Renee Dahlia attended her first Australian Romance Readers Convention this weekend, and she wrote up a recap for us!
The romance community celebrated and discussed our best-selling genre at the recent Australian Romance Readers Convention. Romance readers welcomed me into the group, and made my debut experience one of easy acceptance. This sense of community is special to romance. The shared camaraderie over books is delightfully refreshing in the current climate of cynicism that has invaded world politics.
Being the geek that I am, I took notes on every session I attended. Here are a few personal highlights (you can get all the details at my website).
In the “publisher” session, readers had their chance to speak directly to publishers. The panel asked questions to the audience about how they read, where they find new authors, and importantly, what type of heroines do they want to read about but can’t find.
Female sports stars got the biggest cheer.
The session Feminism and Romance created plenty of discussion between panel and audience. Everyone agreed that in a genre written by women, for women, there is no conflict. On wider societal issues, Erica Hayes spoke about how romance is a safe place to write about issues that affect women, because the reader knows it will work out. Any other time these issues are discussed in literature, the women end up abused and dead. Romance readers want to see heroines who get on with their lives, and heroes who respect their choices.
The Dukes Need Not Apply session descended into giggles (and super fandom) when Courtney Milan read from her current work in progress. It will be part of an anthology inspired by the popular Broadway show Hamilton. Kat Mayo (Book Thingo) kept the fan moment alive by asking Milan how to say ‘suffragette!’ (From: The Suffragette Scandal).
Back to the theme of what readers want, someone asked the panel if they knew any books that turned the wealthy Duke trope upside down. I mentioned Alisha Rai’s A Gentleman in the Street where the heroine is a billionaire, and enjoyed an “OMG, I love that book” moment with someone. Instant book buddies. Once again, welcomed into this community.
Another questioner said “I’ve never read an historical novel, because I don’t care for the damsel in distress trope. How do you get beyond real history and create strong women?”
Milan answered for all us.
“History has lied to you.”
She went on to say that we aren’t damsels in distress. We’ve always been strong. We just get erased from history because it’s been told by men. Milan bases her characters on these strong women that she finds when looking deeper into history.
1887: Too tall, too shy and too bookish for England, Lady Josephine moves to Holland to become one of the world’s first female doctors. With only one semester left, she has all but completed her studies when a power-hungry professor, intent on marrying her for her political connections, threatens to prevent her graduation. Together with the other Bluestockings, female comrades-in-study, she comes up with a daring, if somewhat unorthodox plan: acquire a fake fiancé to provide the protection and serenity she needs to pass her final exams.
But when her father sends her Lord Nicholas St. George, he is too much of everything: too handsome, too charming, too tall and too broad and too distracting for Josephine’s peace of mind. She needed someone to keep her professor at bay, not keep her from her work with temptations of long walks, laughing, and languorous kisses.
Just as it seems that Josephine might be able to have it all: a career as a pioneering female doctor and a true love match, everything falls apart and Josephine will find herself in danger of becoming a casualty in the battle between ambition and love.