A TAMWORTH man believes rural romance books should not be judged by their covers and wants to shine a light on talented authors from the region and beyond.
By day Len Klumpp works at Tamworth Regional Airport, but in his spare time he is an avid reader, with many of his favourites being from the rural romance genre.
"I used to read Wilbur Smith and Bryce Courtenay, but one day I had nothing to read and someone had Rachael Treasure's book, Jillaroo," he said.
"I read that, enjoyed it and then moved onto her others and my favourite is The Stockman."
Mr Klumpp said most men were missing out on the stories that lay beyond the covers, which sometimes featured tall, dark and handsome country men.
"I enjoy the country theme and that country feel they have," he said.
"Growing up in small country towns, I related to that and the battle of the farmers and what they go through."
Mr Klumpp said most authors were also women, which could deter men from the genre one exception being male author JH Fletcher.
"I've got a couple of male friends on Facebook and I believe there are other men who read them, they just don't admit it," he said.
"Being rural romance, the misconceptions are that it's Fifty Shades of Grey or Mills and Boon.
"Bryce Courtenay's The Persimmon Tree could be classed as a romance book. There's a misconception because women write them that they're all lovey-dovey stuff, but it's not."
Having attended the Australian Romance Readers' Association conference in Canberra in March, he met about six other men there, but said he mingled with everyone.
"I still read Wilbur Smith and, like me, the other men have diverse tastes," he said.
Authors from across the region are known for their rural romance success, including Nicole Alexander in Moree, Bronwyn Parry from Armidale, Karly Lane, who is formerly from Manilla, and the late Beverley Harper from Armidale.
"Being rural people they're into country music, so the Tamworth Country Music Festival comes into the books sometimes," Mr Klumpp said.
"I reckon a lot of men would enjoy them because they deal with social issues, some deal with gangs and the drug problems, autism, Down syndrome, environmental issues, rural suicide and depression it's real-life stuff."
Mr Klumpp is now trying to spread the good oil on rural romance and its links to country music, and trying to get a rural romance author event organised at Tamworth Library during the festival.
"Authors I've spoken to are really keen to do it and I think they would work well together," he said.
"It's country books for people who love the country and it gives city people a taste of the country."
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