by Elizabeth Stoddard
Underappreciated, rarely taken seriously, but read by millions, romance novels are the basis for documentary Love Between the Covers. Authors Susan Donovan and Celeste Bradley comment in the film, “We pay the bills…for all of popular fiction.” As a fan of the genre myself, I was eager to see Laurie Kahn’s sweet and humorous take on it. Whereas a previous documentary, Guilty Pleasures, placed a focus on readers of romance, Kahn’s new film is a deeper look at the genre, its history, and a selection of authors behind it.
Acclaimed, prolific writers such as Eloisa James (actually college professor Mary Bly) and Beverly Jenkins are profiled, along with authors Bradley and Donovan, a duo who have teamed up to collaborate on works together. We are shown background on new author Joanne Lockyer and writer/publisher Len Baron (who writes as Radclyffe and L.L. Raand), as well.
Kahn intersperses vignettes with these authors amongst discussion of writing practices, academic defenses of romantic works, and depictions of the types of communities formed by the women who read them. The documentary emphasizes how much these books celebrate and empower women.
Love Between the Covers gives good overview, but doesn’t go too deep into all the current concerns within the world of romance (#weneeddiverseromance and further struggles of authors of color, specifically). Jenkins, who writes historical novels (and more!) about women of color, certainly touches on some of it, but I wished that voices from authors like Courtney Milan or Rebekah Weatherspoon could have spoken to the problems still to be dealt with. As it is, the film addresses broader issues of publishing.
The pacing of Kahn’s documentary stutters a couple times, but overall has a good structure. Love Between the Covers is an excellent introduction to romance and, importantly, the humor intrinsic to the authors and readers who love the books. As the end credits began to scroll, I had a smile on my face from time well spent.
Love Between the Covers is available on VOD starting today.