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"Love Between the Covers" Documentary Shines a Brilliant Light on the Romance Business

It ain't much fun when your favorite entertainment is despised by the multitudes. Comics fans, gamers, and sci-fi readers know this well, as they suffered sneers until the last decade, when being a geek or nerd suddenly became cool.

Love between the CoversRomance readers still have their choices mocked. If you are one of those readers, you'll want to watch filmmaker Laurie Kahn's documentary Love Between the Covers to reaffirm that 1) you aren't alone, 2) your reading habits sustain a heck of a lot of the publishing and bookselling industry, and 3) celebrating women's sexuality and a happily-ever-after is something of which you should be proud, not ashamed.

Romance authors come from all kinds of backgrounds and in all shapes, ages, and colors--though are predominantly women. Kahn interviews dozens of writers, readers, publishing professionals, and academics to explore not only the business of writing romance novels but the shared fandom that makes it such a positive industry.

A notion that comes under fire from a lot of outsiders is the happily-ever-after aspect of most romances. Romance writers and literature professors point out in Kahn's film that classical literature, in contrast, tends to give toxic endings to women who go after what they want, especially in regards to any sexual relationship. (Think of The Scarlet Letter, Romeo and Juliet, or Madame Bovary. Women end up dead or dishonored. Ick.) C'mon, people: Who doesn't want to be happy? And despite our constant striving for happiness in our own lives, why is there such scorn poured on books that have a happy ending?

The enthusiasm of the readers for these books and the writers for their stories underpins Kahn's documentary--and also underpins a good chunk of the book business. As one author says, "We keep the lights on [in publishing houses]." 

But it's not all bunny slippers and chocolate bon bons for romance authors. Just because you write romances doesn't mean you have a happy marriage. Just because you have written fifty books in a booming industry doesn't mean you get to quit your day job. And just because the industry is booming doesn't mean you get respect from your writing peers.

Readers of romance, I heartily recommend Love Between the Covers. It's funny, poignant, nuanced, and informative--and most important, it will make you want to proudly defend your reading choices so that the rest of the world can wake up to what they're missing.


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