Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan have helped romance readers discern the good smut from the bad for years with their blog Smart B*tches, Trashy Books. And now with their book Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels, they offer a guide through the heady world of the $5.99 novel and defend it with wit and intelligence.
So we asked these two smart readers about romance novels, and oh how they talked. So much, that we're breaking all their thoughtful answers into a five-part series. What's up first? Who reads these glossy books?
One out of five people read romance novels — who are these people?
Sarah: The truth is, behind the stereotypes, smart, savvy women read romance. It's a 60+-year-old industry of women operating independent businesses writing books consumed by an audience of women who spend $1.7 billion dollars a year. Two romance readers may have absolutely nothing in common except for the books they read, because romance readers are an incredibly diverse audience — no group of readers that supports a billion-dollar industry can be homogeneous. We're found across all ages, education levels, income levels, geographic locations and reading habits — and we all love romance novels.
Candy: The demographics for romance novel readers are all over the place, though there are strong trends. They overwhelmingly tend to be women, for example. They also tend to be voracious readers, period, and to be more highly-educated than the population at large. Other than that, it's hard to generalize.
You say, actually five out of five people read romance novels, what are some romances in disguise we've probably read? To see their answers, read more