As many of you know, I moderate AAR’s romance discussion list, AARlist2. In the past, I’ve discussed on the forums about how some authors have abused AARlist2 as a promotion tool. Well, it happened again. Recently, a member posted a promo that offended some members. Why? Gee, it might be because it involved incest, among other things.

Whoops! AARlist2 is a romance list, and last I heard, most romance readers aren’t really into incest scenarios. So I apologized to the list, sent a polite message to the original poster, and deleted her post. I also realized this would be a good time to update the list guidelines, making it clear this sort of post was a Bad Idea. Why was there no guideline about this before? Because it was common sense, or so I thought. Live and learn.

Everything seemed OK, until the original poster posted a sort of apology to the list. Why “sort of”? She apologized, but at the same time, she also managed to offend romance readers in general. She explained that she had forgotten that a few people had a “narrower” point of view on the physical and emotional. Oh, I hate when that happens! I’m always forgetting that “some” people dislike incest. How narrow-minded of them! Finally, she closed with what has to be the best line yet: “Again, formal apologies to the squeamish and offended.”

Oh. Dear. She didn’t really say that, did she? Pardon me while I clutch my heart and call for my smelling salts. Snort! This “squeamish and offended” person has read (and written) everything from erotica to erotic romances to male/male romances. (and then there’s the scene where my hero is turned into a unicorn!) Clearly, I was offended by that original post because I’m such a prude. Yeah, right. Yawn. Try again. I was offended because it just didn’t make sense on a romance list, and members did not appreciate having something so unromantic pushed on them.

I know what you’re saying. “OK, Anne. Another writer spammed your list without thinking of what the readers wanted. Who cares?” About this particular incident? Not many people beyond this list. The author will call us prudes and move on, and we’ll forget about her. Just like we’ve forgotten all the rest.

So why did it bug me? Maybe because it seems to be an extension of what I’ve seen some erotic romance publishers do in recent years. They throw books our way and say “You’ll love it! It’s a romance. We swear!” When readers respond with indifference to, say, books without a romance, publishers often wonder what’s up with that. Why aren’t we buying those books? After all, they have plenty of sex – and isn’t the sex what romance readers are really looking for?

To be fair, most publishers don’t go so far as to expect us to buy stories about incest. However, they’re publishers and professionals, so unlike that poster, they should know better what romance fans like. Instead, they’re giving us everything from tree sex to sexual slavery to orgies. Not to mention all kinds of non-HEA endings. Above all, like that poster on AARlist2, they expect us to like it and if we don’t, somehow the problem is with the reader rather than with the material being offered. Sometimes, I feel that what they’re really saying is “Get over that silly fixation about emotion and the HEA. Read this instead. We think you’ll learn to like it.” Do they look down on us, just like the poster from the list? Do they think we’re being narrow-minded and squeamish? Or do they think we’ll buy their fantasies, no matter what, just because it’s about sex? Maybe they think we’re a bunch of vanilla housewives who secretly want to read about miserable and unhappy people having group sex.

Sometimes, you have to wonder… “What were they thinking when they packaged this as a romance?”

-Anne Marble