Although I occasionally read more “literary” fiction, I spend a lot of time reading Women’s Fiction and Contemporary Romance. The other day, I tried to remember what first drew me to this genre. Every summer, my family drove our Subaru station wagon north to a small cottage in northern Michigan. Every year, two days before we left on our journey, my mother took me and my brother to the library. There we would spend two hours picking out books to entertain us during our time at the cottage. The cottage’s black and white TV’s reception was fuzzy at best, and the June weather wasn’t always warm enough for outdoor activities. Instead, I relied heavily on the entertainment value of the books I picked out during our two-hour adventure at the library.
Reading comfortable novels reminds me of my hours spent in the cottage’s awkward rocking chair; where I had to shift my weight so the wooden supports wouldn’t push into the spongy foam cushion. While sitting in that chair, I ignored everyone around me and fell in love with the latest romantic couple. In that chair in the cottage, I read Forever by Judy Blume, My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zindel, and Endless Love by Scott Spenser. At a book sale one year, I finally discovered delicious Harlequin Romances (on sale for ten cents each). Harlequins were safe. The chemistry between the characters sizzled, and the books always had a happy ending. This guarantee was unlike other books that I had read before.
After those summers, I didn’t pick up a traditional Harlequin again, but when The Bridget Jones Diary, and The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing became popular I began to explore Contemporary Romances and Women’s Fiction. Very quickly, I remembered why I loved the genre. It was escapist reading that helped me pass the time on buses, trains, and airports. I read everything from New York Times bestsellers to more obscure women-centric writers. Jennifer Crusie, Kristin Hannah, Emily Giffin, Anna Maxted, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez , Kavita Daswani; these authors’ works filled my commute. So when Evanston Public Library decided to build their romance collection, I threw myself into the task of discovering the Romance genre all over again.
During the last few months, I’ve been reading Julie James, Kristan Higgins, Christie Craig, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Susan Wiggs. So far, I’ve been enjoying my adventure, but I want to push myself a bit more. I decided to read all of the twelve RITA award winners. The RITA is the “Oscar” of the Romance genre, and is given out by the Romance Writers of America. There are twelve separate categories, and some, like Inspirational Romance or Regency Romance might really challenge my assumptions and taste. Stay tuned on the EPL Readers’ Services page for my Reading Through the RITAs reviews. And here is my Reading Through the RITAs list.