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Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained

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4.01  ·  Rating details ·  486 ratings  ·  108 reviews
For every woman who has hidden the cover of her book...

Despite their popularity and profitability, romance novels have long been scorned and ridiculed as trashy literature. Is it the covers? Is it because the audience and authors are largely comprised of women? Or is it something else?

Perhaps the bad reputation of romance has to do with surprising dictionary definitions,
...more
Kindle Edition, 94 pages
Published (first published December 4th 2011)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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Julie
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm probably going to be mired in a lot of series by male authors this year, so I'm consciously trying to intersperse each male author read with a female one. This book was a nice breath of fresh air, though: nonfiction but written in an accessible, blog post-esque style, and addressing a topic that doesn't get much coverage.

Rodale has definitely succeeded in increasing my respect for romance novels, and made me want to go read more of them. If anyone has any recs for their fave romances, pls gi
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Lucinda Elliot
Jul 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Some years ago, when I started writing spoof historical gothics, I had an open mind about the role that romantic novels play with regard to feminism.

When young I had subscribed to the view that they generally endorse the values of patriarchy and sugar coat a confirmation of women's role, so now I was interested in the dialectical notion that romance novels could change enough to subvert that reactionary function. That was what the 'romance community' was now arguing, and if they often seemed to
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Alexandra
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Because romance novels are by women, about women, for women, what we say about them can be interpreted as a statement on how we value women.
Rebecca
Apr 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Although it gets a little repetitive, this is an interesting academic analysis of why we shun romance novels as being "not respectable" and how that is tied up with women's roles in society. Rodale's a good enough academic that it doesn't feel like justification for the genre, but rather an important and constantly overlooked space for women to be represented as complete people instead of walking sex appeal. ...more
Irene
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you are going to read this, make sure to pair it up with Jayne Ann Krentz’s Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, as Maya Rodale’s Dangerous Books for Girls is the not-so-subtle successor to Krentz’s 1992 collection of essays about romance novels.

The genesis of Rodale's book started when she was working on her master’s thesis on women’s fiction from early 18th and 19th century England. Rodale expands beyond the original scope of her thesis about how romance earned its “bad” reputation through
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Ale
Read as part of Bookriot's 2017 Read Harder Challenge for the Book about books category.

After reading quite a bit of romance this year, when the bookclub at work read this piece of nonfiction for the month of February, I became intrigued. Lucy was kind enough to let me borrow it and after putting a few romances under my belt, I decide to actually look at the genre from a more academic perspective. I used to disparage the genre quite a lot myself and I wouldn't really describe my lunchtime readin
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Roxana Chirilă
"Dangerous Books For Girls" is about 200 pages long, but it reads more like a series of blog posts or Tumblr rants than the usual academic book. It has references and quotes, but the style is friendly, very readable, a bit chaotic and somewhat repetitive. It has a couple of good ideas, some interesting stats and quotes, but most of it I've heard or thought before.

I'm relatively new to romance and I don't read that much of it. Mostly, this is because my literary tastes are all over the place and
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Sharon
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, writing
This book is an interesting look at the history of romance novels, and why they are devalued by both people who don't read the genre and the literary establishment at large.

Narrator voice: Because they are primarily by and for women.

This is no shock or spoiler; it's an open secret. However, what was most interesting about this book was its well-sourced examination of how empowering the books are for women -- particularly successful women who might like to stop toting the proverbial weary load fo
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Elizabeth Tai
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Why do so many rreaders hide the fact that they read romance novels? Why do people roll their eyes when they talk about the genre? Have you ever thought to question the assumptions and presumptions about the romance genre? I, too, had the same prejudice against the genre, though mine was akin to a betrayal. After spending my teenhood reading romance, I decided I was too "with it" and mature to read romance novels anymore. So I ditched it and joined the eye rolling masses. It's only in my late th ...more
Rachel Beeler
Nov 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.25 stars.

This book made me want to read romance novels again. It was a genre of book I read here and there in high school, but haven't really read since (apart from the annual reread of Jane Eyre). It's a genre predominately "written by women, for women, about women," and it surprisingly outsells other popular genres like fantasy and sci-fi. However, there's a stigma surrounding the romance novel, which assumes that the genre is unliterary and unsophisticated. That stigma is then applied to t
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Emily
Very cool to read the true stories behind a lot of myths about the genre. I love her opening question, "how do we know to look down on romance novels before we've even read any?" and the conclusions she draws at the end. Plus, the writing is funny and clear, never dryly academic. Would recommend to anyone interested in reading about how our culture treats media by and for women - it's a short enough read that it could be worth checking out even if romance novels specifically aren't your thing. S ...more
Lynsy
Full review at Little Book Jockey. Very, very good. I wish people who make fun of romance novels or "chick lit" would care enough to understand how demeaning they're being to half the world's population. ...more
Eugenia Doran
There were some great points but there was also a lot I disagreed with, as well as a lot of unnecessary repetition (I found a lot of the book redundant). I feel like it contained the seed of a better book that was just not brought to fruition. A decent entry to the field of literary criticism about romance novels, neither terrible nor wonderful. I was underwhelmed.
Jenna
hoarder challenge: #14 Library book

3.5 stars

Apparently, the writer of this book is also a romance book writer herself which means that she has insider knowledge of the subject matter.

I found it very interesting. At times, it is a little dry b/c it reads a bit like a dissertation.

The book explores not just the history of the romance novel (which I enjoyed learning about) but also how it relates to today’s society.

It was well written & researched.

And many fascinating facts about the genre:
For exam
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Maria DeBlassie
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book and use it often in my classes on the romance novel. It offers a comprehensive and accessible overview of the historical, social, and cultural context of the romance novel. Great stuff!
Sam
Dec 27, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm supportive of efforts to explore the romance genre through an academic lens, particularly literary and sociological examinations. So my 3 stars are a nod to the effort. I'm less enthused about the content. Too much of the paper focuses on history that's been well-covered already in much better works (re: access to/control of reading materials; the revolution of the printing press; devaluation of anything related to women, etc.) This piece would've benefited from more original analysis, tying ...more
Paige
May 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2015
This is a must-read! Even the title and the cover are fabulous. Maya Rodale brings the facts about probably everything important to know about romance novels and readers of romance novels. What makes this book fabulous is that it is scholarly, with documentation, yet it is also an enjoyable and entertaining read. Maya Rodale brings it like a boss. Dangerous Books For Girls is sophisticated, fun, and unapologetic.
Codi Gary
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A witty, and spot on book addressing all of the elephants in the room, Maya Rodale calls out misconceptions and ignorant opinions about romance novels with a delightful humor that had me snort laughing a lot. From Fabio to the empowerment of women, this is a book that EVERY woman (not just those that love romance novels) should read.
Malia
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read this looking for some fodder for my class on the history of the book, and indeed I found some good stuff!

There's something kind of fun about the idea that because romance isn't necessarily for men, men have deemed it bad. Because they think it's bad, they've just LEFT WOMEN ALONE to do their work, and voila, it's a billion dollar industry.

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Naomi
Dec 26, 2017 added it
Fascinating - "Romance novels are a billion dollar industry - and they're the largest segment of adult fiction, outselling fantasy, mystery, science fiction, and the classics." (pg 12) ...more
Jocelyn
Mar 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: home
Better to read individual essays--the information frequently overlaps. Nevertheless, a very worthwhile read which really spoke to me personally about my own views on love and relationships.
Sheryl Tribble
Jan 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Pretty lightweight, but it entertained me and I would have read more of it. Although it's got a definite structure to it, it still has a blog-ish feel to it, where you get the same basic message more than once with different details overlaid. Then again, a lot of it was information I'd picked up over the years, so it may be that the author doesn't repeat herself as much as it felt like, just that I'd heard it before elsewhere.

One idea that was new to me was that the appeal of rake romances isn't
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E
Jan 03, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I was most interested in the parts of this that delved into the history and evolution of romance novels. Even the discussions of romance novel tropes. I appreciate the discussion of exactly why romance novels have "a bad reputation," which Rodale puts forth as a combination of patriarchal sexism and literary snobbery, and makes good points to unpack that.
I would have liked it even better with more of a data breakdown of the types of plot and heroine, published and popular, year over
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Tracy
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018, own, romance
Such a great read - it’s always fun to read thoughtful, smart, appreciative analysis of a thing you love. I want more books like this, that go even further into critical analytical review of the romance genre, that can similarly demonstrate genuine fondness and respect! My only problem and the only reason I can’t give it five stars: some odd copy editing problems. But overall this is a fabulous read for any fan of romance (out or in), or anyone with curiosity about the genre. Recommended!
Alex Eveleth
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this critical look at the romance genre. I've been reading romance novels since I was about 13, and I truly do love them. The whole genre gets such a bad rap, is seen as lady porn, and not feminist. The exact opposite is true and Rodale does a good job of looking critically at why romance should be seen as a valuable piece of literature that supports women. ...more
Harper Miller
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took me forever to finish this book! Not because the material wasn't at all interesting but because life got in the way! What an enjoyable read on misconceptions. People who don't read romance have no idea what they're missing out on. ...more
Jessa Franco
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short and sweet with fabulous infographics
Kaydon_the_dino
Apr 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Many parts of this book made for verrrry interesting reading in light of the RWA’s self implosion several months ago.
Blair
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An insightful look into the history and importance of romance novels. It's a little repetitive at times, but overall an enjoyable read.

It helped me understand and appreciate the genre. It was fascinating to learn how, and why, the romance novel is disparaged as it is, and the role that romance novels fulfill within our society, and its importance for showing women how their lives can be different (although, and the author makes this point to a degree, this can show people how our roles could be
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Stephanie
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Perfect book for anyone who reads romance. I need to go back, re-read, and take notes so I'm equipped the next time someone comments on "sexy books" or "trashy books". ...more
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Maya Rodale began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence. She is now the author of numerous smart and sassy romance novels. A champion of the romance genre and its readers, she is also the author of the non-fiction book Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation Of Romance Novels, Explained and a co-founder of Lady Jane’s Salon, a national reading series devoted to romanti ...more

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Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
96 likes · 16 comments
“Women create an idealized, hopeful vision for the future to inspire other women. Fiction and fantasy are the crucial first steps to changing the world.” 1 likes
“Romance novels feature nuanced portrayals of female characters having adventures, making choices, and accepting themselves just as they are. When we say these stories are silly and unrealistic, we are telling young girls not to expect to be the heroines in their own real lives.” 1 likes
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