In Defense Of Romance Novels
1. Romance novels are unrealistic.
Please. Romance novels simply use love to guide their narrative arcs. Why is it considered silly to read about the wild passions of two unlikely lovers, but appropriate to read a violent thriller about mutant zombies? Why is it lame to read about love and a healthy sexual relationship, but it’s cool to read about a serial killer chopping up bodies in his basement? Maybe I’m never going to have an illicit affair with a swarthy river pirate, but I’m also probably not going to solve a murder mystery. When did love become the taboo and violence become the norm?
2. Romance novels are pornography.
Untrue. There are some sexy scenes in any romance novel and you might blush when reading them on the bus, but the scenes are generally very small parts of a whole. Think about it in real life terms. When you’re romantically involved with someone, there is way more to your relationship than sex: they know you like tomatoes on your grilled cheese, or they hold your hand when they can tell you’re nervous, or maybe they laugh at your jokes. Nonetheless, sex is still very important in life and in romance novels, so steamy scenes are a must!
The heroines in romance novels have robust sexual appetites, and the hero never judges the heroine for how much she loves to put her hands on him. He embraces it, because that’s the best for both parties. In porn, women are negatively labeled for similar appetites, but in romance their desires are accepted, exalted even. Dominated by female writers, romance is about respecting the person you’re boning, which is the opposite of porn (an industry dominated by men).
The world is forever telling women they’re not good enough: romance is porn, not literature. Literature prides itself on its bad sex scenes, novels that pull off the worst sex scenes are often some of the most feted.* Romance prides itself on good sex scenes, but is bashed for it. So, bad sex is good and good sex is bad? Our culture is sending some pretty mixed signals to readers, not to mention trivializing love and good sex by so thoroughly dismissing romance and the romance readership.
3. Romance novels are predictable.
Yes, most romance novels have a similar love plot. The first half is typically “the chase,” so perhaps the couple has a few stolen kisses, close encounters, or a tasteful boob grab. Then you have the climax, where the couple gets it on. The entire thing usually includes one to three instances of coitus.** Finally, toward the end, the “L” word is dropped.
If you’ve ever re-read a book or watched a movie more than once, you understand that knowing how something will turn out can make your experience better. When you know the ending, you can sit back and enjoy the journey.
4. Romance novels are poorly written.
To be clear, all romance novels are not created equal. Scandalous Desires is not even on the same planet (let alone playing field) as Her Best Worst Mistake. Sometimes you find yourself rolling your eyes at the italics that are meant to express suppressed thoughts, or the misuse of a word, and you’re like, “Why do I read this shit?”
But some of the genre is good. Some of it is really good. Like when the heroine in a historical romance decides to cross dress and go fencing, because, well, she’s never done it before. And she runs into the man she can’t stop thinking of while practicing. Let me tell you, romance writers definitely have imagination. Additionally, many writers like Julia Quinn (a Harvard grad) are very smart women, their books reflect their wit and careful writing. It’s a matter of distinguishing the good from the bad, like in any other literary genre.
The fact is, we all want love, it’s universal and it’s awesome, whether it’s from a parent, friend, lover, or animal. As a social species, we are always looking for it, waiting for it to take a shape that we can love back. So, the protagonist has a crush on that girl from the record store? Been there. It’s an immediate connection; love is an emotion that everyone can empathize. So read romance, if you want to, and don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed of it! Don’t hide those vibrant covers from the judging eyes of the world. Love is a great thing, no one should ever tell you otherwise.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.