Romantic fiction rocks, judging by the enthusiastic turn out at this year’s Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards. Roars of delight, from the home team (publishers, friends, fellow writers-in-the-genre) greeted every winner’s name. Celebration was definitely the key word of the night.
Romance even made it into The Economist last week, (11th March 2023, p23). Although I have a couple of issues with the piece, it’s mostly good news. They report that sales of romance and saga fiction in Britain have risen by 110% in three years, to £53mn annually, their highest figure for a decade, according to Nielsen BookData.
print courtesy of 2023 Award Winner Louise Allen
Publishers, they say, “are starting to take notice.”
Well, some of them were cheering their lungs out the Monday before this article was published (see above) so that’s fair enough far as it goes.
Only – call me picky if you will – but even in my experience, they’ve been doing that for a good twenty-five years before the pandemic shut down the RNA annual thrash. Started to take notice? Continue reading →
I suppose it was inevitable that February should become Romance Reading Month. There’s St Valentine doing his bit on the 14th to remind the world that romantic love is a) universal b) important and c) can be awkward. The material of good stories, in fact.
It seems to me that Valentine’s Day gets increasing attention every year. Partly this is because Bloggins’ Aniversary And Activity Day has long been the jobbing editor’s lifeline to fill an blank column or an empty four minutes on broadcast magazine programmes.
Clearly there’s even more and more slots to fill these days, what with social media ‘n’ all. And, frankly, St Valentine doesn’t face many candidates for rival celebration attention in the shortest month. Ground Hog Day anyone?
A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk about romantic novelists in fiction and how they compared with the real thing. To be more precise, it was PG Wodehouse’s romantic novelists. Regular readers of this blog will remember that I have blogged about them before. (I am a huge fan of Rosie M Banks, before you ask.)
Two interesting things emerged from my researches. First, while PGW exaggerated some aspects for comic effect, in general he was pretty respectful of their work ethic – and success!
The second was – those exaggerations. I assumed they had sprung, new-minted, from the Master’s imagination. But just a bit of digging found that PGW had sources on which he might well have modelled even the most egregious. Glug. Continue reading →
I have just read PGW’s royal romance, The Prince and Betty. When I first wrote about romantic novelists in Wodehouse World, I knew that the book existed but I had never read it. Now that I have, the story itself and, indeed, the history of its publication is a jigsaw puzzle.
However, I’ve also learned something about how it fitted into PGW’s life and other writing. And it has made me think again about Wodehouse’s place in romantic fiction. And, indeed, of romantic fiction in his own life. So I thought I would share.
PGW’s Royal Romance – before the beginning
Wodehouse made his reputation initially with school stories. By 1909, however, he wanted to leave that behind and “butt into the big league,” as he told fellow free-lancer L H Bradshaw.
In New York, on leave of absence from his UK employer, The Globe, he found a literary agent who sold the two short stories PGW had brought with him for US$500. He was earning less that 10 guineas a pop from magazines in the UK. Continue reading →
Tweets urging us to respect romantic fiction have been appearing daily in my Twitter feed this week. There is even a new Twitter hashtag: #RespectRomFic.
After the events set out in my last blog, the Romantic Novelists’ Association wrote an open letter to the Sunday Times. It pointed out the significance of romantic fiction to UK publishing. It also took them to task about the paper’s neglect and, indeed, apparent ignorance of the genre.
There has been considerable follow up. Best seller Milly Johnson had an article in The Bookseller. To their credit, The Bookseller reached out, as the phrase goes, and commissioned it.
This week I have been considering the nature of a sentimental romantic – and wondering whether I qualify.
Let me put this in context. On Thursday a friend phoned me to say that he had just read a story which he had much enjoyed and thought very romantic. He had told the writer – whom he knew – of this response.
The writer said he was “intrigued”. My friend – let us call him Robert – explained his reasons. Eventually the writer decided that he was OK with the romantic label “as long as he didn’t mean sentimental.” Continue reading →
My eye recently fell on an enjoyable reader rant against the onlie begetter of the Regency Romance, dubbing Georgette Heyer Heroes “utter douchebags”. (For the gentler sort of reader, the usage is North American, informal, referring to an obnoxious or contemptible person, typically a man.) A tweet from @Georgettedaily directed me thither and I am grateful. The ranter made some good points. But I disagree with her on Heyer heroes.
Heyer herself classified her heroes as Mark I (brusque, savage, foul temper) and Mark II (suave, supercilious and dangerous). I disagree with her, too. Continue reading →