As I’m reading another one of Julie James’ romance novels, Suddenly One Summer, this week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) got me thinking about all the reasons why I love the genre so much, especially since it suffers so much ridicule and so many misconceptions in the literary world.
Why do I love reading romance novels? Let me count the ways!
- Overlaps all literary genres. Sure, romance novels are, in essence, love stories, but those stories can be wrapped in a variety of casings. There are romantic thrillers, supernatural romances, historical romances, among many others. There are subgenres for Christians, the military, even the Amish. Whatever kind of love you’re looking for, someone is writing the book for you.
- Mass appeal. Because romance is a genre that easily overlaps with others, it has a global reach. Just like some moviegoers prefer indie films to Hollywood blockbusters, some readers may prefer experimental fiction to commercial fiction. I am not one of those people–at least not when it comes to love stories. Bring on the tried-and-true tales of what works!
- Series or standalone. If you’re like me, you’re burnt out on long, sprawling series that take over your whole life. It may be because of the nature of my book club, but nowadays I tend to gravitate toward stories that are one and done. Julie James’ U.S. Attorney series is a happy medium: her novels inhabit the same universe of law and order in Chicago, but by no means do you need to read them all to enjoy them.
- Interesting, multi-dimensional characters. Don’t let bad romance novels (*cough* Fifty Shades of Grey *cough*) color your opinion about the merit of the genre’s characterization. Not all the women are Mary Sues, and most in fact, have fulfilling lives outside of their relationships. Shocker I know!
- Increasing diversity. Love is blind, but as a white heterosexual woman, I’m not going to declare that the entire publishing industry feels the same way. That said, I applaud efforts to increase diversity in romance novels by supporting more books with racial minorities, LGBT characters, and the disabled. It’s been proven that inclusive media makes people more tolerant, so we all benefit from reading diverse romance novels.
- Support of feminism. If there’s a theme that I love seeing in romance novels, it’s that the women don’t need to have men in their lives. They simply want them there. Rather than enable traditional gender norms in which the prince rescues the damsel in distress, both parties should inspire the other to become better people and treat them with mutual respect. After all, what’s truly sexy is equality!
- Sexual tension. Okay, I can’t talk about what’s sexy in romance novels without discussing the actual sex. While I abhor books that waste my time with nothing more than fade-to-blacks, I enjoy the slow burn of building the sexual tension between characters before watching the explosion. Foreplay is essential, and I only wish it was as present in the male-dominated forms of erotic media (aka porn) since it’s clearly men–not women–who need to learn this valuable lesson.
- Hilarious dialogue. Sometimes it’s good; other times it’s so bad, it’s good; and in a few gems it’s bloody fantastic. Sex doesn’t always have to be serious, and I love characters that have playful banter with one another. Whether it’s witty or even slightly on the corny side, I’m a sucker for quick quips. In my mind it’s the fastest way to verbal seduction.
- Happy endings. Call romance novels formulaic, but there’s a reason why Game of Thrones isn’t in the genre. The world can be downright depressing, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to read a story in which the bad guys get their just desserts and the lovers live happily ever after. I definitely use romance novels as my literary Prozac when I’m feeling blue and need a pick-me-up!
- Escapist fun. Extending my previous point, what I love most about romance novels is that they don’t depict real life. Yes, I know that meet-cutes are rare and that love is much messier and more complicated, but in these books, I know that the stakes are low and that everything will work out in the end. And if I can be entertained by larger-than-life characters and zany plots, then all the better!
Do you like romance novels as much as I do? Share your reasons for reading in the comments!