From One Generation...
My kid came home last night with several delightful surprises. First, he brought me ice cream. He is a well-brought-up child. (Of course, when I told him to put it in the freezer, he immediately grabbed a spoon, opened the container, and ate it himself, which was a pretty good indicator that he hadn't meant to buy me ice cream but was caught when he found me eyeballing him from the kitchen instead of hiding in my office.)
And second, he brought home his friend Jan and Jan's girlfriend Maya. "Mom," my son hollered as he walked in, "Come meet Maya. She reads romances."
As noted, he was surprised to find me in the kitchen, but I was delighted to meet Maya. Jan and my son stood around with overlarge hands and slightly simian poses, as 22-year-old boy/men are wont to do, while Maya and I gushed.
I gave her a copy of CYN & THE PEANUT BUTTER CUP, and explained that I'd bought all these print copies to give away and then had been too embarrassed to force them on people. She was charmingly flattering, but admitted that she did most of her romance reading on an e-reader "because then no one can see the covers."
OMIGAWD, do I respect that sentiment! There's a distinct look to a romance cover. Maya reads a lot of Regencies, and there's a cast-iron cover format for those (beautiful woman in period dress; possibly with a grand matter home in the background). Swooning encouraged (but the days of strong men holding wilting heroines have passed, thankfully).
Contemporaries have all fallen into the Large Naked Chest category; tattoos optional. Pecs required.
And my own rom-com field? Illustrated. Never photographed. Brightly colored. Intended to look like fun. Which, of course, they are.
Here was this darling young woman, at the very beginning of her life, having the same experience I'd had when I was her age. Let's see: Can I read this glorious, adventurous, giddy tale in public, or will I be shamed to be seen reading something so...DELICIOUS?? Maya and I agreed. There's still a stigma attached to romance, but that's not stopping us from diving in. It's generational.