Not a Guilty Pleasure ~ by R.L. Merrill

     Greetings and thank you to Grace Augustine for inviting me to the Originality By Design blog!
     I want to start by sharing part of an email I received today:
     “I'm a graduate student...and we're working on a podcast episode with the general theme of Guilty Pleasures. We came across your group (San Francisco Area Chapter of Romance Writers of America), and we'd love to speak with you.”
     At first I was flattered and excited...and then I paused at the theme.
     Guilty Pleasures.
     This was my answer to the person:
     Thank you for reaching out. I would be happy to talk about the romance industry on your podcast. Before we go any further, I’d love to share my thoughts on the subject of guilty pleasures and we can go from there.

I will say that it is the belief of many of us that reading romance novels is actually not a guilty pleasure. We’ve been taught that romance novels are something that we should feel guilty about when actually reading of any kind is an important way to fulfill oneself, especially for women who work hard and rarely have time to themselves. Romance brings hope to those who read it.
     I recently was reminded of this when I sent out interview questions to other authors I was featuring on my blog. I asked what their reading guilty pleasure was and several said “None. I never feel guilty for reading what I want to read, for doing something that makes me happy.” We beat up on ourselves enough as it is!
     After we had a phone conversation, they asked me to be on their podcast and were very interested in this perspective. I am proud to be representing Romance Writers of America as VP of Communications for the San Francisco Area Chapter and I’m very excited to take up the sword against the notion that genre fiction—specifically romance—is trash, smut, or a guilty pleasure.
     I have met some of the most brilliant people during my five years as a member of RWA as well as in the romance community at large. I’ve attended conventions and workshops as well as countless events on Facebook where I’ve met incredibly talented people. We have doctors, lawyers, even politicians in our midst. We have stay-at-home mothers, authors working two or more jobs, and parents of special-needs children all writing stories of love, hope, strength, endurance, and resilience. 

     The majority of the time, our community lifts each other up and cheers each other on. I’ve made great friends and received support from some of the most talented and brilliant authors writing today. Writing romance has fulfilled me in ways that my 25-year career as an educator doesn’t always. So why should I look at the stories I write and read as a guilty pleasure?
     I’ve been asking authors for their reading guilty pleasures for

my Friendy Friday blog posts for a while now and recently three best-selling authors Kimberly Kincaid, Avery Flynn, and Sarah Hegger all said, “None. I don’t feel guilty about doing something that makes me happy.” Their answers inspired me today as I spoke to the podcaster on the phone and encouraged me to write this blog post.
     There is nothing to feel guilty about when you experience art. Whether it be live music, a painting in a famous museum, or reading a story about a pirate conquering the seas and stealing the heart of a fair maiden in the process, you’re taken on a journey and given the opportunity to step outside yourself for a little while. Did it make you happy? Is it hurting anyone? No? Then why the guilt?
     As a mom of two busy teens and various pets who teaches 70% of the time and writes romance novels whenever I can, I have enough guilt. I feel guilty I don’t have enough Algebra skills to help my son with his homework, or that I really don’t want to see the latest emote on Fortnite. Or I feel guilty that I can’t go to my daughter’s track meet because my son has a standing appointment at the same time. Or I feel guilty that I don’t get to see my mother more than once a week sometimes, or that I don’t have time to take on a board position for the kids’ swim team. I feel guilty every day for my messy house or that I still haven’t called a contractor out to fix that door. I feel so much guilt. 

But I also recognize that part of taking care of my family is taking care of me, and I do that by writing. It helps me work out things that are bothering me, it makes me happy, and it’s a way to connect with people who share my passion for hopeful love stories. And guess what? My family supports me, and I know that by chasing my dreams I’m setting a good example for my kids. I have zero guilt about that.
     I’m excited about this upcoming interview, which I will share on my social media and in my newsletter just as soon as I have links. I’m excited to share this important perspective and my hope is that somewhere a person who is reading the latest contemporary, paranormal, LGBTQ or science fiction romance will hear it and not feel like they have to hide their book cover while riding on the train to and from work, or keep their preferred reading habits quiet around co-workers who only value “literary fiction.” We have got to stop tearing each other down. Reading is good for the soul. Period. It improves vocabulary, it enlightens the reader to the plight of others who are perhaps different from them, and it takes the reader away for fifteen minutes or three hours in a day when life is pummeling them from every direction. These are all good for you. Reading—no matter what the subject—is not a guilty pleasure and we should stop calling it so.
     Now go grab the book on top of your TBR pile and feel zero guilt about it.

Thanks for reading today. If you would like to learn more about my books and the world of Rock ‘n’ Romance, please sign up for my newsletter-y thingie at You can also follow me at
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I love chatting with readers and other authors and I love sharing my favorite music. I have playlists for all of my books on Spotify and my reader group shares their favorite tunes on Music Mondays. Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance


  1. So good having you here on our blog. It isn't a guilty pleasure to read stories that transport you to another world.

  2. YAY!! SO awesome having you with us!!! Love the blog!! <3

  3. Thank you so much for having me! This was a seriously enlightening moment for me, a come-to-whatever deity you believe in moment, and with all the negativity around us, I want people to find hope in their everyday lives. Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts. I'll be happy to link the podcast when they send it to me!

  4. So true about feeling that reading is a guilty pleasure. How on earth do we buy into these sentiments?

    1. I think women have internalized so many negative messages about how they should behave...I definitely think some men also are frowned upon if they read certain genre fiction, but with women it goes deeper when it comes to romance. Glad you enjoyed.

  5. Welcome, R.L. Merrill! I really enjoyed reading your post. I think your comments are spot on. And the truly wonderful thing about the romance writer community is how open, friendly, and supportive everyone can be. We looking forward to hearing your podcast. Come see us any time. :)



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