For whatever reason, it appears that this column has only featured romance novels a couple times over the past nine years. Yet when I think of beach reads, romances figure prominently in popularity with both publishers and readers. Our library is no exception. We might think of reading romances in the summer, but it could be because we find extra reading time then. Most romances are published from January to April each year. By the time summer rolls around, there are many recent romances awaiting readers.
Our new catalog system has made finding those light, satisfying summer stories even easier than before. No longer are we limited to browsing the shelves and judging our books by their covers to quickly determine which belong to our favorite genres. I searched under the keyword in the title “summer” and narrowed it further by choosing only the genre “romance,” and clicked search. How many popped up, you ask? 176. Of course, we can imagine how many romances there might be for our summer enjoyment when we can so quickly find 176 that actually have the word “summer” in the title. Let’s look at a few.
Romance Queen Nora Roberts published Summer Cove in 2019. Protagonist Rebecca quits her job to finally free herself for whatever she wants, sells all her stuff, and moves to Greece. She presents herself as a sophisticated, well-traveled woman (not true) and is pursued by a Greek restauranteur. How does one come clean about her past with a man she has fallen in love with? That’s the central question of the story.
Cowboy Summer by Joanne Kennedy has a certain appeal based on title alone. What are those cowboys up to in the summer? Jess heads to the big city leaving a broken-hearted boyfriend. But when Jess’s dad decides he needs to sell the ranch back home, she returns to save the ranch. Can she put the trust back into her old relationship and pick up from there? Unless I don’t understand this genre at all, the answer to that is yes. But the journey to that conclusion is where the fun is.
The title Summer Stalker by Nicole Helm has a different feel to it. We get a little thriller with our romance. An “ultra risky” plan to catch a killer leads to love.
Finally, California Summer by Anita Hughes involves a close relationship fraught, as it turns out, with deceit, and our protagonist fleeing across the country, befriended by a chocolate shop owner and falling in love with a surfer. Just finding the words “chocolate shop” in the book summary makes this a light romance. These are the ways readers are signaled.
Pictures of the book covers appear in the catalog search – the covers, the titles, the authors, and key words in the summary making it easy to determine if you’re likely to enjoy the book.
There is some history of literary disregard for romances, the genre once the purview of “housewives.” Janice Radway in 1984 published an analytic book entitled Reading the Romance that confronted the idea that women were reading useless trash. Her interviews with women detailing their disaffection with their lives (in many instances) reconstructed the romance as an act of quiet rebellion. Women protagonists in these books were (and are) strong, smart, and independent. It wasn’t that they didn’t want romance, but rather that they wanted it with a different kind of man. Even when I read Radway’s book when it was published, I found her argument only semi-convincing, but what mattered was her insistence that a genre loved by so many women should be given a little respect.
I like to think we don’t apologize now for what we read but simply enjoy it. So, here’s to summers and romances and the satisfaction of a good escape.
No matter what we want to read this summer, we can find lots more of it easier with the new catalog system, and the library can get it quickly.
See you at the Library!
(Written by Roz Weedman for publication in the Frankenmuth News July 7, 2021.)