The book’s online review says that the steamy romance novel is a tale of “men who stand tall, and real women who have what it takes to love and be loved by them.” Normally, you wouldn’t expect this type of literature to be US government business. But apparently, it is.
“Romance fiction is sold in 34 languages on six continents, and the genre grosses more than a billion dollars a year – outselling mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined.” – reads the intro of the Popular Romance Project Website. According to its authors, “millions of voracious women who read, write, and love romance novels have remained oddly invisible. Until now.”
So what was it that suddenly gave the world of steamy romance books more visibility? Well, according to the Wastebook – a collection of weird government spending initiatives, since 2010 the Popular Romance Project received nearly one million dollars from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) to “explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction, taking a global perspective—while looking back across time as far as the ancient Greeks.”
If you wonder what kind of literature the US government is sponsoring, here’s a couple of titles and descriptions:
In the book called “In the Heat of the Bite” by Lydia Dare, Matthew Halkett, Earl of Blodswell (and a vampire), “spies a damsel in distress in the midst of a storm in Hyde Park, his natural instinct is to rush to her aid…”
Another one – Bella Andre’s “Love Me” (a sequel to “Take Me”) is full of hot sex scenes, where the following passage is one of the few episodes not to feature a detailed and nearly obscene description of sexual intercourse:
“Love me, Luke,” she begged him, and then they were shifting on the bed so that her body was pressed lengthwise against his and her legs were coming around his hips again and she was pulling his mouth down onto hers and he was kissing her like he'd never kissed another woman."
It's hard to imagine, but all of this steamy content is being promoted and explored at the US taxpayers’ expense. Participants of the Popular Romance project – most of them writers, who earn millions of dollars from selling erotic fiction, hold meetings and classes on how to make perfect covers and how to write happy endings, but for some reason, their efforts are being supported by Uncle Sam.
This project is one of hundreds of US government spending initiatives investigated by Senator Tom Coburn. In his 2013 C-SPAN interview, Coburn said that Congress should work harder to avoid unnecessary spending:
"If you will watch the legislative process, most of the time they are legislating without having the knowledge of what they are doing. So therefore, what they don’t have and lack in knowledge, they leave up to the bureaucracy. And most of the time, it’s 80% of what they are doing. And real legislators usually know their issues, know the programs, know how they work, and write the specific language that tells the agencies what to do… Most of the people here don’t want to go into the depths, and knowledge of that, so that’s why you have NSF, or NIH giving grants out to things that would seem to be very questionable to the common sense of the average American."
After Tom Coburn, the author of the annual Wastebook, retired in 2014, the reigns of the project were taken up by US Senator Jeff Flake. Although Flake recently admitted that with more public scrutiny, the number of wasteful spending initiatives has been decreasing, he added that “the government didn’t come up short on outlandish ways to waste money in 2015.”