My mother was a lover of romance novels, perhaps because there was so little romance in her own life. In her later years, when she finally had the time to do so, she devoured these stories of female characters constantly in trouble and usually rescued by some strong male figure. I think they gave her a lot of pleasure and entertainment. I, of course, disdained them.
Romance novels, in my view, were for the unenlightened. Educated women and feminists most certainly did not read them. I thought that all romance heroines were weak and I wanted no part of that. The novels, I believed, were thinly disguised porn for women. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
In view of a recent thoughtful essay on the subject in the Daily Kos, of all places, I may have to revise my view of the genre. The essay was written by Laura Clawson, obviously a very smart woman (with an Ivy League PhD) who says she is a life-long feminist - and she reads romance novels.
One by one she debunks the myths about romance novels and her conclusion is that romance novels are demeaned by the literary world and by otherwise knowledgeable people as a way of demeaning women and women's interests. Why should a love story be any less legitimate than a spy novel, a mystery, or any other genre? It's the writing that counts and if the writing is good, it will shine in any genre.
Even teenage vampire novels?
Hmmm...I may have to give this whole issue of what is good literature and what isn't a rethink. Perhaps Mother knew best, after all.