Hear Me Out: Why You Should Be Reading Romance Novels

I was recently chatting with an acquaintance who told me that while she is a romantic person in real life, she absolutely hated romance novels. She claimed to find the genre trite and the books badly written.

Now, as someone who loves romance fiction and reads her fair share of them, I know this simply isn’t true. I mean, they can’t ALL be badly written, right? Maybe she had just happened to pick a few bad ones that put her off? So I recommended some of my favorites – and she admitted to having read and enjoyed quite a few of them. She hastened to point out – “But these are not typical romance novels!”

Romance = Mindless & silly. Well-written love stories Typical romance.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a pretty pervasive idea amongst many readers, and this definitely wasn’t the first time I was having a discussion like this. If you avoid romance novels for these 4 reasons, here’s why you should give them a chance.

 

You think they’re all the same

Romance novels get a bad rap for being too predictable. If you already know what happens at the end, why even bother, right? Hear me out!

Just think back to any other genre novel you recently enjoyed. You may find that they are not so unpredictable after all. You know the murderer will be caught at the end of that dark detective fiction. The YA fantasy will end with the quest being completed by the teenage protagonist. And as for that psychological thriller? You’d be disappointed if it didn’t have that startling twist.

Yes, the romance novel will probably end with (spoiler alert?) a happily-ever-after. No, it will not ruin the story for you. Just like with all those other genres, the magic lies in the who, the how, the when. As you get to know the protagonists and find out what makes them tick, you find yourself rooting for them. You know exactly why that guy they just met at the bar is wrong for them, you know who they should be with instead – and you can’t wait to read till the end, and see how they figure it out for themselves.

 

You think they’re too mushy

This depends on the kind of books you pick up. If you’re reading a particularly sensational bodice-ripper from the ’80s, sure, the language may be a tad on the mushy side (there might be a good amount of eye-fluttering involved too!).

Protagonists today, are much more likely to rely on intelligent conversation, witty banter, thoughtful texts – or even some downright hostile staring over the office computer (The Hating Game, anyone?). Much like the modern dating scene, each tale is like a roller coaster ride – and there’s nothing mushy about that!

 

You feel they don’t deal with any ‘important’ issues

Romance, unlike a lot of other ‘serious’ literature, puts women and their desires, dreams and ambitions at the center of the story — that doesn’t make it any less relevant. There’s no reason why a book about female friendship, insecurities and daily complexities should be considered ‘mindless’ while a similar coming-of-age novel about a man trying to make it in life, becomes a classic.

Today, romance novels are not just about women and heteronormative relationships anymore either. Over the last decade, the boy-meets-girl trope has diversified to give us some swoon-worthy LGBTQIA reads. With books like Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Leah on the Offbeat and Tash Hearts Tolstoy, YA romances are definitely well ahead of the curve. With the much-needed inclusion of multi-cultural couples and characters with disabilities as protagonists, you get some wonderfully diverse narratives that have been (and in some cases, still are) missing from other genres.

 

You think they are all regressive and anti-feminist

Unless you’re reading something written in a very different day and age, this is not true at all! Modern romances feature some really badass, intelligent, driven female protagonists who do not see marriage as their ultimate goal. In fact, their personal journey of self-fulfilment and ambition often drives the plot, and they (just like all of us IRL) have to deal with societal pressures regarding marriage and kids.

Sure, there was a time when being forcefully kissed by a strong, brooding hero was considered ‘sexy’. But times have changed, and romance novels reflect this. Today’s protagonists would definitely call out such brutish behavior – no sighing and melting here, thank you very much! Even in the newer historical romances where women basically needed to marry well to survive, the protagonists manage to assert their own voice and find a way around misogynist ideals. Marriages of equal partnership make for the best romances, after all!

 

  • random

    I know this probably reveals the snob in me, but I would like to see recent literary fiction reads with strong romantic plots as well.

    • There’s a book called In Paris With You by Clementine Beauvais, which was recently translated from French and takes it’s inspiration from Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. It’s an entire novel written in verse with an strong romantic plot.

  • I have tried reading a variety of romance novels – from the feel-good types that wind up as Box Office Rom-Coms to the dark paranormal romance fantasies and I have to say – most “romance” novels have pretty much become poorly disguised erotica.

    And even worse, most of the ‘erotic happenings’ in these novels don’t even have good or believable build-up. Two people who hate each don’t just fall into the sack and suddenly realize they’re in love. Your strong-independent-woman character might not want marriage and kids, but she still lets the alpha asshole leading man push her around, ignore her boundaries and consent, and ultimately decide what’s right for her (or their relationship) and that’s definitely anti-feminist and toxic trash.

    It gets even more grotesque when you veer in the paranormal realm. So many of the mortal women in these stories have their lives together until some handsome brooding monster enters the scene to repeatedly put her life in danger, not communicate at all with her and then culminate in some forced ‘mated for life’ ritual so he can always protect her.

    I haven’t read a single romance novel from the 80’s and early 90’s. I’m basing my findings purely on what’s come out in the last decade and it hasn’t been pretty. If there are any good romance novels out there that do value diversity, consent, and subverting standard tropes and cliches, they are not being marketed well at all!

    On The Cusp | https://on-th3-cusp.blogspot.com/

  • I just got into romance this year (I figured I should give it a chance!), and I really loved this short video from PBS’ The Great American Read describing what makes a romance a ROMANCE (as opposed to other genres that include romantic storylines). I thought others might be interested in watching it:

    https://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanReadPBS/videos/an-ode-to-the-romance-novel-its-lit-pbs-digital-studios/257737388161822/