I am sure a lot of people do this, but I find that my reading habits are very much dictated by my mood and what is going on in my life, and I don't despise anything. From the instructions on a shampoo bottle to the world's greatest literature, and everything in between.
Because my first novel One Apple Tasted (7 Aug 2009) turned out to be a love story - this was not a deliberate attempt at a genre, but just flowed out of me - I have been reading a lot of what you might called women's fiction to see how I compare. I have looked at everything from covers to how they are written. How much or how little they say about the state of womanhood today, to whether the fashion details are accurate. You see, I am both high and low brow - and my brows also beetle about all over the middle ground as well.
Some of it, particularly Georgette Heyer (printed Valium in my opinion) I have always relished. I also have a taste for early Barbara Cartland - before she became formulaic and started pumping them out hourly. One hilarious example is Again This Rapture (great title) - all about a masterful man and the girl he had to tame. Very 1950s. Cartland herself was independent and feisty - not an object of fun but a powerful feminist force field, always looking after everyone around her. She longed to be loved by a forceful man - but discovered, as so many of us do, that they are rare as rocking horse poo.
Other more modern examples are simply too much for me, too icky and unrealistic, with perfectly rippling males endowed with huge bank accounts and every other firm attribute. My own 'hero' is deeply flawed and needs a modern independent woman to help him be the best person he can be. But some modern writers are still harking back to old patterns of relationships where the ideal was that the man rescued the woman - even if the heroines are decorated with token independence (they have a 'job' or a 'talent').
Anyway, the research is fun and my room is strewn with books as I keep one in all the places where I alight to read - from downstairs loo to bedroom. Shire Hell, by Rachel Johnson, sister of our gorgeous blond Mayor of London, is amusing me with lots of recognisable English behaviour; The Seven Year Itch, by Kate Morris, is full of the guilt we feel about doing something for ourselves not our children; there are several Katie Ffords strewn around - I enjoyed The Rose Revived for its interesting gardening details. I will have to go and read an Anthony Trollope before long, to inject a bit of ancient testosterone into my mind.
Causes Josa Young Supports
Save the Children
The Children's Society