Cravats, Corsets, and Canoodling

I’ve fallen into the blackhole that is historical romance and I’m not sorry. Well, I’m not sorry now. I was sorry. I did that stupid thing where I felt guilty over what I was reading. Because I’m dumb. I’m not really dumb, I just got caught in the web that is literary snobbery. It’s not the first time, but this will be the last time I let it bother me. Here’s a little background.

I used to read a lot of romance. In fact, my early adult reading was pretty much just romance novels. That’s what my mom read and bought so that’s what i had easy access to once I got out of what we call now YA. Not that it really resembled the YA we have now, but that’s the closest thing I can think of. I remember pretty much jumping from Fear Street books right into Danielle Steel. Then I moved on to Jayne Ann Krentz and historical romance. My mom was/is a contemporary romance type of lady, so I had to outsource historical romances. For those I went to her best friend. That’s where I discovered the Malorys. She had ALL the Johanna Lindsey novels out at the time. Later, I would find Judith MacNaught, Catherine Coulter, Jennifer Crusie (I love her still), JAK’s other pen names in which she wrote historical romances and futuristic romances, Mary Balogh, Elizabeth Lowell, Suzanne Brockmann, and last but not least, the “Queen” of romance, Nora Roberts.

I read romantic suspense, paranormal romance, historical romance, and contemporary romance. Pretty much to the exclusion of anything else. Remember while this wasn’t pre-internet, it was pre-Goodreads and social media. It was when your favorite author really didn’t have their own website, but were listed on their publisher’s site which weren’t as polished as they are now. Discoverability was tough when I didn’t really have any other people in my life who were readers. Working in a library on Grand Forks Air Force Base in my early twenties helped a bit, but it was still a lot of genre. Most of the patrons were reading the typical airport reads. I did discover Dan Brown and Steig Larsson, and also my next phase of urban fantasy with Kim Harrison and Kelley Armstrong.

Because I was the only heavy reader in my life, it wasn’t until I met some other heavy readers, that I found out that romance was looked down upon. Until then, it was my reading in general people couldn’t comprehend. I admit, I fell for it. I buckled and stopped reading romance altogether. I donated all the books I had slowly. To be fair, some of them I was getting tired of on my own. Some authors were just recycling material, some went a route I was unwilling to follow them on. But mostly, I got scared. What if I wasn’t doing this reading thing right?

Obviously now I know there is no right or wrong way to read as long as you’re doing it. Barring some of the problematic things like that “romance” novel floating around about Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, I mean. But that’s a discussion for another day.

I found Sarah MacLean a couple years ago thanks to Book Riot and fell back in love with historical romance. I also learned about Beverly Jenkins, Lisa Kleypas, Maya Rodale, and a few more. I do favor Regency historical romance over other eras, although medieval is another I’ll contemplate. I learned about Tiffany Reisz and discovered erotic romance (a subgenre I’d never been brave enough to try). Sonali Dev was my re-introduction to contemporary. I’ll be honest and say I’m still working on contemporary. So far, I’m really only reading Reisz, Dev, and Alisha Rai in my contemporary romances/eroticas. I’m working on discovering new authors. I also really don’t have any interest in paranormal anymore. I prefer my vampires and werewolves in urban fantasy.

This sounds great right? I’m reading all kinds of genres now. The problem? I relapsed for lack of a better term. After reading a lot of great Regency historical romance series, I realized I was just reading those. That wasn’t really the problem. The problem was I felt guilty over it. I was guilty that I was “ignoring” my other books or not reading anything “substantial.” Don’t get mad at me, I know it’s ridiculous. Those other books will still be there. Also my diversity stats fall when I read Regency historical romances. This is where only reading that subgenre fails. I don’t know of many PoC writing it. I can name Courtney Milan. I would love to read others, of different countries in the same time period. I’ve read a few historical fiction of China in the same time, but no romance. Give me your recs!

In the case of the blackhole, the only thing that I can do is ride the wave. I eventually fizzle out and start to crave a fantasy adventure or a feminist manifesto. One cannot live on cravats, corsets, and canoodling (also the name of my memoir) alone. Well, some probably can (and that’s perfectly okay!), but I have an appetite for variety. I’m sure in a month or two, I’ll have another foray into that world, hopefully this time, I won’t neglect my other TBRs.

Have you ever gotten stuck in a blackhole of a certain genre? How did you get out? Did you get out? Do you need me to throw you a feminist manifesto?

4 thoughts on “Cravats, Corsets, and Canoodling

  1. Anie

    I definitely can get stuck in fantasy black holes for long periods — not that I’m displeased by them, but I do end up enjoying other things when I get to them, even if it’s “ooooh historical fiction feels so ~exotic~ now”

    I hate that we rank genres like this. Good books are good books. I’ve read literary fiction that was terrible, and urban fantasy that was utterly enchanting and compelling — and let’s not even talk about “quality” vs enjoyment vs any other way of ranking a book.

  2. Aimee Lew

    Hey Karena! Found your blog a bit by accident, but just wanted to ask if you’ve read any books by Sherry Thomas? She’s Chinese, married to a white man I think, but she grew up reading romances with an English-Chinese dictionary and her writing is beautiful. Her book Private Arrangements broke my heart when I read it in high school and from then on she set a standard for me for romance novels (and I went through a tonnnn of romance novels through high school, just when ebooks were sort of taking off via Kindles). I’ve read every romance novel she’s written (she wrote a fantasy YA series too), loved almost every one, although Tempting the Bride wasn’t as satisfying and her contemporary romance novel was so-so, lol. She’s great at plot twists and betrayals and I like that her hero/heroines aren’t stereotypical and their relationships are often delightfully more realistic/practical (eg. Luckiest Lady in London). Madeline Hunter was also one of my favorite writers! Hope you enjoy if you haven’t already! – Aimee from Bookshop 🙂

    1. Hi Aimee! I’m glad you found me. I’ve slacked bit here due to all my holiday hours at BSC, but I hope you enjoy the blog. I literally just found Sherry Thomas yesterday! I just added her to my list of authors to merge into the Romance section. What a great romance origin story! Thank you for the rec though. It’s nice to hear from people I know.

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