I’m proud to be both and author and reader of Romance. I know it’s something that a majority of people like to turn their nose up at or laugh at. Some people call it smut, others try to play moral superiority cards like “it’s degrading to women.”
I feel sad for all of those people. Why?
Because it’s clear that few, if any, of those people have so much as opened a Romance novel, let alone read one cover-to-cover. If they had, they would realize how much more there is to Romance than the stereotypes proliferated by the attempt to lump an entire fiction experience into the mold of one period or franchise. You wouldn’t base your opinion of Science Fiction solely on Star Trek, or your viewpoint on fiction as a whole on Dr. Seuss, would you? I think not.
Romance is a fundamental human need. I’m not talking hearts and flowers, sappy music, and an overabundance of Pepto-Bismol pink (although, if that’s your thing, *shrugs* more power to you). What I’m talking about is the basic human need to be loved – to know that someone out there misses us when we’re gone, thinks about us when we’re not near, and shows us affection and the desire to be near us when we’re present. And the stoics out there can poo-poo this until they’re blue in the face – that doesn’t meant I don’t know that when you’re all alone, you wish someone would care.
Romantic novels are about more than sex. I think a great many people confuse pure Erotica with Romance. The first is all about sex, and nothing more. The kinkier, the better, usually. But Romance is about something more. There are plenty of Romance novels that don’t involve anything more intense than a kiss (basically, you can hash your favorite childhood fairytales up to Romance – don’t the hero and heroine always live “happily ever after”?). Romance is about feeling connected to another human being, feeling important and special in someone else’s eyes.
And, while we’re on the subject of “Happily Ever After”… I personally wish to dispute the role of this type of ending in Romance. Being a firm realist when it comes to life (I don’t have any choice – I have personal, first-hand experience on how quickly it can disappear), I don’t subscribe to the theory that a Romance HAS to end “Happily Ever After.” I prefer that it end with a satisfactory resolution to the central plot, but I’m not a stickler for the whole everyone gets married and lives happily ever after. Life changes us, and everything we experience. We go through highs and lows. I prefer my heroes and heroines to be real people, not automatons. Yes, you’re likely to find a happy wrap-up to my books, but you’ll also be left with the sense that this story is just the BEGINNING of their story, not the end. I call it “Happily For Now.”
And, for those people who think that Romance is degrading to women… *snorts* I dare you to read any well-written modern Romance novel and find me a weak little wilting flower of a heroine. The days of vapid, fainting ladies are dead and gone. Today’s heroine can slay her own monsters, thank you very much, and even rescue the hero a time or two. Today’s heroine is capable, strong, and the complete equal to her counterpart hero. Today’s Romantic duo are truly equals.
Yes, I’m proud to be an author and reader of Romance. Because if there’s one thing I’m most glad to have in my life, it’s the capacity to love, and the hope that I am, in turn, loved.