Romantic fiction often gets slated – largely due, as Joanna Trollope once said, to snobbery and the genre’s pink covers, embossed lettering and “cartoon drawings of cocktail glasses and handbags and ditsy girls falling off their designer heels.”
But so much of the criticism is downright unfair. A total of 25 million romantic novels are bought by readers in the UK every year and romantic fiction boasts some of the most talented writers around. Marian Keyes, for instance, is a wonderful novelist and has covered everything from domestic violence and depression to alcoholism and dementia in her ten bestselling books. If you haven’t read Last Chance Saloon or The Other Side of the Story by the way, you are in for a treat.
But I digress. I had to write this blog after reading Claudia Connell’s sneery piece about the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s summer party in today’s Daily Mail. She claimed it made her feel as though she’d “accidentally stumbled into the Annual General Meeting of the Jam Makers and Knitted Toy Association” and described the guests as “the kind of ladies you’d find working in charity shops or arranging the church flowers.”
RNA members were outraged by her remarks. And I’m not surprised. I’m not an RNA member but I’ve been to lots of their parties and they’re a fabulous group of novelists, not at all the type she describes.
They’re impossible to pigeon-hole either. They range from young to old, from ultra-glam to not-so-glam and from writers just starting out to novelists whose books fly into the bestseller lists the minute they’re published.
New chair Annie Ashurst, for instance, is not only a highly successful Mills and Boon author (she writes as Sara Craven) but also a former Mastermind champion and member of the RNA team that stormed through to the final of University Challenge – the Professionals a few years back. Outgoing chair Katie Fforde has just had her 16th novel, Summer of Love, published to great acclaim while press officer Catherine Jones, aka Kate Lace, will see her 15th book, Gypsy Wedding, hit the book shops in August. Between them they’ve shifted loads of books over the years – and helped countless RNA members along the tricky road to publication too.
The image shows the cover of Fabulous at Fifty, a history of the RNA’s first 50 years.