(Cursive text taken from my latest newsletter)
Long before I became a writer, I was already aware of something that’s been the subject of much debate - the negative attitude toward romance novels. I think it's time to set the record straight and defend this immensely popular genre that so many of us enjoy.
If you mention you’re reading a romance novel, or have been watching a romance film or series, you’re often met with a certain amount of derision and upturned noses from others around you. You get comments like “It’s not literary fiction”, “It’s trashy”, “It’s for desperate and lonely women”, “I only read books by serious authors”, “watching romance films/series makes you stupid”. And other low-key insults.
First of all, let's take a look at the most common criticism of romance novels - that they're all fluff and no substance. Yes, romance novels may have happy endings and swoon-worthy moments, but that doesn't mean they lack depth or substance.
Romance novels often explore complex issues such as identity, trauma, and
mental health. If you’ve read any of mine, you’ll see that this is true. The male
main character in my latest book, The Sentinels — Saving Dignity, suffers from PTSD, and the female main character endures manipulation, mental and physical abuse, and emotional blackmail. I don't put that in the story for the fun of it. Each character's struggles is explored and described in visceral detail and the reader gets to follow them on their path to healing and a happier, more fulfilled life.
Romance stories also showcase diverse characters and relationships, and the enormous complexities of what some consider simple interaction between people, which can help readers gain a better understanding of different cultures and experiences.
Another common criticism is that romance novels are unrealistic and promote unhealthy expectations. But here's the thing - romance novels are meant to be a form of escapism. They're not meant to be taken as a literal guide for real-life relationships. And while some elements of romance novels may be exaggerated or fantastical, that doesn't make them any less enjoyable or meaningful. Plus, who doesn't love a little bit of fantasy and escapism in their reading?
One of the most frustrating criticisms of romance novels is the assumption that they're only meant for women. This couldn't be further from the truth. Romance novels are enjoyed by people of all genders and orientations. They cover a wide range of sub-genres, from historical romance to paranormal romance to LGBTQ+ romance, and everything in between. Romance novels are for anyone who enjoys a good love story, regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and relationship status.
Another criticism is that romance novels are all the same - a formulaic plot with predictable characters and a predictable ending. Yes, it's true that some romance novels may follow a similar formula, but there are countless romance novels that break the mold and offer unique and innovative storylines. And even if a romance novel does follow a familiar pattern, that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Sometimes, we just want to curl up with a good book and know that the characters we've grown to love will get their happily ever after.
If we compare a romance with, say, a fantasy novel, I think everyone will agree
that in many of them, there’s still a small subplot of romance. It just happens
not to be the main story line. Look at Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Aragorn and Arwen, anyone?
Or just look at the many murder mysteries where the reason for the crime is so often jealousy, unrequited love, or a broken heart.
It's all romance in various forms and used as subplots rather than the main focus.
Not to go on too much, I will end by saying the negative attitude toward romance novels is unfounded and unfair. They offer meaningful stories that explore complex issues, promote diversity and inclusivity, and provide a much-needed escape from the stress and chaos of daily life. So, let's give romance novels the respect they deserve and embrace the love stories that bring us joy and comfort.