Why Romances Are a Valid & Important Form of Literature

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity on Valentine’s Day 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.

I admit, there have been times around certain groups of people where I've sensed an unspoken condemnation for romance novels. It's at those times, I find myself dropping the "romance" from "historical romance" writer and describing myself simply as a “historical" writer. While technically that’s true—I do write historicals—it’s also true that the romance is a central part of my book. There’s no way around it—I'm a historical romance writer.

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. Here are several reasons why I write romances:

1. Human relationships are complex. And stories give us a medium to explore all of those complexities in greater depth. 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. Stories are a safe place to analyze the many issues that arise in relationships and give us the opportunity to look at some of our own issues.

2. We all crave love in one form or another. 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 the growing love.

3. Romance stories help renew and refresh our belief in love. In a world riddled with marriage problems, divorce, and painful 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, especially for those who may not know.

4. 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 (like The Young Victoria—which I loved!). Romance novels are an equally valid way to take an enjoyable break.

5. Who says fairy tales don’t happen in real life and that we shouldn't believe in them? I’d hate to see the day when we stop dreaming of happily-ever-afters. Sure real life romances aren’t always easy. But as I recently heard at a conference: Good things are hard, but hard things are good (via Todd Wilson). So, why give up on romance (and romance books) altogether? 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.

And of course, since it’s Valentine’s Day, I officially give all of us romance lovers permission to buy a romance novel today. (I just bought Sixty Acres and a Bride by my friend and debut author, Regina Jennings.) Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to treat ourselves to some 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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