Now that Connecticut Fiction Fest 2018 is but a memory, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I fell in love with reading and writing romance in the first place. Not that there’s one reason that fits for everybody, apart from a love of great stories, but a few things stand out, and, specifically, one question that has stuck with me for double digit years.
“When will you have read them all?” I always hear this question in my father’s voice, and I always know that the “them” in question referred to historical romance novels. I was, at the time of this question, in the passenger seat of my father’s car, the then-newest copy of Romantic Times magazine in my lap. Yes, I was an adult. Still am. Still reading romance novels, too, so the answer to that question is the same one I gave then. “Never.”
My father quizzed me about how many romance novels are published each month. I didn’t know, I told him. This was before the age of the Internet, and before I became an RWA member, so I didn’t know. All I could do was count the number of books that were reviewed in that issue. For that month, there were X books.
Okay. So, when I’d read X books, I’d be done? Um, no. There wouldn’t be time for anybody to read all of those books in one month, even if they gave up things like work, sleep, family and friends. Well, then, just the kinds I liked. Just the historicals? Well, even there, refer to above answer, and I’d need to know if we were counting the traditional Regencies (oh for the days when those had their own section in both magazine and bookstores) as historical romances, or their own category. Okay, then, just the historicals, and not the trads? Or do I put the specific trads I want in with the specific historicals I want?
segue into an explanation of my own particular favorite historical periods as settings for historical romance, and why. Okay, well, how many of those come out every month? Um, not enough? Seriously. I think that answer works for all periods, including present and future. I tried to explain that there wasn’t a set amount of setting A, B, and c books that had to come out every so often.
Not that I would complain about a thing like that. I wouldn’t mind knowing that every time I wanted a new Viking, or Tudor, or medieval book, there would be a new one ready and waiting, but that’s not how things work. Even then, setting alone doesn’t dictate how much a reader is going to like any given book. A reader who lives for the angst is going to have a different reaction that a reader looking for a humorous romp, and, now that linked stories are the norm, if I haven’t read the previous five, six, or seven books that come before the new book that sounds super great, I might not feel ready to read all of those books before I get to the one I want, at least not within the span of a month. (Goals, though!) A devoted fan of that series, though? They probably had the whole thing re-read three days before the new book came out, to refresh themselves, and no regrets at all.
There’s also the fact that there are debut authors coming out every month. Some authors who once reigned supreme, or put out that one pretty good book and then that was it, aren’t writing anymore, or aren’t writing romance. The sheer numbers of publishers who have come and gone since that conversation is staggering. That’s not even taking into account the blurring of genre lines, the explosion of new subgenres, and others that we thought would always be there either fading into the past, or taking a nice comfy nap, to come back again at a later date, stronger than ever. This was long before the days of independent publishing, or e-publishing, Kindles and Kobos, and Nooks, oh my.
How, for example, do we count the box sets we can now get for as little as ninety-nine cents? Possibly for free, with Kindle Unlimited, or BookBub or or or or or…who can tell? Even then, if the box set contains different subgenres, let’s say contemporary, historical, erotic, and paranormal, do we pick out only those that fit into one category? Is the box set one book, three historical books, three contemporaries, three paranormals and an erotic romance that could be any one of those categories? If so, do we put that erotic book in with the contemporaries because the story takes place in the present day, except for that part in the past, oh, and the hero is a vampire, so that’s paranormal, right?
For that matter, are we counting only physical paper books, or do e-books count, too? Or are those two different tallies? End of the story, pun intended, this is not a place where we can easily do the math, and I am okay with that. For my money, pun once again intended, the answer is still the same. Never. I will never have read all of the romance novels. There are new novels, new authors, new media, new subgenres coming out all the time, and that’s without considering backlists. Romance readers aren’t going to run out any time soon, and I am more than okay with that. How about you?
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you think you’ll ever get to read all of the books? Is that even possible? Pull up a chair in the comment section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.