I used to be one of those book snobs who scoffed at romance novels, but after educating myself on the gendered implications of the genre, I decided I wanted to try to get into at least one.
I won’t lie. Letting go of my old prejudices that were deeply rooted in misogyny was not easy. Try as I might, it still kept a hold of me even as I ventured into romance novels. I just couldn’t get into them.
Two books I read in a month turned out to be grouped as romance on Goodreads. There was War Brides by Helen Bryan (a freebie I picked up ages ago from Amazon’s deal of the day) and Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, which I got on audio for a steal with Google Play books and a generous Book Riot promo code. I chose it because, yes, I want to see the movie and support marginalized communities in entertainment.
Truthfully, I didn’t think War Brides was so much a romance novel, because the love stories play so subtly in the background of everything else going on. It mostly focuses on the lives of five women converging in Crowmarsh Priors, England due to the circumstances of World War II. I suppose the true love story in this book was the relationship that developed between these women who didn’t all get along at first, but eventually a friendship was forged in the fires of the war.
Still, the weddings and romances that took place within the book allow this novel to fall into the romance category. Due to the time it takes place, intimacy is described mildly. So, here we have historical fiction with a major focus on getting through a war and female bonds, with a side of romance.
I really enjoyed this book, as I kept wanting to read it instead of my textbooks for school. I was very much into the story plots of espionage, but I was equally charmed by the love stories between certain characters. I felt like I had an equal investment in the romance and surrounding story.
Crazy Rich Asians is an absolute trip. It’s just so much fun. I come from a Latin-American background, so I can’t say that I totally relate to the culture, but I do see hints of my own family’s quirks within these characters.
There’s an overly-involved matriarch who’s trying to find the dirt on her son’s new girlfriend, while the totally laid-back husband lets her go about her insanity because he knows there’s no fighting it. There’s a down-to-earth cousin who’s more of a sister and offers sage advice. This is definitely an example of “rich people problems,” but with a cultural twist that I find just absolutely enjoyable. Roxane Gay put it best in her review of it when she called it dishy.
With these two books, I think I’ve finally found my stride with the romance genre. I just have to find love stories that take place within other environments that catch my interest, be it historical fiction or just enjoying another cultural perspective.
Has anybody else had this struggle and found a solution that works for them? What are some other romance novels you can recommend? Let me know in the comments!