Humour

My love affair with romance novels

Sofia Hashi | Fulcrum Staff

Illustration by Brennan Bova

IT ALL STARTED in grade nine gym class. My friend Sabrina had tossed me a book in the locker room after I saw it and asked her about it. Like most novels I read, it was the cover that drew me in. A tall, dark, muscled, and shirtless man stood looking pensively out a window. The book couldn’t have screamed, “Read me, Sofia,” any louder.

“It’s called St. Raven. It’s really good too,” Sabrina said while we rapidly changed for our fourth-period class.

And then Sabrina uttered the seven words that changed my life—and my reading list—forever.

“You can borrow it if you like.”

I quickly took her up on the offer. After all, my 14-year-old self was an avid reader and interested in what my peers were reading. Little did I know that this one book recommendation would open up a whole new world to me: the world of romance novels.

There are many who believe that romance novels are the trashy reality TV shows of the literary world, and that may be—but just like Honey Boo Boo draws in millions of viewers weekly, a good Harlequin will keep most anyone coming back for more.

I get it. I’m not reading Yates or Hemingway. Each novel seemingly follows the same story arc: girl meets a dashing man; said man is roguish and she isn’t supposed to even associate with him; girl gets in trouble; guy saves girl. But not every book follows this generic scheme with the same overused plot twists. Some novels have a kick-ass heroine who saves the day and others involve sci-fi or mystery. Some are historical, some aren’t. There’s so much variety within the genre, it’s hard to pass it all off as trash.

For the longest time I hid my love for romance novels. After all, it’s not every person who goes from finishing up the fifth Harry Potter straight to the next instalment of the Jo Beverley Company of Rogues series. Countless times I found myself in Chapters trying to act nonchalant as I walked around the fiction section. Conveniently, the romance section was next to the mystery one, and if I saw anyone approaching, I’d make a mad sprint to the next aisle. When walking up to the register, I’d flip over the books and never make eye contact so the cashier didn’t know what I was buying. Sometimes, if the cover was too risqué, I’d pull a move straight out of Art Attack and swathe it up in discarded gift-wrap.

There was only one time I would dare reading the latest Shannon MacKinnon novel: at night. Growing up, I’d never crack open a romance novel in class or on a bus for fear of a wandering eye. My best friend who called them “porn with words” had judged me once, and I wouldn’t make the mistake of letting people know what was on my reading list again.

It took until my second year of university for me to become more open about my love of romance novels. It took finding kindred spirits who loved romance as much I did to become more open. Today I can proudly and boldly walk into the romance section at Chapters. Wrapping up my covers are a thing of the past, and my collection of romance novels isn’t confined to boxes in the basement, it’s displayed on my bookcase. After all, when you find something great, you want to share it. Who knows, I may inspire someone else, just like Sabrina did for me all those years ago.