In Defense of Fluff

georgette heyer novels


Well-written literature is a wonderful gift.  There is nothing like closing the cover of a book and knowing you have read something truly great.  Whether, for you, that is a Dickens novel or a modern classic that feeling is unmistakeable.

But sometimes you just want to read fluff. A cozy mystery, a Regency romance, a detective novel, chick lit, whatever your fluff of choice is, we all need it sometimes.  But all too often, we feel like we need to apologize for it.  "Well, I wouldn't usually read this but...." or "It was fun for what it is but...."  There is always that "but", that implication that the fluff isn't good enough.

I am writing this in defense of fluff.

I am a firm believer that a bit of chocolate contributes to a well-balanced diet and that a bit of fluff is essential for the well-balanced reader.  We all need to escape sometimes.  We all are tired sometimes.  We all occasionally want to retreat to our childhoods and read old favorites. We need to shut off our brains and read the story and not analyze the writing.  Why do we apologize for that? If cozy mysteries set in an English village full of doddering spinsters and handsome vicars are your thing then read them and preach their wonders from the rooftops.  And please, send them on to me when you are done.  No, they may not be great literature but did the book engage your interest?  Did it pull you into the story?  Most important of all, did you enjoy it?  If you answered yes, then it was worth reading.

There is a difference between poorly written books and fluff.  I have less and less tolerance for poorly written books.  If the writing is too pedestrian and I find myself editing the book as I go I am unlikely to read it.  But that is not fluff.  Fluff is just what it sounds like, light and fun and not too demanding.  And there is a lot of well-written fluff out there.

Georgette Heyer is one of my favorite writers of fluff.  Actually, she is what inspired this post.  I read a review of one of her books--I can't remember where--and the whole thing was a disclaimer.  "I don't read romances"  Yet, the blogger enjoyed it.  And in the comments, everyone else was saying "I don't read romances" yet they were going on to recommend other Heyer novels.  So they do read romances.  They feel it is something to be apologized for.  Just don't.  Don't apologize for reading Heyer and don't ever apologize for reading something you enjoyed.

Because that is why we read. We enjoy it.  Of course, there are a lot of other benefits.  We broaden our horizons, we develop empathy, we learn, but the main reason we read is because we love it. We love books.  We love stories.

Sometimes, the stories we love are fluff and that is perfectly okay.

Preach its wonders from the rooftops.

14 comments

  1. I 100% agree! I've been reading a lot of mysteries lately because they are a great escape, because I love getting lost in a story where I'm trying to figure out who did it, because they are easy to read when I don't feel like turning my brain on. It doesn't make me any less of a reader because I like fluff books - I think it makes you even more well-rounded. Love this post!

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    1. I read a lot of mysteries for the same reasons you mention. They are fun and relaxing and just plain enjoyable. Isn't that what reading is all about sometimes?

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  2. I do love reading fluff:) especially romance novels set in England:)

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    1. I am not surprised at all that you like your romance novels to be set in England!

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  3. I snobbishly did not read Heyer for years because she was a "romance author." Boy, was I missing out! And the best of her books are not what I would call "fluff" - they are superb comedies, like Shakespeare without the poetry but with better plots. Comic authors just get no respect. However, even true fluffiness has its place, as long as it's well-crafted. Your defense is well-merited.

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    1. I am glad you have been converted to the world of Heyer admirers! I like your description of them as "superb comedies, like Shakespeare without the poetry but with better plots." Perfect.

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  4. I don't read romances... as in trashy romance novels where it's all ripped bodices and heaving bosoms and muscled chests and roving hands. I do read books with romance in them, such as those by Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen and Jan Karon and L.M. Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott. Some of those are fluff, some of them aren't -- and some can be read fluffily or deeply, depending on the reader!

    But mysteries are my fluff of choice, and I dearly love getting lost in them when my imagination needs a vacation.

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    1. I must admit, I don't read the trashy romance novels either. As I said, I like my fluff well-written and I don't feel the heaving bosom type romance is that. However, if someone loves it, then that is fine.

      I enjoy mysteries as well. I am always looking for new authors so if you have any great recommendations, I am all ears.

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    2. Well, Raymond Chandler is not only my favorite mystery author, but also my favorite of all authors. I also dearly love A. Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes pastiches by Laurie R. King. I've read most of King's other books -- she has a modern-day mystery series too, but I don't like it as well as the Russell/Holmes series and some of her stand-alones. I also love Rex Stout, especially his Nero Wolfe mysteries, which are my "comfort food" books.

      I recently started reading the Herringford & Watts series by Rachel MacMillan -- I read the first one and found it very fun, so I'm going to try the next book soon. They're set in Canada at the turn of the century, and full of cool historical details.

      I've been enjoying Stephanie Barron's mysteries that feature Jane Austen solving mysteries. Very much escapist fun.

      I also like the "Dear Irene" mysteries by Jan Burke. So far, "Bloodlines" has wowed me, and the others were enjoyable. I think I've read 5 or 6 of those.

      I recently started reading the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child, which are more suspense than mystery, maybe, but similarly great rides.

      I've only read the first two Rabbi Small mysteries by Henry Kemelman, but my father-in-law loves them. I liked the two I've read, and want to read the rest.

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    3. Wow! Thanks for such a detailed reply. I have read a number of these but I am not familiar with the Herringford & Watts series or the "Dear Irene" series. I will have to look for them at the library.

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  5. I completely agree. Fluff books are the equivalent of marshmallow TV such as Midsomer Murders. You wouldn't want to watch it all the time but sometimes it's the only thing that will hit the spot.

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    1. Exactly, sometimes you just want to read something easy and relaxing that doesn't require much thought. A steady diet of fluffy books would be a bit sickening but they are perfect occasionally.

      I think I have only seen a couple episodes of Midsomer Murders but my dad swears by it for stressful days.

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  6. Well said! I think you make two really good points here - that fluff is like chocolate in our reading diets (I like this metaphor, haha) and that there is a difference between poorly written books and fluff. We can all use a treat, but it doesn't have to be a rotten one.

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    1. Yes, that is exactly what I was trying to say. There are plenty of junk books out there but not all fluffy books are not worth reading. Many authors who write light fiction are very, very talented.

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