The books I do not read

chicklitI am a recovering book snob. I’m in the process of overcoming the baggage I picked up whilst studying English Lit at university. I’m now able to read widely not caring for some invisible judge and yet there is one line I do not want to cross. Why can’t I read romance?
That’s not to say I haven’t read any I’ve dabbled in the paranormal romance end of things and faeries who like to get hot and heavy. But straight romances in genre terms are problematic. A lot of this is bound up in my heavy allergic reaction to the tag chick lit. I have never been a chick, I hate the colour pink and I’m not a girly girl. From the outside looking in this looks like a genre for the mean girls at school who were my bullies and therefore the enemy this genre does not invite me in. Only Bridget Jones ever really appealed.
I read Margaret Attwood’s Lady Oracle which is about a literary writer who has a secret inner life writing historical romances. It is a fab novel and one I would recommend to anyone. It is a novel about escapism and what those Harlequin/Mills & Boon type romances mean to those who read them.
Am I snobby because they are designed to appeal to something I don’t necessarily believe in? Because as a feminist really shouldn’t I be applauding writing by women for women? I have trouble with the tropes. Alpha-Male as a character seems to often equate with total douchebag I want my hero strong enough but one who cares. I’ve read enough if we go any further I won’t be able to stops which if I’m honest makes me feel ill. I don’t like my heroines making stupid decisions for no discernible reason. Are there romances out there that have proper consent? Are there romances that feel less consumerist. What’s happening at cutting edge romance? Is it satisfying to read when you have issues with what I’ve listed above.
So rec me something contemporary and fun is new adult the answer to my problems? I want to be surprised and I don’t want to be tearing my hair out in frustration.

Jane Hanmer

Born in deepest darkest Shropshire. Currently living in Durrey. A reader of books, a watcher of theatre and film, a player of board games. Intersectional Feminist Pronouns: She/her


  • KH Rose

    I’ve never been able to read standard romance, either. For many of the reasons you state here. I did enjoy Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde, back when I first read the series – in part because she was a romance novelist to pay the bills and hated the genre. The few bits where you ‘heard’ what she was thinking as she was writing were hilarious.

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