Reading outside of the box

Keishon posed a very interesting question last week.  She asked, “Can romance readers read outside the box?”

And the reason she’s asking:

I’ve always felt that the romance genre was stagnant. Everything is just “too safe.” I do read mostly outside the romance genre and have for years. Mysteries, SF/F are not as restrictive as the romance genre seems to be but by definition romance is about a committed relationship defined by [you can add the variables] I was just thinking out loud and was curious to know if romance readers would be willing to be more daring in their plots, characters, etc.

I’ve wanted to add on to the comments, but being more than a week late, thought it’d be better to pick up the conversation in a fresh post.

I’ve come across quite a number of romance readers who venture into romances with taboo plots, but Keishon’s view that these are usually cross genre readers are not too far off the mark. 

What then, could be the reason that the romance genre seems to be stuck in a rut? These are real relationship issues that modern day readers grapple with in real life, so it could be that in seeking to escape reality, we invariably gravitate towards safe, escapist, HEA stories.  Publishers would tend to put out more of such books and be less experimental within the romance genre. 

As Bev explained:

“if a genre is too restrictive for a reader then maybe they need to read something else entirely. Why should romance as a genre expand to fit those needs when it apparently already meets the needs of quite a few readers?”

I daresay that could also be one reason why you find the taboo relationship issues being taken in stride by non-romance and/or cross genre readers. And this will continue as long as reader demands are skewed in one direction.

I’ve read romances with adultery, rape or forced seduction as a focus, even ‘forbidden’ romances as well.  I’ve also found that I could accept gay relationships as subplot.  One of the reasons, I guess, for my open acceptance is that these are some of the common themes dealt with in Fantasy and Mysteries, two other genres that I read rather regularly. 

However, I’ve discovered that when it comes to comfort reading and sheer escapism, nothing beats a traditional romance novel. I’m open minded yet old fashioned that way.



3 thoughts on “Reading outside of the box

  1. ag says:

    Bev, in any markets/ industries, it’s the demand that drives the supply.

    So, as I’ve also suspected, as long as readers’ response to the romance genre remains safely traditional, you’ll find publishers and marketeers pandering to that taste more than others.

    Sure, they may try some of the taboo plots, but I wager the mainstream romance being the safe money spinner, they wouldn’t want to rock the boat too much.

    The bulk of the supply is still going to be targeted the majority. The experiemental minority, I fear, may have to look outside of the genre or a hybrid of the genre to find romances or stories that bravely tackle other relationship issues.

  2. I think sometimes people mistake my comments for statements when they are actually question. Because when I ask why romance should expand to include those other topics, I mean that literally as a question. Why should it? At the very least, why should it when it already meets the needs of such a large and diverse group in the first place?

    That’s what I have a difficult time understanding. Do people try to “expand” mysteries in this way? If so, okay. If not, though, then why the driving need to do it to romance?

    That’s what I still hadn’t gotten a satisfactory answer to, although Tara came close the other day in the comments on one of her blog posts.

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