"Key Names in Romance History," while the Wikipedia entry "romance novel" names Austen "a pioneer of the genre." And in the more scholarly A Natural History of the Romance Novel, Pamela Regis uses Austen's Pride and Prejudice to illustrate the key elements of the romance novel, terming Austen's book "The Best Romance Novel Ever Written" (75). Readers who love romance, then, are often assumed to also love Jane Austen's works.
It's an assumption that I myself took for granted, until coming across more than a few romance writers who admitted (some shamefacedly, some with aplomb or even pride) that they had never read anything by Austen, or hadn't been able to finish an Austen novel that they had once started. Others claimed to love Austen, but only knew her from the many film adaptations of her works; if, inspired by their film viewing, they had gone on to check out the original from their library, many found themselves returning the volume, uninspired by prose far different than that they were used to finding in their contemporary romances.
|Jane Austen, by her sister Cassandra, c 1810|
National Portrait Gallery
Do all romance readers love Jane Austen? Only those who enjoy historical romance? Or has the genre moved so far away from its roots as to make its origins not that palatable even to readers who love the genre in its 21st century forms, including the historical?
After the question of Jane Austen and contemporary romance reader preferences came up in the comments section of a recent RNFF post, one RNFF reader suggested conducting an informal poll. Great idea, I thought. So...
If you love reading genre romance, I'd welcome your responses to these two questions:
1. Have you read any books by Jane Austen? If so, did you enjoy them? Why or why not?
2. Are you primarily a historical romance reader? Or do you prefer other romance genres?
If I get enough responses to make the findings more than just anecdotal, I'll report back about them in a future post.