Romance readers are a unique community. They avidly read books about love, and they love these novels and the authors who write them with an ardor born of both affirmation and defiance. Romance readers and writers revel in the fact that every romance improvises, like jazz musicians on a basic melody, like poets writing haiku or sonnets, on two key elements, which Romance Writers of America defines as “a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” The requisite “happily-ever-after.” Romance enthusiasts fully appreciate the fact that while the romance genre is dismissed, even maligned, in the larger world (Could that be because romance is a predominately female universe?), romance publishing is a billion-dollar-plus industry. As romances routinely outsell other genres, the romance industry is substantial, dynamic, diverse, and forever evolving.
Documentary filmmaker Laurie Kahn knew very little about the world of romance fiction when she began work on Love between the Covers, but her previous films, A Midwife’s Tale and Tupperware, are about communities of women, which is in keeping with her mission to bring women’s lives and women’s callings to light. To investigate with curiosity and abiding respect what women accomplish and enjoy. What Kahn discovered about the variety of voices, passionate convictions, work ethic, and heartfelt sharing and mutual support that drive the romance world downright amazed her. And that sense of wonder gives her film its power.
Kahn’s documentary will deliver one astonishment after another.
Romance fans will smile knowingly at the fervor of their compatriots who were filmed at readings and Romance Writers of America conferences. For romance aficionados, Love Between the Covers will articulate and confirm all the reasons they love romance. For viewers who know little or nothing about romance fiction, Kahn’s documentary will deliver one astonishment after another.
Kahn and her crew were welcomed into the lives of six articulate and candid romance writers—Mary Bly (Eloisa James), Beverly Jenkins, Susan Donovan, Celeste Bradley, Len Barot (Radclyffe), and Joanne Lockyer. And they interviewed many more writers, including Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Jennifer Crusie. Their stories are striking. To mention just two, Beverly Jenkins talks about what inspired her to fill an enormous literary void by writing historical romances about African Americans. The impact of her novels has been so tremendous, her fans have become a sustaining extended family. Mary Bly’s very literary parents—her mother, Carol Bly, was a short-story writer; her father, Robert Bly, is a prominent poet—were “horrified” by her taste for romance fiction. In fact, Bly leads a double life. With degrees from Harvard, Oxford, and Yale, she is a tenured professor and Shakespearean scholar at Fordham University as well as the best-selling romance writer, Eloisa James.
Everyone in the film testifies to the uplifting qualities of romance, in which smart, resilient, strong, gifted, funny, and rebellious women work as doctors, lawyers, law enforcement officials, soldiers, secret agents, firefighters, teachers, lawyers, artists, scientists, thieves, and assassins; where they may be witches, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and other paranormal entities, and where women’s sexuality, including same-sex love, is approached candidly and positively, if not downright jubilantly.
Kahn has documented the great web of lively, sharing conversations among romance writers, between readers and writers, and among readers. Romance is interactive in ways far beyond any commercial social media efforts. These are genuine, from-the-heart exchanges of enthusiasms and catharses. A sisterhood of empowerment. Love between the Covers is a marvelous film for library events, romance books clubs, and romance writers’ groups. Watch for a Booklist review and purchase information when this film becomes commercially available.