The phenomenal success of romances has naturally stirred the contempt of high culture critics, and more recently the concern of feminists, who have generally understood these narratives as promoting a kind of false consciousness, coating patriarchal values with a frosting of fantasy. The "Smithton women" appropriated romances as a pleasure strictly theirs, an antidote to the endless claims made on them by husbands and children, and a defense of "female" values like emotional sharing and (more or less) egalitarian marriage. [...]for many, regular reading of these books fed a kind of proto-feminism that made for real gains in their lives, within the limits patriarchy sets for women.
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