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Bookclub Lifestyle

Book Club: Summer Edition 2013

Welcome to the second installment of the new book review section of The Retiree magazine,
where we not only feature a range of inspiring books, but also the people who enjoy them.

Anna Campbell with BRRAddicts & HEART reading group
Kate Cuthbert enjoys getting together with fellow ARRA members at author signings, such as this one by Anna Campbell.

This issue, members of the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA) share their story and review their favorite reads.

Sharing a passion for words, a love of new stories and a thirst for intriguing plots and engaging characters is the common thread that draws book lovers to the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA).

Established in 2008 to bring romance readers together from all over Australia, membership now exceeds 275 and one third of those are authors. As well as local gatherings in major cities, ARRA organises many opportunities to connect with authors through book-signing events, a biennial romance readers convention which attracts speakers from around the globe, annual awards, blogs, Facebook, and a monthly newsletter packed with the latest reviews and interviews.

For member Kate Cuthbert, it’s the connection with other readers that drew her to the group. “Romance is just so much fun, and the community is really warm and supportive,” Kate says. “Getting to talk about books, what works, what doesn’t, what rocked your world, what didn’t – these are my very favourite kinds of conversations to have.”

Kate can perfectly describe a romance novel. “First, there are two kinds of romances: category and single- title,” she says. “Category romances are the ones that most people think of immediately. “When you think of a Harlequin or Mills&Boon novel you’re probably thinking of a category romance. ”These books are released as part of their category, rather than by author name, and there are often quite strict restrictions as to what the book must contain (or not contain in terms of setting, characterisation, sensuality level, or focus).

“Single-title romances are romances released as other books and would be under the author’s name. “They aren’t tied to any particular line, and the restrictions are much looser. “Generally, as long as the book focuses on a romantic relationship and has a happy ending, it can be published as a romance novel.”

“A romance novel has a couple of must-haves – a strongly developed character can really pull a reader into the story and deliver the emotional punch that makes a story soar,” Kate says. “I’m definitely not a reader who sees herself in the characters. “I feel more like a close friend who gets to be privy to someone else’s story. “I want those ‘friends’ to be fully fleshed-out and believable.”

With romance books accounting for more than 50 per cent of paper publishing revenue, Kate admits that the genre can suffer from poor public image. The reasons, she says, might be two-fold. “First, romance publishing is an industry of books, written by women, for women, edited by women with a focus on what are considered traditionally women’s concerns; relationships, family, connection, emotions. “Second, romance is an eternally optimistic genre. “The good guys win, the bad guys don’t, and love really does conquer all.

“This is not a popular attitude to have. “It’s considered much more ‘realistic’ and worldly to be glass-half-empty. “It takes perseverance to see the good, to believe in good. “It takes strength of character to choose positive over negative. “It’s so much easier to be cynical. “I think it’s also really lazy. “Why choose to focus on all the bad things that people can do to each other, instead of all the wonderful things? “Imagine a world, where we privileged the literature that focused on community, on family, on emotional well- being, on strength and trust and vulnerability; on love in all its guises. “What a different world we’d live in then.”

But, the genre has recently been boosted with the most-read-book 2012, the trilogy of 50 Shades of Grey. “It’s funny,” Kate admits, “because I don’t know too many romance readers who enjoyed 50 Shades – most of the sales have come from readers outside the genre. “However, it has certainly helped romance in terms of exposure and mainstream coverage, and the chance that it might bring readers to the genre who might not otherwise have found their way to us. “In the end, it doesn’t matter how you come to romance, just that you found it!”

A strong mission of the Australian Romance Readers Association is to promote Australian authors and their books, with many starring on the international arena. “Australian authors definitely punch above their weight in terms of popularity and success,” Kate boasts. “From New York Times best sellers like Keri Arthur and Stephanie Laurens to multi-award winning Marion Lennox, as well as fan favourites Anna Campbell, Anne Gracie and Sarah Mayberry. “We have a number of authors who have sold in the millions of copies, and the Aussie presence is getting stronger with the digital market taking off.”

If you have fervour for reading romance and would like to share your interest with others, check out the Australian Romance Readers Association website
at australianromancereaders.com.au. You will not only enjoy meeting like-minded people, but will be privy to the latest offerings and developments in the romance world.

Click here to view the reviews written by the ARRA