7 Day Blog Challenge, Writing

In Defense of Romance Novels

Surely you’ve heard the snark. The titters over the lurid covers. The pollyanna insistence on a happy ending. Bodice rippers. Lowbrow, genre, not-literary. Porn for women. Harlequin used to be accused of selling books like bars of soap.

Romance novels get a bad rap.
And it’s totally ridiculous. Let me tell you why.


Myth One: Feminists don’t read romance novels.

A feminist is a person who supports social, economic, personal, and political rights for women. Romance novels are written for women, by women. They feature a woman choosing her life partner. The woman chooses to find romantic and (usually) sexual fulfillment on her own terms, whatever unique terms those might be. The woman chooses—that’s not even true of all countries in the world yet and certainly was not historically the case. Of all genres, romance novels feature empowered women blazing their own path to their own happily ever after.


Myth Two: Romance novels are not literature.

I think what the person who says this is just being pretentious. They want their reading choices to say, “I’m so smart! I only read real literature.” What does that even mean?

Romance novels are a genre, with conventions and tropes that are expected by the readers of the genre, just like mystery, science fiction, horror and all other genres. On the other side of these commercial genres, literary fiction stands in contrast. What is literary fiction? Whatever doesn’t fit into the defined genres. There is a sense that literary fiction is somehow worthier and more noble because it’s usually a slog to read with a sad ending. And historically (though this has changed in recent times) it was written by men.
Oh, and also, just as an aside, romance readers don’t only read romance. Most romance readers are voracious readers who read across a broad spectrum. So, if I want to read my Nora Roberts today and my Margaret Atwood tomorrow and my Shakespeare on Friday, I will, thank you very much, with no one’s approval of my reading choices required.

Myth Three: Romance novels are trashy.

Why are they trashy? Because they contain sex scenes? But no, that can’t be all of it. Mystery novels, horror novels, science fiction, and even “literary” fiction often contain sex scenes. Romance novels are trashy because they depict women enjoying sex. Quell horror! We can’t have that!

is this a kissing book
Also, not all romances contain sex and those that do range from soft-focus love scenes to explicit sex. But why does our society frown on women enjoying sex? And why is that acceptable? Shouldn’t good, consensual sex be part of a loving, respectful, romantic relationship? This also ties into the tired “romance novels give women unreasonable expectations” chestnut. So, if a romance novel teaches readers to expect respect, love, and really hot sex and most partners can’t provide that, the problem is not with the romance novel, is it?
Myth Four: Romance novels are all the same or formulaic.

Okay. In the sense that all cars are the same, all computers are the same, all hamburgers are the same, it is true that all romance novels are the “same.” According to Romance Writers of America, the defining characteristics of a romance novel are that it feature a central love story and an optimistic ending. It’s usually a couple, though that couple can be heterosexual or homosexual. Some books feature more than two partners. And the optimistic, emotionally satisfying ending usually does mean that the couple commits to a relationship for the foreseeable future—the so-called happily ever after.

Within those confines, there are too many sub-genres of romance to list. The main three are contemporary, historical, and paranormal. Beyond that, there are Young Adult (YA) and New Adult (NA). There are contemporaries set in small towns, in cities, in far flung locales. There are historicals for every time period from antiquity to World War II. Paranormal can encompass elements such as ghosts or magic to fully realized worlds containing every mythical creature ever imagined. There are also romances set on future starships or on alien worlds. And that’s not even to speak of favorite tropes such as arranged marriages, friends to lovers, second chance at love… the permutations are literally endless.
In the last few months alone, I’ve read romances set in New York City, one set in contemporary India, a Georgian take on fairy tales, and one set in ancient Rome.

But they’re all just the same, carbon copies of each other. Just like all mysteries are the same—I mean the killer is caught at the end, right? Or all sitcoms are the same because I mistake Big Bang Theory for The Office every time. **eyeroll**

I’ve been reading romance for over thirty years and I just published my sixth romance novel. I love discovering each couple’s path to happily-ever-after. I’m a proud feminist. I am a well-educated woman, with a graduate degree. Before I became a writer, I enjoyed great success in my chosen legal career. I’m happily married and the mother of a son.

And I’m proud to say not only do I read romances but I write them too.


7 Day Blog Challenge, Manifesto

A Romance Novelist’s Manifesto

Hi gang! This week might be a bit different here in blogville as I’m doing Jeff Goin’s 7 day blogging challenge. I loved his book, The Art of Work, and am looking forward to completing these challenges this week. BTW, it’s not too late to join on the fun. Go here or click on the picture.


Our first assignment was to create a manifesto. I suspect this will be a living document but here’s my first crack at it. Would love to hear thoughts and feedback. Thanks!

I believe in happily-ever-after. I believe in soulmates. I believe that love is the most important force in the world. I believe in love that stands the test of time, through death, into eternity. I believe that the single most important choice we will ever make is the person we choose to spend our one wild and precious life with.

Since the dawn of time, humanity has fallen in love, over and over, in endless variations. Every one of those love stories is as unique, beautiful, and wondrous as a snowflake. What a miracle for two people to find each other in this seething mass of humanity sharing this blue planet spinning through the cosmos.

Romance novels delve into that short period in a person’s life where they meet their soulmate, struggle to make it work and fall in love. What could be more exciting, more thrilling, more joyful than a couple falling in love?
Many people are dismissive of romance novels. Everyone’s heard the criticism. They’re formulaic. They all end the same. They are porn for women. They raise unrealistic expectations of love and relationships. They cloud women’s minds so they can’t tell fact from fiction.

Those critics are not my readers.

My readers are the people who believe in love, the people who want to travel with a couple on their unique journey to their own happily-ever-after whether that journey occurs on a sleek spaceship or at a medieval joust or in a contemporary city.

I want to take my readers on that magical journey that falling in love is. Let them experience the excitement, the fear, the desire as the hero and heroine find each other, challenge each other, and finally, love each other. I want to my readers to be able to immerse themselves in my story world, to laugh, to cry, and to cheer my hero and heroine on their path to their happily-ever-after.

And, if my words can provide a much needed break for a stay-at-home mom, a harried career woman, a lonely widow, a hopeful student, or a mom sitting at the bedside of a sick child, than so much the better. Maybe I made their lives better for a few hours, gave them hope or a laugh or just a respite from their busy, overstuffed modern lives. If so, I will consider my life well spent.

Just as I cannot remember a time before I could read, I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to write down the infinite stories, the varied characters inside me. Just as I have always been a writer, I will always be a writer. It’s up to me to sling the ink, to spin the yarn, to craft the tale. My readers bring their imaginations and their perspectives and together we create a story.

And find our own happily-ever-afters.

I made a poster in Canva for it too. I think I’m going to frame it for my office.