Laurie Kahn (A Midwife’s Tale, Tupperware) captures the wonderful world and community of Romance novels in the documentary Love Between The Covers, now streaming on Netflix in America.
I love romance books. I pretty much exclusively read romance, and I try to attend the RT convention each year (sponsored by Romantic Times Book Review magazine.) Kahn captures a lot of what I love about the community surrounding romance. There’s a special relationship that exists between the authors and their readers. The pay it forward feeling among fellow authors also seems to be truly unique, and she shows an aspiring novelist being mentored by an experienced author.
“Susan: This is a female powered engine of commerce. And it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. Celeste: An industry that would falter and crumble without romance. You know, we pay the bills. Susan: For all of fiction. For all of popular fiction. Celeste: Yeah. We’re the ones who keep the lights on.
— Susan Donovan & Celeste Bradley
The Romance genre is a billion dollar business but it gets no respect. As the authors in the doc point out, no one makes fun of men who watch Schwarzenegger movies knowing he’ll live in the end, or criticizes the formalaic nature of mystery novels. But romance novels are derided for always having to have the HEA, or Happy Ever After ending.
This documentary has several of my favorite authors, and I love that Kahn included Beverly Jenkins (above in the purple), one of the pioneers of historical African-American romances. The doc even shows one of the yearly historical trips Jenkins goes on with her readers, visiting the settings of her novels.
Another author highlighted in the film is Eloisa James, one of my all time favorite authors. She is also Mary Bly, tenured professor of Shakespeare at Fordham University in New York. James talks about how unsupportive her parents were of her writing romance. Her father is a renowned poet and her mother a short story author. She led a double life — even though her novels were on the NY Times best seller list, she was told not to reveal that or she wouldn’t get tenure. She famously revealed her secret in an op-ed in the NY Times. And at one conference I heard her tell the tale of how she told her fellow professors at the university by dropping stacks of her books on the table at a faculty meeting! In the documentary she reads a passage from my favorite book of hers, When Beauty Tamed the Beast, which is based on the TV character House (but set in Regency era.)
Kahn also includes one of the biggest authors in same-sex romance, Len Barot who has the pen name Radclyffe.
“I love fiction because it’s fiction. Fiction is not real and it’s not supposed to be. Fiction is a dream. Fiction is a desire. Fiction is hope.
— Len Barot/Radclyffe
Barot was a surgeon who wrote her novels at night and on the weekends. I haven’t really read much lesbian fiction, but I do read m/m. Sarah Wendell of the review site Smart Bitches, Trashy Books introduced me to the great romances in m/m, and she’s included in the doc, too.
I even loved the graphics in the doc which mimic romance covers – and of course she includes a photo shoot for one!
These are my people! I’ve met most of the authors in film through the RT conference, except for Nora Roberts, the Queen of all Romancelandia. Some of my favorite authors in the doc are Jill Shalvis, Nalini Singh, Eloisa James, Sherry Thomas, and Jennifer Crusie.
So if you’re a woman who’s gotten that look when you read a romance on the subway, or just someone curious what this world is all about, I highly recommend Love Between the Covers.
When I showed a Bollywood film (Bang Bang) to friends who had never seen one before, my best friend said during one of the songs — “I get it now. These movies are just like the romance books you read all the time!” Exactly so.