Ok, I get it, the romance genre still has a reputation for being anything from "fluff" to soft-core porn (or not so soft-core). This opinion is largely held, of course, by those who've never read a good romance. And yes, I know that's a subjective statement, but as with any genre, there are books that live down to stereotypes and books that rock your world. And the classification of those books may vary from reader to reader!
When I'm engaged in a good romance, I find myself asking what I would do differently in a given situation or conflict. Sometimes the character acts much as I would, other times I think, "I would have...." Sometimes, even if I relate very directly to the character, they act in a way I might have ten years ago and it's interesting to see how my reaction to a conflict is different now. When I'm into the relationship, I find myself swept along with it, even if the characters are not at all like me. I feel that adrenaline rush that comes with discovering another person, both mentally and physically.
This also happens when writing my characters. Of course, they tend to have some bits of my personality, but by and large they are their own people (persons?). Even as I'm writing along my rough outline, my characters will say and do things I didn't "plan" and I learn so much about human interaction by transcribing their thoughts and actions. I've read and written books that have actually helped me heal from past relationships and made me a stronger, more confident person.
And hey, who's to say that the value of a book must depend on if it changed your life? Sometimes what your brain and heart need are a bit of escapism, a rest from the constant demands on us to be productive, have it all together, and succeed, am I right?
What book has taught you something about yourself? The first that comes to my mind is The Viscount Who Loved me, by Julia Quinn (yes, yes, soon to be season 2 of Bridgerton on Netflix). I read it years ago and I remember that Kate's own insecurities about being the less pretty sister to the greatly desired Edwina really resonated with me! As Kate grew in her confidence and self-worth awareness, it reminded me of the lessons I'd learned through the years...and some I'd forgotten but needed!
Romance is the bestselling fiction genre, and yet, it is often dismissed as being “fluff” or a “guilty pleasure.” Like a “sharing size” bag of peanut M&Ms you don’t share, many readers are embarrassed that they love to read love stories. Heck, I used to emphasize that I wrote historical fiction and then would mumble under my breath, “historical romance fiction.” We’ve been led to believe that unless a book made Oprah’s book club or was fit to be dissected in a graduate level literature class, it had no real worth. Even the ubiquitous “cozy” murder mystery has been considered smarter? More thought worthy?
Well, I’m done with being “ashamed” of loving reading and writing romance. Here’s why: nearly every great work of literature has, at its core, a deep relationship that evolves throughout the story. And very often, those relationships are romantic ones. They may not follow some of the strictures of a romance (a guaranteed happy ending being one), but they are, in essence, a romance.
It is not outrageous to propose that romance is looked down upon in the literary world because it is largely written by women, for women. Consider Nicholas Sparks’ books. They are listed primarily as Contemporary Fiction, Family Fiction, and even Animal Fiction (I was today years old when I learned this was a genre!). Eleven of his books have been made into movies!
Now I’m not bitter—I love an author’s success and I love that people love reading books about relationships (duh!). I just think we need to recognize that many authors like Sparks are writing romances, but they’re dodging the stigma, mostly by being male. Let’s just drop the stigma!
Watching two characters evolve, seeing the unfolding of how they interact and grow to love one another is primal human stuff, people! Don’t say reading romance is your “guilty pleasure.” Just enjoy what pleasure it brings you, just like those M&Ms!
Great, all I need is one more reason to procrastinate! As if Instagram wasn't enough...