But during the last 10 or so years, that perception has started to shift, thanks to the nuanced, fiercely feminist, and yes, sexy stories that have emerged. “Often people hear romance novel and have a very specific picture in their minds: maybe a historical novel, perhaps with a specific cover model, and lots of fuchsia and teal and flowing hair,” says Sarah Wendell, founder of the website Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and co-author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms. “They may also think of recent blockbuster erotic novels, or variations of the same.
And these novels, whose readership is 82% female and has created a rabid fandom, are more progressive and relevant than ever. “Whatever is going on in the world, and whatever is happening to women or marginalized people, is happening in the pages of romance novels,” says novelist and Washington Post columnist Sarah MacLean, cohost of the Fated Mates podcast. “But with the promise that everything will be okay.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan, a skeptic, or just in need of a good book, follow along as we honor the women and novels dismantling the very idea of a bodice ripper and making romance one of the most exciting and thoughtful spaces in fiction today.