Why Romance? Why Now?
Why Not, That’s Why, So Shut Up
Why in the world would anybody want to read a romance novel, let alone write one? —
Romance Novel Challenge is scheduled to air on WFAA TV- ABC affiliate in Dallas, Ch. 8 Good Morning Texas, 9–10 a.m., Feb. 8th!
Romance writers field that question all the time from people who seem so very glad they write romance, but so very surprised they do. The words are stated or implied, whispered or laughed out loud, but the question is always there hiding behind someone’s grin or reflected in the twinkle in their eyes whenever they hear the word R O M A N C E.
In a world full of profound and lingering problems to be pondered and solved, why do you write Romance? That’s what my wee small voice whispered in my ear recently while I watched the dark eyes of the Romance genre peeking out from behind a curtain on the stage of great literary giants. Not that I’m such an experienced romance writer. I’ve written one historical fiction that is full of true love and heartache and I’m following it with a sensitive, steamy second novel slathered with chocolate, sex and lust.
Hubba hubba whoo ha!
But, to hear some people talk you’d think Romance was a second-string genre in the game of Great Literature, or maybe it’s not a player at all, but the entertainment you send in at halftime while everyone heads for the john.
Well, honey, let me tell you, romance in literature is not trivial; it’s triumphant! And Far from being a peek inside a women’s-only lonely hearts club, the genre addresses the very hub of happiness for the thriving male and female of the species.
Romance is the Oh, hell yes! amid a work-a-day-push-&-shove-a-day world. It is that part of the human condition that creates life. And besides that, it’s fun.
The best lines in literature speak of romance, even when they’re not part of the genre. Like this one:
“My God,” he gasped. “You’re fun to kiss.”
Now, that’s sexy I don’t care who you are. It’s F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Dick Diver (of all names) talking to an 18-year-old movie starlet he never should have been kissing. The carousing happens in Tender is the Night, that heartbreakingly beautiful novel about love and desperation, but it’s not categorized as Romance. It’s not the drinking and running around Fitzgerald’s characters do that keep this rambunctious novel filled with characters searching for their souls on the French Rivera out of the category. Those things are pit and pendulum of romance novels. And it’s not the mental demons, stolen childhoods, shattered dreams or broken spirits they have somehow patched back together that betray F. Scott’s novel’s true genre. Those struggles are the raison d’etre of Romance. (Love how that French adds a touch of class.) It’s not any of those things; it’s the lack of a happy ending.
A novel in the Romance genre must do TWO things.
- Place its primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people
- Bring it on home to a happy ending
Things have to work out in the end, and ‘What’s wrong with that?’ I asked that small voice. The troubles are true to life, the solutions are what we hope them to be. The voice had no reply.
Romance writers are known to chase their heroines and heroes up a tree and throw rocks at them, but by the end of the tale, they have to let them climb back down again with at least some of their dignity intact. In Romance, the birds get to sing after the storm. I like that, and so does an imposing group of other readers who spend over a billion dollars yearly on these books. They’re doing what all readers long to do — finding what they love in literature. They’re finding themselves.
We all have struggles. We all face injustice. That’s why romance is so sweet. It reminds us that all humans aren’t pitted against all others all the time. Maybe it’s because the Romance genre is such a complicated beast that it has the speckled reputation of being a favorite, yet a lightweight, among serious members of the Very Smart Book Club. Just look at its many faces.
Contemporary, Erotica, Inspirational, Historical, LGBT, Paranormal, Single title, Category and Suspense, and that’s just to name a few
But no matter the sub-genre, romance writers have a way of getting to heart of their readers, of speaking the truth, and the truth is shining. Look how this New York Times Bestselling author describes her leading man in her Twilight Texas Novel:
Everybody likes Joe. He’s hot and funny and kind and he has an uncanny knack for making money without even trying. But he has a hard time sticking with something long-term. Like relationships. — Lori Wilde, I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Hey, I know that guy, Lori! Every woman I know knows that guy, and some of them have even married him a few times. But you already knew that, didn’t you.
Characters in romance novels usually know all about betrayal, but things change when star-crossed strangers meet and they learn to trust again. Two together can become stronger than apart. That’s what happens here:
She leaned into him, borrowing his strength. “I’m so tired of being scared, Rand.” — Linda Broday, Twice a Texas Bride
She’s tired of being scared, huh, Linda? Well, I’m with her. I don’t mean I’m haunted house scared or Psycho scared or even a little bit Ebola scared, but I’m OMG things at work are going really crappy, and why can’t the kids just do what I say and the 5 o’clock News made me cry scared. And then there’s this ever present aging thing going on. That keeps my knees a-knocking.
Oh, yeah. I’m scared. That’s why I write R O M A N C E. So things can come out just right somewhere.
But what about the really steamy stuff, Erotica?
Some bestselling writers are masters at that. They set the scene and tip you on the edge of your seat before the hot stuff even starts. It’s Anticipation they have working. It’s the I-wonder-what-this-guy’s-going-to-do-to-her-and-what-is-she-going-to-do-back?
Running my tongue across my teeth, I studied Peter. He’d been a pretty decent boss, hadn’t made a big issue out of my past, just told me to keep my nose clean. I appreciated the chance, but I wasn’t sure I could keep my nose clean if I had to keep working around Frank. — Shiloh Walker and M.S. Parker, Ex-Con, A Stand-Alone Bad Boy Romance
Can’t you just see that tongue on those teeth? Can’t you just see that gal with her head cocked to the side studying Peter. I have no idea how this novel comes out but I’ll go All In and bet my chips her boss better lookout. And Frank would be wise to watch his step, too.
With 13% of adult fiction sales, Romance makes booksellers dance in the moonlight
Contemporary is the largest of the Romance subgenres.These novels are set in the time when they were written, and usually reflect the ethics and behaviors of their time, however varied that may be. Bella Andre is a New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author who has sold more than 5 million books. She knows how to tell a story of love and loss and back again. She can break her readers’ heart and mend it before it’s all over.
According to the Romance Writers of America, romance book buyers look like this:
- Female 84%
- Male 16%
MEN’S ROMANCE NOVEL HOLIDAY CHALLENGE
Listen up, guys. Visit your local bookstore and stroll among the shelves. See the books, read the flaps, pick out your favorite ones, then go home and here’s what you do:
Call your Sweetie and tell her/him you want to read to them. Buy some chocolates, a rose, or a chocolate rose if you’re that cool. Fluff the pillows, pour the wine and get ready to read R O M A N C E out loud.
It’s a cheap date, they’ll hear the rumble of your voice in your chest, and it’s satisfaction guaranteed. And I’m not just talking about sex, if that’s appropriate, which we all know isn’t sometimes. I mean two people talking, relating, getting to know, and to care, how the other one feels. It’s fun, it’s refreshing, it’s feisty, too! Whoo ha!
If you’re not sure what book to buy, go home and pull up Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Pour yourself a beer, take those ugly boots off, open the top button of your jeans and click Listen in the right-hand corner of each author’s book that’s on audio. You’ll be an expert in no time and someone will love you for it.
So, whether the reputation of the Romance genre is lofty or lowly, or somewhere in between, romance novels are the linebackers in the football game of Great Literature. They’re the hope of a good night’s sleep. Romance is the heavy lifter that finds its way across all genres, and you can’t say that about any other class of books.
I could go on forever citing favorite passages and pointing to authors that bring you to your knees. I’d tell men to visit an RWA chapter and I’d compare new authors to old, but since things went really crappy for me at work recently after ten years as a publications editor, I have to get back to my freelance assignments. I’ll close with a wise passage from my favorite author, Me.
All love affairs don’t last forever. All dreams don’t come true. But sometimes love finds a place for itself, and it lives and grows and becomes more than the mere mortals it surrounds. It becomes a dream. And dreams, like the spirits within them, can live forever — even through the shadows of our final storms. — Carol McClain Craver, Shadow of the Final Storm
MEN — REMEMBER THE R O M A N C E CHALLENGE: I want to hear from men who took the challenge, or from their friends, male or female, who benefited from it. Did the words make you smile? Did you love sitting side-by-side? Was it nice to hear about someone else’s problems for a change, knowing things would come out right?
Like all romance writers, I long to know if I made your day a little better, put a smile on your face, or a gleam in your Someone’s eye, so share the news so we all can yell, Yippee!
Click the little green heart if you like what you read so more people will see it, too!
Carol McClain Craver