The ageism of Romance Novels – 40 is not too old to love

It happened again.

I opened the pages of a new paranormal romance novel and was attacked by my old foe – the uncomfortable “1” as the first digit of the heroine’s age.

A freakin’ ONE and it wasn’t even a YA or NA novel.


I only recently started reading romance (less than 5 years now) but I’ve read enough to know there’s a problem with the genre. Of the hundreds of books I’ve read, I can count using one hand the number of books that had a leading lady over 30 and only one finger the number over 40.

I’m not saying they don’t exist. But the number drops off drastically when that first digit is a “3”. And if it a “4”? Well hell, you can just forget about it.

Don’t get me wrong. The age thing doesn’t stop me from loving the genre but it sure makes it hard to like it from time to time. What I’ve learned is 40’s are too old to sell books but 20’s are too young for the mental acuity required for the female leads, so the authors compromise. They write them like they’re 40 then compress all that wisdom into the more marketable body of a nubile 20-year-old.

Nothing ruins a book faster than a 21-year-old heroine with the deep introspection, personal awareness, and advanced sexual skills of a woman twice her age. I’m sorry, but only those of us who’ve been around the block a few decades can think, love, and fuck the way many of these books describe. 

We’ve got to normalize the sexiness of middle age. We don’t turn to dust at 35. We still have a swing in our hips (though we might ache more now) and a swagger in our step (that might require lower heels) but we still got it!

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