Get serious, it’s only romance

Even I know happy endings don't always happen in the real world.
Even I know happy endings don’t always happen in the real world.

Romance writers and avid romance readers are used to criticism. When naysayers are being polite, they suggest romance is fluffy make believe. Harsher critics will go for the jugular and claim that romance is simple, trite and adds nothing meaningful to the literary world.

Well, ask a publisher and they might tell you otherwise. Romance sells. And no matter how you try to argue it, romance is read by women from all walks of life. So what is it all these women have in common?

We love a good love story

Or another way of looking at it is that love makes the world go around (or in this case, the publishing world go around).

If we delve a little deeper, here are a few of the reasons romance keeps selling:

  • A guaranteed happy ending: yes, it’s predictable, but for many readers, it’s a relief to know that everything works out in the end. There’s comfort to be found in the pages of  a romance novel that real life cannot always offer.
  • An escape: this is often underrated. Or even sneered at. But real life can so often be boring, stressful and just plain hard work. Opening the pages of a romance novel takes you somewhere else completely and it’s easy, just so easy, to lose yourself to this world. So sneer away. You obviously have no idea what you’re missing.
  • Some sparkle: let’s face it. The world in a romance novel is slightly more glossy than ours. The hero or heroine might have money (sometimes lots of it), they might have high powered or famous occupations, they could even have supernatural powers. Whatever it is, yes it’s make believe, but it’s bloody good make believe that brightens our world just a little bit while we’re reading it.
  • Variety: romance is a veritable smorgasbord of opportunity. The Victorian era? The stuff of fairy tales? High powered, modern day business world? Supernatural powers? Romance can happen anytime, anywhere. You only need to look!

Yes, but romance is still all fluff and I’m just a bit embarrassed by that…

Really? Really?! Romance is a BIG genre and I suggest you shop around.

The best romance writers offer characters that are rich and layered. They take us on journeys of redemption or life change and share with us stories of relationships that beat the odds.

Think Jennifer Weiner, Marian Keyes. Their characters battle with infidelity, depression, friendships that fail and other not so pleasant real life issues. On home soil, Rachael Treasure speaks proudly of being a regenerative agriculturalist and she weaves this theme into her stories of love which play out in an Aussie rural setting.

At the recent Sydney Writers’ Festival, it was during a session titled “The Spirit of Romance” where one of the panelists shared this gem: “Good romance has darkness and brightness interwoven. It is the darkness that makes the light so much brighter.”

Romance writers (and readers) have nothing to be ashamed of

Also in that same session, Irish America writer, Suzy Duffy, revealed to the audience that she was “unashamedly rom com.” And proud of it.

The authors spoke of “being true to the story” and not worrying about the critics.

So I would challenge you to adopt this attitude in your writing or as a reader.

Romance reminds us not to forget the magic

Alright. So, we’re not seven years old any more. I’m OK with that. Despite all the responsibility and real world stuff, being an adult has it’s benefits. However, where does it state in the adulthood contract that you have to give up on all the good stuff? We might be older than we used to be but we all still need some fairy dust in our lives from time to time.

So next time someone gives you a look – you know, that look – when you’re happily reading a romance novel, just remind yourself you’re entitled to a little magic every now and then.

Are you proud to call yourself a romance writer and/or reader? And do you think the romance genre is too harshly criticized?

2 Replies to “Get serious, it’s only romance”

  1. I am proud to be a romance reader and writer. I suspect romance gets a bad rep because it’s associated with women and sexuality, and ingrained sexism makes anything too feminine suspect in our culture.

    1. Hi Erin, thanks for reading. You make a good point. The romance genre aside, there is still an under-representation of women authors in the western world (the 2012 VIDA attests to this). So there’s definitely a way to go for women authors as a whole, sadly.

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