“In May, Headline publishers will issue her six novels as “Classic Romances,” with glossy pastel covers depicting dashing dandies and bonneted Regency beauties, Reuters reported yesterday from London. “Our aim would very much be every airport bookshop, every supermarket,” said the Headline fiction editor Harriet Evans. Complaining that Austen’s novels had always been marketed in a dry, academic way, she said: “It is such a shame, as she is the archetypal popular novelist. She is the godmother of modern women’s fiction.”
Here’s my take on this: First, I’m a huge Austin fan. Hers are books I read again and again and have for twenty five years now. I like that she’d be marketed to be read by a wider audience. AND, well, I write romances so it’s not like I think it’s a shameful thing to be classified as such.
Her books aren’t romances. Certainly they have romantic elements in them but they aren’t about the romance. They’re about the lead character’s struggle and journey and most importantly, her strength, wit and intelligence in achieving her goal. I disagree with the London chapter of the Jane Austin society who say that repackaging her books as romance will be “dumbing them down” because hey, I’m not dumb and my readers aren’t dumb and I’m sick of the whole patronizing sneers about romance in general.
Still, this doesn’t make Jane Austin a romance novelist.