Sadly, I’ve seen a lot of people say they hate romance novels since joining social media. Some even proclaiming romance has no place in movies or television. When pressed for the reason why, it tends to come back to “I never get the guy/girl, so I don’t want to see someone who’s got everything get him/her.”
A part of me says welcome to Hollywood. I can’t think of the last movie I saw where the heroine wasn’t amazingly beautiful, thin, and with perfect hair.
This is why I love romance novels. There the heroines come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. The heroes, too. Depending one what you read, cowboys, bikers, and billionaires are all there. So are teachers, dragons, and knights. seriously, whatever you particular interest is, there is someone out there writing it. But, you have to look.
Here’s something I’m not sure the people saying they hate romance because it doesn’t work for them realize. Their very words are a red flag for anyone they may be interested in having a relationship with. Why? Because this hints at the fact they think they’re owed a relationship, owed love, and probably owed sex. These might not be their real thoughts, but in a world where one out of five women are victims of sexually assault, I’d wary.
Think about that for one moment. One out of five. Think of five women you know, and statistically, one of them has been hurt this way. I have no idea what a comparable situation is for a man, so I won’t try. But yeah, it’s a lotta women’s worst nightmare. I often wonder how many men walk to their car after dark with their keys between their fingers “just in case”.
The reasons are not part of this post, but it does give an insight into the world we live in today. But, it’s not the world women want. Hence, romance novels. It’s an escape. An idealization. A way to explore love and sexuality in a non-threatening way. A way for the reader to know things are going to turn out okay in the end for the heroine, even if they don’t always in real life.
Believe it or not, there’s a lot of things that can be learned from romance novels. Here are a few.
1.Get past the Trappings – this is probably harder for men who are more visually stimulated than women. Yes, the guys in the stories are usually attractive. Just like the women in the movies and on TV. But the women aren’t always, or at least not in the current accepted fashion. Either way, most romance novels don’t dwell on it. Sometimes, neither the hero or heroine is attractive in the traditional way. In one of my favorite contemporary romance novels, the hero was a somewhat dorky Princeton professor.
2. Common Interests – Most of the characters in a story have some sort of common interest that brings them together. Horses. International spy rings. Vampire hunters. Customizing motorcycles. Pick your reason. In most novels, they don’t sort of bump into each other at a nightclub and just hit it off. This is playing to fantasy, and there are as many kinds of heroes and their interests as can be imagined. Some of the people I’ve heard complain about romance novels make me wonder if trolling in their interest. Probably not the best interest if you want to meet a significant other, but I bet there’s a romance novel out there somewhere with that in it. In the story about the Princeton professor, the thing the hero and heroine shared was a love of books. In a romance novel. Go figure.
3. Listening – It’s such a tired cliché that men don’t listen, but it’s become cliché for a reason. In romance novels, the hero listens to the heroine. Learns she’s scared of vampires because they ate her little brother or whatever. This can have a huge impact in the story when later he later understands why she’s frozen with fear when the normally heroic vampire hunter sees a vampire about to gobble a child. If he hadn’t listened? No chance to understand. Same thing in the real world. My husband listened to me and knows I’m terrified of spiders because a brown recluse bit my sister and it necrotized the skin on her leg. (I won’t post a picture here, but here’s a link to what it looks like). So killing spiders without question and without making me feel bad has helped our relationship. In the book I referenced above, the professor listened and understood the heroine’s issues with her controlling mother. This helped bring them together.
4. If you listen in the living room, you’re more likely to listen in the bedroom – There’s a lot of research out there that says women are just as sexual as men when the woman thinks she’s also going to get an orgasm. I have yet to read a romance novel where the woman wasn’t brought to orgasm. The path to her fulfilled desire may seem unrealistic to me, but it’s always the end result. In some novels, there will even be scenes where the hero holds off on his own pleasure to make sure she gets hers. In the real world, I know women do it for men. So, I’m not surprised in a romance novel, roles change. Shouldn’t be too surprising that women want pleasure, too.
Are all romance novels good? That’s like asking are all action movies good. Are all science fiction books good. Are all TV shows good. Different people like different things, and some clearly just suck. Mystery Science 3000 made a show out of how bad some movies can be.
Also, romance novels change along with society. What sold to repressed women in the 1950s is not what sold in the 1980s or what sells now. More recent ones show more current fantasies. And as with everything, quality varies dramatically from author to author. Sometimes book to book.
But the good is out there.
What do you think? Think you can learn something from romance novels or am I full of bunk? Me being wrong is always an option. Is there something I’m missing? Something you’d add?