Why Real Men Read Romance Novels
Romance novels are one of the most popular genres of literature, and often dominate bestseller lists. Just this week, trade magazine ‘The Bookseller’ ran an reported Romance and Saga racked up its best performing year in a decade. However, publishers still target this genre at female readers. Men who pick up this sort of book are often … well a tiny bit weird. This begs the question: should men admit they read romance novels? Or hide their chosen reading inside a Dan Brown cover.
Men should not be ashamed to read any genre they enjoy, even Dan Brown-style thrillers. Reading is a personal and subjective experience, and what someone chooses to read should not be judged or ridiculed.
Romance as entertainment
Reading is a form of entertainment and relaxation. Whether it’s a thriller, science fiction, or something with a pink cover, the point is to enjoy the story. To get lost in the author’s world. Men who read romance novels are simply seeking the same enjoyment that anyone else gets from their preferred genre.
Romance novels are often criticised for perpetuating unrealistic and harmful stereotypes of women, but the writing has become more nuanced and inclusive. It isn’t just the story of a big city girl who moves to a small town and falls for the hot farmer. Mhairi McFarlane’s recent books covered grief, loss of a friendship and coercive control. ‘Rebuilding Alexandra Small‘ spotlights a shameful past and dealing with revenge. Jane Austen used relationships as a framework to reflect on contemporary society.
That said, men who read the latest Marian Keyes on the Tube may still get ‘funny looks’. Society often enforces gender norms and dictates what is “appropriate” for men and women. Men who deviate may face ridicule.
It’s been going on for years
Men have been reading romance novels for centuries. In the 18th and 19th centuries, male authors such as Jane Austen’s contemporaries, Sir Walter Scott and William Makepeace Thackeray, wrote novels that would now be considered romantic comedies. In the mid-20th century, both men and women read and enjoyed popular romantic fiction by male authors such as Erich Segal (Love Story) and Nicholas Spark (The Notebook) .
The romance novel industry itself is changing. More and more male authors are writing romance novels (ahem, me for example). We challenge the notion that the genre is just for women. In 2020, “The Bromance Book Club” by Lyssa Kay Adams became a New York Times bestseller. Critics praised its exploration of male vulnerability and communication in relationships.
Reading is a personal and subjective experience, and everyone should be free to enjoy whatever genre they like without fear of ridicule or shame. So if you’re a big hairy man and think you might like to give this romance novel thing a go, join my mailing list and I’ll send you a gateway drug in the form of a free copy of ‘The Armchair Bride’.