Editor's note: A story on Monday gave the wrong date for an upcoming meeting of the romance lovers' book club at Durham County's Southwest Regional Library at 3605 Shannon Road. The club's next meeting is at 7 p.m. March 1.
DURHAM -- Ask Carolyn Gwaltney about the reaction she gets when she tells people that she reads romance novels, and she'll recount a recent phone call with her cousin. When Gwaltney mentioned her reading list, her cousin laughed and said, "Why would you want to read that?"
Gwaultney resents the putdown. She's a college-educated woman who has been married for 27 years and homeschooled five children. She's read Jane Austen and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. And she's not going to apologize for liking a good read with a happy ending.
"I get tired of the stereotypes," Gwaltney said.
Gwaltney and about three dozen lovers of romance novels gathered Sunday afternoon to hear author Sarah Wendell speak - just in time for Valentine's Day. Wendell writes a blog that reviews romance novels and is the author of "Everything I know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels." Much of Wendell's talk Sunday was about the misconceptions about the genre and its readers.
Myth vs. reality
The myth about romance novels, Wendell said, is that they are all about sex. They are dismissed as "bodice rippers," a term these readers, authors and publishers despise. The reality, Wendell said, is that these books are about courtship and relationships. And they are as varied as historical fiction set in the Regency era of England to paranormal stories that use elements of fantasy or science fiction.
The myth, Wendell said, about romance readers is that they are lonely women with too many cats. But Wendell said her blog readers are from every age group, every economic level and can be so diverse that they only thing they have in common is their reading list.
A few recommendations
Wendell suggested these titles to newbies to the romance genre. For lovers of historical fiction: "Lord of Scoundrels" by Loretta Chase and "Unveiled" by Courtney Milan. For those wanting a more contemporary novel: "Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie and "Instant Attraction" by Jill Shalvis.
Want to join a club?
Durham County's Southwest Regional Library at 3605 Shannon Road has a romance lovers' book club at 7 p.m. the first Thursday of the month. The next meeting will be March 8.