Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Does the Romance Genre Need a Make Over?

Another great post over at Dear Author wherein Jane wonders if a makeover would get the Romance genre a little respect from the mainstream.

Now, I hate mantitty, secret babies and clinch covers as much as the next gal-who-also-likes-to-occasionally-read- in-public-or-on-the-bus, but not even a tag team of Oprah, Tyra and Ty Pennington could spruce up the genre enough to get it an invite to the Mystery/Sci-Fi/We're almost literature Prom.

It's not that I'm down on Romance. You know I'm not. Thing is, Harlequin's many secret babies, Fabio dressed up like a metrosexual Indian, and those clinches that defy the the limits of human flexibility--they sell. And since they sell, they aren't going anywhere--not unless those of us who hate them rip off those cute calico "bookcovers" we bought at the last garage sale our romance-reading 80-year-old neighbor had (the one where she tried to sell you a whole box of Cassie Edwards novels for $0.50) and stop buying books with covers we hate.

And since I am not about to forgo one of my favorite genres for 3-5 years just to make publishers change their ways, I will suggest that those of us who would like to class up the look of our reading material give up on lifting all boats with a rising tide of respectability and focus our attention on the well-crafted vessels that aren't weighed down by the claptrap and cliche for which our beloved genre is (somewhat justifiably) mocked.

In the comments at Dear Author, I suggested that the Romance genre follow in the footsteps of comic books--er-hem, graphic novels--and think up a new name for books that aspire to a more artistic level. Comic books were long reviled as thinly-plotted, tawdry niche-market geek-boy fantasies. There were plenty of good--great--comics out there, like Love and Rockets or The Watchmen, but they never got any respect because they shared shelf space in dingy, geek-filled little stores with the afore-mentioned tawdry niche-market geek-boy fantasies. And then some clever person decided to christen the good stuff "graphc novels" and the rest, you know, is history.

So here's my question: What do we call our classier, more literary-leaning subgenre of Romance novel? And how do we make it stick?