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Canadians Defending Romance since the 1980s

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

It's always fascinating when you find a truly relatable article. I'm not 100% sure if this is the same Samantha Brennan, but there is a professor at the University of Guelph with the same name. Since this piece was published in 1985 and they both attended the University of Dalhousie, I think it's quite possible that she is the author. (According to her academic profile, Professor Brennan graduated from the University of Dalhouse in 1888 with a honours degree in Philosophy).

Samantha speaks for a student named Susan and other readers who feel the pressure of studies and being away from home. Refreshingly, Samatha realizes that if women are enjoying them then perhaps critics need to re-examine romance novels in a new light, especially Harlequin books. She notes the stigma that readers, especially ones with promising careers, can sometimes feel when admitting they read romance. I deeply appreciated how she quotes a professor arguing that women are drawn to the nurturing aspects of romance and that it's not always the seduction of the hero or heroine that they're looking for. Notably, the professor (Professor Angela Miles at St. Francis Xavier University, now at the University of Toronto) is one of the rare scholars to examine Harlequin positively as critics often examine romance purely for the scholarly credit and not for their own interest for reading it.

Miles argues that women have the right to "fantasiz[e] about love, never doing housework, and seeing exotic places." (Of course, I would state that women have the right to daydream the exact opposite and I have a feeling that Miles would agree). Furthermore, romance gives a safe place for readers to explore topics and emotions that society does not yet have a lot of safe space for. Since readers might be going through difficult relationships and personal situations, these books can provide an area for them to explore topics they might not be ready to face full on.

One thing I will note, that since the article was written romance has definitely changed and explored challenging topics. One author who was interviewed believed that the love story had to be a "nice world" where health problems and war didn't exist. Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson focuses on war and the mother in the Royals Next Door by Karina Halle has mental health concerns. Brennan ends with while they are "an escapist fantasy," there are worse addictions out there than being a convicted Harlequin addict.
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