The pages of romantic novels have long been where readers turn for fantasy and guilty pleasure. But as ideas around love and relationships change in society, the genre has gone through some changes, too.
Peggy Jaeger, a romance novelist based in Keene, has written 13 books with more on the way. Her latest book, Dearly Beloved, is set in the fictional town of Heaven, N.H. While she’s only been writing romantic fiction professionally for about five years, Jaeger has been a fan of the genre since she was young, and she’s noticed how the stories have shifted over time.
Most, recently, according to Jaeger, it’s the #MeToo movement that has forced writers to re-examine their storylines.
“The #MeToo movement to me,” she says, “is basically about power and balance of power.”
So, she says, she always tries to make sure to equalize the power between the characters in her books. And Jaeger says she’s not the only one thinking about this. At writers’ conferences she’s been to, they’ve dedicated whole sessions to writing about consent, and the different ways you can work it into the plot. It can be challenging, though, according to Jaeger.
“Most romance writers don’t want to have to stop the quote unquote action to have a conversation about this, but you need to.”
Additionally, readership for romance novels spans generations, so there’s a challenge in trying to make the content accessible to many age groups. Jaeger says keeping up with the times, and the social dynamics of this age, is necessary, especially if you want to write for young audiences.
“If I want to write for 20-year-olds, I have to make it relevant and acceptable to them because they’re living this right now,” she says.