I couldn’t pass up the opportunity during Valentine’s week to have a post about romance—particularly about writing romances. Even though nowadays romance novels are widely accepted and liked, there are still people who turn up their noses at the thought of reading a romance (or writing one).
Some view such novels as “fluffy” or “trashy” or “titillating.” They may believe that romance novels only serve to fill our minds with unhealthy expectations of relationships. After all, we know that fairy tales and happily-ever-afters don’t happen in real life, right? So why bother reading them?
Instead, why not fill our minds with realistic, wholesome literature? Or deeper, enriching stories that feed the mind and soul?
Such romance novel opponents overlook the fact some of the best classics are the most sigh-worthy romances (Jane Austin fans raise your hands!). But apparently being an “old” book makes the romance more acceptable.
Yes, modern romance novels still get a bad rap. They’re often classified as inferior to other genres. Even among writers, there’s an assumption that writing romances is easy, that anyone can do it, that if all else fails, write a romance—then you’re sure to get published.
Should I be ashamed or guilty for the fact that my books contain romance? Should romance writers feel the impulse to cover up what they write from cynical family and friends as if somehow it’s substandard? Should romance readers hide what they read because for fear others might think they’re not as spiritual or intellectual or whatever?
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and romance, I want to pose several reasons why I think romances are a valid and important form of literature:
1. Romances give us better insights into relationships.
While I’m writing, I love being able to delve into the various ups and downs of relationships, the push and pull, what works and what doesn’t, and all of the nuances that go into love and romance.
Whether we’re single, married, or divorced, romances offer a safe place to analyze the many issues that arise in relationships. Romance novels can serve as mentors for what it takes to forgive, persevere, and make things work. They can also be mirrors that reflect what real love looks like, displaying healthy relationship skills, sacrificial love, and how to overcome obstacles.
2. Romances can inspire hope in life.
When we’re immersed into writing or reading a romance novel, we often become intertwined with the characters. Their experiences become ours. We have the potential to deeply feel their emotions, including hope for a better life.
We want heroes and heroines who rise above normalcy, who overcome problems, and who find victory (or are at least on their way to finding it). Those characters inspire in us hope that perhaps we, too, can overcome and find victory.
3. Romances are a fun form of entertainment.
Yes. Just like a suspense, fantasy, or legal thriller, romances can offer a break from the real world around us—a real world that is often harsh and demanding. No one would think any less of a person for losing themselves in a romance movie. Romance novels are an equally valid way to take an enjoyable break.
4. Romances renew our belief in love.
I’d hate to see the day when we stop dreaming of happily-ever-afters. However, in a world riddled with marriage problems, divorce, and painful relationships, many people have become cynical about romance and love. Too many choose easy and cheap intimacy instead of doing the hard work of building a loving relationship.
Romance novels show that real love—while not easy—is still possible. Just because ideal love is difficult doesn’t mean we have to give up on romance (and romance books) altogether, does it? Shouldn’t we work hard and strive for better, more positive relationships instead?
Ultimately, those of us who appreciate a well-told romance story will have to ignore the nay-sayers, stand proud, and keep on reading and writing what we love.
So, why do you read or write romances? What draws you to them? And if you think romance novels are slightly substandard literature, why? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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