I’ve been listening to my favorite paranormal romance books, having read nearly all in the series. It’s been an enlightening experience. Being a romance fan is something I’ve always copped to without hesitation, but I’ve always felt that qualifiers were hanging in the air when I discussed this. You’re supposed to read romance books understanding they’re trash. Sometimes I’ve even said this. “Most of it’s trash. Its’ a guilty pleasure.” I should feel guilty about enjoying romance novels, right? They’re silly, they’re not books of substance. They’re formulaic, they’re cliched. They’re (almost exclusively) for women. I think I’m done with qualifying my like of the genre now, though.
This brings me to the audible experience, streaming audible books. Boy howdy, I recommend doing it. If there’s a book you’re particularly fond of–assuming your narrator is decent–listening to it will take your appreciation to a whole new level. That’s what happened when I began listening to my favorite paranormal romance series. Whereas I had once thought of these books as silly trifles, listening to them made me rethink my take on them. Here’s why: I read the books voraciously…always looking for the “good parts.” I read them hastily, sloppily. In the end, they all ran together in my head. (They have intersecting plot points so this added to that feeling.) In the end I dismissed them as exceptionally tasty junk food. But listening to them changed all that. I was at the mercy of the narrator, I was going his speed…so there was no rushing to the “good parts.” I actually had to sit and listen and take in details I hadn’t before. It turns out these weren’t trashy novels, I was just a trashy reader. A hurried, shallow reader. No more. I can now say without hesitation that these are good books, quality books. With fully-fleshed-out characters, superb character development, fun, fast-moving plots, and even some decent world-building.
But back to the genre of romance. The obvious thing to say about it is that most of it is trash (most of it is, to be sure) but that if you search it out you can find the good stuff. But can’t you say that about just about everything? Oh, don’t get me wrong–I wouldn’t relish explaining to a non-reader the popularity of “50 Shades.” I couldn’t, because I couldn’t get through the first chapter of the book. (I also made the mistake of attempting to read a couple of its many imitators and found them as baffllingly awful. Never has so much sexual tension been as devoid of sexiness; and never has it caused so much tension in me.) But I can safely and proudly say (now) that I have a read a few really good romance novels, novels that were crafted with care and–I assume–joy, and that didn’t make me vomit with their tortured prose. So I’m done apologizing for being a romance fan and I’m done qualifying my enjoyment of the genre.