con is being held. When he needs a place to hide from the horde of women on the attack after a meet-and-greet gone wrong, her coffee counter is a great solution. And later, when he needs something to make him more interesting at risk of losing his spot on the show, a fake relationship with a local is just the thing. Of course, what starts as fake doesn’t always end up that way, does it?

Do you like dance movies? I sure do. When a few readers started filling my feed with Take the Lead my eye was immediately drawn to the title. And that cover! :flame emoji: (Although I do have something to say about the fact that the man does not have long flowing locks. Come on, y’all.) Take Dancing With the Stars and Duck Dynasty and mash them together. What do you get? Dancing, secrets, cameras, and people coming into themselves and overcoming their own hurdles. Also, I don’t watch Dancing With the Stars; do they seriously spin showmances? It’s a dance show; not The Real World. I dunno.

How about dragons? Isabel Cooper is not an author I was familiar with before someone told me about Highland Dragon Warrior. I can see you rolling your eyes. Yes, there is a Highlander in this book. No, he does not speak in terribly concocted Scots vernacular for the entirety of the book. Yes, he does become a dragon. No, that’s not the most awesome thing about this book. The most awesome thing is Sophia Metzger, the Jewish woman who has come to said Highlander dragon for raw materials to use in her alchemy. That’s right, she’s an alchemist. And she can win battles with her brain, not her brawn. Not that there’s anything wrong with brawn; in fact, the second book in the series, Highland Dragon Rebel, is about the Highlander dragon’s sister, who is a fearsome warrior who also turns into a dragon, and her love interest is a magician.

Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole, and Rose Lerner put their awesomeness together and Captain Planeted the magnificence that is Hamilton’s Battalion, an anthology of three novellas set during the American Revolution. This is the one Hamilton-themed book I wanted. While stories like Alex & Eliza are nice to have and novels like I, Eliza Hamilton expand on the awesomeness of the women in the period, I’d like some joy, and maybe some other people to enjoy. And that’s what these three authors give us. These three stories are about very different people living in extreme circumstances, and finding love all the while. They might not be the traditional stories you learn in school; they show that even then, America was not the straight white utopia that it has been written to be by white supremacist historians. (Want to know more about how race became a thing in America? Sheryll Cashin’s Loving does a really good job of building a racial timeline of the continental US.)


Do you see how you can write about books with respect, even if you’re a snarky person? Do you see how a romance novel can be described without any (or with very little) mention of sex? Cause romance is about the building of relationships, not just about the bedroom scenes. And anyone who approaches it in any other way doesn’t understand it at all.

Jessica Pryde

Jessica Pryde

Copyeditor Jess is a book hoarder and equal opportunity geek. She loves to get lost in stories of all kinds. See what she's lost in: @jessisreading

2 thoughts on “Sparks and Tarts: F*** you, romance is awesome

  1. Great retort to all That Nonsense in the Big Publication. I’m adding all these to my TBR list RIGHT NOW! I just finished the arc for The Wedding Date and it has reignited my love for romance. I highly recommend it when it comes out next year.

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