If you want to get a group of authors to argue about something, ask them what they think about trigger warnings. Trust us: the debate will get feisty, and at least a few authors will storm off in disgust.
If you’re at all like us, you take a quick peek at book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads before buying a book. Now, of course, reviews aren’t the only factor to consider when choosing a read. There are also covers, blurbs, and sample chapters to consider. But we’d be lying (and you probably would be, too) if you said you weren’t ever influenced by online book reviews. The sad thing is, fake book reviews have become a real thing these days. And we’re not even really talking about the fact that authors can pay for fake reviews and often get their friends and family members to write reviews for them. (Amazon is working on that issue, so we’re not really going to address it here) We’re talking about reviews that were written by trolls who probably haven’t even read the book and are only reviewing it out of some kind of malicious intent. Who are these people who have nothing better to do than savage authors online in the hopes of making themselves feel more important? Well, we’re glad you asked.
I did a little experiment the other day. Nothing too scientific, because, you know, science is very...science-y and mysterious. But I took a somewhat non-scientific stroll through the best selling romance novels on Amazon and found that romance novel covers can be divided into a few very distinct categories:
Look, we’ve made it clear that we’re not big fans of Kindle Unlimited. It’s great in theory, but the system is broken—so broken that it’s unclear at this point if it can even be fixed. And one symptom of the broken system that keeps popping up over and over again is the “stuffed” book.
What’s a stuffed book? Glad you asked.
I’m a proud romance reader. Have been since the olden days when Fabio was all over the place and consent wasn’t always as...consent-y as we’d like it to be. (OK, I wasn’t as proud of reading those novels as I am of the novels that are out today, but you get my point.) And romance novels have come sooooooo far since then. There are so many great examples of empowering romance reads that I could talk all day on the subject and never run out of material. So imagine my surprise when I read a study showing that in 2017, the romance genre actually got LESS diverse than it was in prior years.
OK, y’all, I am on an epically bad book streak. I’ve failed to finish so many books lately that I’m starting to get a complex about it. (Is it me? Are these books really good and I’m the only one in the world who doesn’t love them? What’s wrong with me that I hate these books that everyone else seems to love? What if I never read another great book again? GAH!!!) So, here I am, humbly asking all you romance readers out there to help me out. What are YOU reading and loving right now? Here’s what I’m hoping you’ll have for me:
In looking through the search terms that have brought folks to the Romance Rehab site over the past few months, I have to say that I was kind of surprised. I figured the biggest draws would be our Friday “best of” list posts, or the 5-star reviews page, or even our author interviews. And while those pages have garnered a good bit of attention, (a great big thank you to all of you who visit those pages regularly! *big wave and smile*) there’s a slew of searches from people looking for free copies of books. Not books that are on sale or offering giveaways, mind you. These folks are looking for pirate book sites that offer free copies of an author’s work without that author’s permission.
A romance novel’s blurb is one of the main things I look at before I decide whether or not to 1-click. Sure, I look at the cover and I glance at reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but nothing scares me off a book faster than a bad blurb. If I don’t like the blurb, I won’t even read sample chapters. Why bother? In my experience (which is vast--scarily vast, like the frozen Russian tundra, people), if the blurb sucks, the book will, too. So, what constitutes a good blurb versus a bad blurb? Well, here are a few red flags I’ve found in romance novel blurbs that almost always indicate the book will suck ass (authors, please take note):
Even though Hillary Clinton might not agree, romance novels have come a long way since 1972’s The Flame and the Flower. You don’t often seen heroes raping heroines these days. (Thank God) There are strong female role models all over the genre in just about every romance category. But there’s one thing that was common in the romance novels of the seventies that you still find a lot of today, and that’s virgins.
There aren’t really any prejudices that are socially acceptable anymore. It’s not OK to discriminate against anyone because of their gender, race, religious and cultural beliefs, or sexual orientation, and that’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. Yet so many people see nothing wrong with openly criticising an entire genre of fiction, or with side-eyeing that genre’s fans and asking why they don’t read something more worthy of their time. That’s right, I’m (still) talking about the romance novel stigma.
Not my normal genre, but…
While scrolling through Amazon looking for my next TBR, I noticed something peculiar. In the reviews for Caught, a historical romance by Christina J Michaels, I saw several comments from readers who felt the need to add disclaimers to their comments. For example:
We get asked a lot of questions here at Romance Rehab. The most popular are:
The answer to the first one is easy. Check out our 5-star reads section, or our 1-click wonders section. The second question is pretty simple, too. The answer is maybe. Check out our review guidelines. But the third question...well, that’s where things get a little dicey.
If you read paranormal romance, you’ve heard of (and probably read) JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and her other books set in that world. These books are fairly universally loved, usually garnering thousands of glowing reviews and ensuring the author will pretty much live on every bestseller list for weeks (or months) following each new release. (The hype is warranted, too. The series is fabulous. But I digress…) So when I found out that JR Ward had a new release, I checked out Blood Fury on Amazon eagerly and immediately. That’s where I noticed something weird. Something I’m not used to seeing on JR Ward books.
Back in the old days (sometime after dinosaurs roamed the earth, but before Amazon had a stranglehold on the book selling market—back when I was a teenager, in other words), the difference between porn, erotica, romance and romantic erotica was vividly clear. Erotica was relegated to a tiny back corner of the local indie bookstore, while porn inhabited a small little back corner of the Books and Company (my medium-sized town’s only mainstream bookstore). Meanwhile, romance took up half of both stores.
But today, the lines between porn, erotica, romance, and romantic erotica are so blurred that it’s nearly impossible to separate the categories on Amazon. Folks looking for good old-fashioned romance have to sort through page after page of misclassified porn and erotica to find it, and folks looking for porn and erotica have to filter out all the romance to find what they want. It’s frustrating and confusing, and readers everywhere are asking, what’s the difference? What constitutes porn, erotica, romance, and romantic erotica? We’re glad you asked. Here’s our take on it.