Meredith's Reviews > Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels

Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell
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Nov 08, 11

bookshelves: 2011, humor, nonfiction, romance
Read from October 16 to 19, 2011


Originally published on The Librarian Next Door:

Romance novels, and the readers who love them, tend to get a bad rap. I can’t tell you the number of times my stepmother would bemoan my choice in novels, telling me I “could do better than a romance novel.” Better than a romance novel? Surely you jest! Sure, not every reader will gravitate towards a romance novel, but then again, not every reader will want to read science-fiction, crime thrillers or Nicholas Sparks novels (*gag*). Romance novels are as diverse as any other genre and those of us who read – and love – them do so for a variety of reasons. And just in case you need some ammunition to fend off the pleas of well-meaning, but misguided family members or friends, I suggest you read Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels, the latest book from Sarah Wendell.

Wendell is the cofounder and bloggess behind Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, quite possibly THE best website devoted entirely to the romance genre. Wendell is a ninja of love, at least according to the Twitter-supplied bio at the back of her book, so she knows of what she speaks. Everything I Know About Love (hereafter known as EIKAL) is filled with her trademark wit, humor, snark and all-around general awesomeness. By validating and celebrating romance novels and the things we can learn from them (about ourselves, about a boyfriend / girlfriend / friend with benefits, and about life), Wendell gives voice to all the romance fans who find value and worth in between the pages of their favorite romance novel.

As Wendell herself says in the introduction, it is frighteningly easy to dismiss romance novels as inconsequential. But as several readers and authors point out over the course of the book, nothing could be further from the truth:

Ironically, many people who disdain the romance genre and look down on the women who read it presume that reading about courtship, emotional fulfillment, and rather fantastic orgasms leads to an unrealistic expectation of real life. If we romance readers are filling our own heads with romantic fantasies, real men and real life won’t and cannot possibly measure up to our fairy-tale expectations, right? Wrong. Wrongity wrong wrong wrong. That accusation implies that we don’t know the difference between fantasy and real life, and frankly, it’s sexist as well…

Sometimes the fantastical and impossible…can help translate reality better than any self-help book ever could. When you see your problems blown up into, dare I say, fantasy proportions, your real problems don’t look so insurmountable. Fantasy, instead of distorting reality, can help you comprehend your reality. (pages 6-7)


With chapter headings such as “We Know Who We Are, and We Know Our Worth,” “We Know How to Spot Real-Life Heroes and Heroines,” and “We Know that Happily-Ever-After Takes Work,” Wendell uses reader feedback and examples from numerous romance authors to demonstrate the very real lessons of romance novels. She refuses to buy into the idea of romance as fluff and instead proves, chapter after chapter, that romances reveal, better than any other type of book, the details of good (and even not-so-good) relationships – and not just sexual relationships, but relationships of all kinds.

There are no illusions in this book. Wendell (or any of the other people she interviewed) isn’t pretending that relationships are magically easy and that all problems will be solved as neatly as they are in the pages of a book. What she is doing, however, – so brilliantly – is putting on page the words many people sometimes have a hard time believing: yes, you are worthy and yes, you deserve happiness. Not in the past, not at some indeterminate time in the future, but right now, in the present, you deserve your own version of a happily-ever-after. And, whether you choose to believe it or not, romance novels can help you get there.

I’ll admit that as a fan of both romance novels and Smart Bitches Trashy Books, I was probably inclined to think favorably about Everything I Know About Love… even before I read it. So take my opinion with a grain of salt if you want, but I do, in all honesty, think this is an important book worth reading. If you love romance, if you hate romance, even if you’re mostly just “meh” about romance, Everything I Know About Love reminds us that ultimately, the most important things in life are not material or monetary. The most important things are the people, flawed and imperfect, who just happen to be perfect for us.
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Reading Progress

10/18/2011 page 89
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