Romance Is Proving to Be the Most Resilient as Readers Strive to Hold on to That Feeling, Reports CASSANDRA TOBIN

Article excerpt

ROMANCE novels are far from new, but they are one of the few genres growing in popularity.

What was once seen as an embarrassing pastime, is coming out from under the covers. These days, however, there are so many sub-genres, it might be hard to spot who is nose-deep in sci-fi and who is relishing the latest paranormal romance.

The Australian Romance Readers Association's annual award ceremony categories include paranormal, erotic, sci-fi, fantasy or futuristic, suspense, historical, category and continuing.

The popularity of books like Twilight has proved the sub-genres are as popular as any.

In the association's most recent reader survey 75% of readers read a paranormal romance in the past 12 months.

And according to recent figures, in Australia 7% of the market is in romance and climbing.

There was a time when people would be embarrassed to admit they were into Mills and Boon and the genre was certainly considered the bottom rung among literary critics.

Pamela Regis, author of A Natural History Of The Romance Novel, disagrees.

aThe genre is not silly and empty-headed, as mainstream literary critics would have it,a she says. aThe romance novel is, to the contrary, about women's freedom. The genre is popular because it conveys the pain, uplift, and joy that freedom brings.a

And Regis isn't the only supporter of the genre.

ARRA formed in 2007 and now has 198 members, including more than 50 Australian romance authors, plus another four from overseas.

Being accepted as part of a community is one of the benefits of being part of the association, says Kate Cuthbert, spokeswoman for the association.

aI'm sure you can understand, (finding fellow romance readers) isn't necessarily the easiest thing to find otherwise,a she says. aVery few book clubs/readers groups/libraries/bookstores consider romance reading as a[approximately]legitimate', so readers often struggle to find people who accept let alone understand and celebrate their love of the genre.a

The association has held two conventions since forming, in 2009 and in March this year, as well as a book-signing event in conjunction with the Romance Writers of Australia in August last year. …