Wednesday, March 30, 2016

WHY READ ROMANCE?

by Blair Bancroft 

I confess to writing a first version of this blog as an article for my website way back when it was shiny new - 15+ years ago. And since then I've updated it for my personal blog, Grace's Mosaic Moments, which has everything from photos of the grandgirls to rants about bad editing, but which mostly features Writing and Editing tips aimed at newbies.

But I suspect most of the Gems blog readers haven't seen "Why Read Romance" before, and maybe you, too, feel the need to justify your passion for the subject. So here it is, the reason I not only write romance but also read it. I hope you find something that strikes a chord.


                      WHY READ ROMANCE?


Have you ever had someone glance at the paperback you were reading and declare scornfully, “I never read romance!” Or perhaps you’re an author sitting hopefully at a book-signing, eager to show off your baby, and someone says exactly the same thing.

Let me tell you, it’s worse than rude. It’s downright cutting.

But, Romance Lovers, don’t rush out to buy a book cover or turn to reading exclusively on electronic devices (to hide your habit). Hold your head high and know you are among the majority of readers and/or authors in the country. Romance is Big Business, outselling all other genres rolled into one.

My personal response to those who ask why I write Romance is that I have always liked Happily Ever After endings. There is so much angst in the world, including in my own life, that my inner self absolutely requires a pick-me-up, and that’s what Romance does. It plunges the characters into major conflicts then drags them out again, reassuring us that life can be beautiful—even if we are still struggling to get to that point.

More than a decade ago, I wrote my first version of  “Why Read Romance” (an article posted to my very first website). Through the years I’ve updated it a time or two, but very little of the article you see below has changed. The joys of Romance remain the same, whether we’re indulging in Contemporary Romance, Romantic Mystery/Suspense, Historical Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Futuristic (Romantic SciFi), or any of the other sub-genres of Romance. Whether you’re reading a 40,000-word novella or a 100,000-word “Mainstream.”

Men indulge in sports, tinkering with machines, and a variety of other hobbies, to get away from the stresses of daily life. I suggest that women read Romance for the same reason. We find pleasure in it, and it takes our minds off our personal problems. I’d go so far as to say, reading Romance is a prescription for improved mental health!

If you need an argument for the die-hard skeptics, however, let’s take a moment to analyze the situation. Here’s how I saw it long ago, and nothing since has changed my mind.


                                                                ~ * ~

First of all, whoever said “Love makes the world go round” wasn’t lying. Real Women aren’t afraid to admit it, while so-called Real Men are generally terrified of it. Real Women read Romance because that prized quality called “Heart” lies at the basis of every relationship. We want it, we seek it, we grasp it. We hang on for dear life. For the world would be a cold, dark place with out Love.

Admittedly, women’s approach to Love could be likened to a rifle. Men . . . well, maybe a shotgun comes closer to the mark. Women like to read about Love. Men would rather do it, thank you very much. Nonetheless, the emotions on both sides of the gender gap are powerful. I would suggest, however, that gentlemen could learn a thing or two from reading Romance.

Big question: Does Love work for everyone? Does it stay new-minted, bright and shiny, dazzling in its intensity?

Probably not. But for many, new love settles into a stronger, more lasting emotion, into warmth, companionship, and respect that lasts a lifetime. Yet women fortunate enough to be part of that relationship still enjoy the nostalgia of reading about those precious first moments, those early days when love was uncertain, agonizing, or downright disastrous. Or when it was a sea of fresh discoveries, exquisite torture of the senses.

And then there are those who, for a variety of reasons, live without vivid memories of love’s halcyon days. For them reading Romance provides glimpses of the intense moments they missed  and inspires hope that those special moments are still to come.

For the rest—those who lost their beloved partners through death, divorce, or desertion. For them, reading Romance can bring back the beauty of when Love was new or, like those who never knew Love, inspire hope for the future. Failing all else, reading a book that ends with Happily Ever After can provide pleasure even for those who know Love will not come to them again.

Love—or reading about it—
can perk up a day faster than a bowl of ice cream - with fudge topping

For some reason—probably the eons-long domination of writing by Men, all the so-called Great Romances are tragedies. (As in Romeo & Juliet, Arthur & Guinevere, Tristan & Isolde, not to mention some contemporary novels, mislabeled “romance” and also written by men.) But finally, in the last two decades, women have begun to write the stories they want to read. And now there are thousands of books about women who learned to cope with conflict, come out on the other side of personal difficulties, and do what had to be done to find the right person to share their lives.

Theses are the people we should praise. Forget Romeo and Julie, who mismanaged things badly and never made it out of their teens. To me, that’s not Romance. I look to Jane and Joe Schmo who survived.  And raised their children to be able to love and be loved. Jane and Joe who paid the Mortgage and Dental Bills. Taxes. College. The next generation’s Weddings.

No wonder Jane wants to put her feet up and settle down with a good Romance! Yes, sometimes we all need reminding of those first bright days of love when Joe wasn’t quite so devoted to golfing, fishing, or couch-potatoing. We open a book . . . and there before us is that marvelous Regency gentleman with his impeccable manners . . . or the dashing and untamed Scottish chieftain. We sigh over that pillar of rugged individualism, the American cowboy. Hunky cops and daring men of the Special Forces. Lawyers, doctors, firemen, and businessmen as well. And we just might get an idea or three about putting Romance back in our lives.

As for the women who say they never read Romance—ah, ladies, you have no idea what you’re missing. Pull up a chair, sit down, relax, and try on a Romance. Who knows, a good Romance just might inspire Mellow where it would do the most good.

The many Romances available range from Short & Sweet to Sexy & Sassy. From Thrillers and Suspense to Vampires, Fairies, and Outer Space. From Comedy to Drama and every nuance in between. But they have one thing in common: a happy ending.

As I always tell people, “There are enough problems in this world. I don’t want to read about them when reading for pleasure. I write books with happy endings and I want to read books with happy endings. These books buoy up my day, my week, my year, my life. No matter how dark the world around me, they keep me going. My heart tells me it’s not all fiction.


~ * ~



Thanks for letting me sound off on a topic close to my heart. And please come back to Gems in the Attic again and again.

Blair Bancroft

For Grace's Mosaic Moments, please click here. 
For Blair's website, please click here. 



15 comments:

  1. I agree, Blair! I've been a lover of romance novels since grade school. I don't think that's likely to change now. ;-)

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  2. I fell in love with romance when I tried to "fix" the ending of Gone With the Wind in the fifth grade... Since then, I've been forever the "hopeful romantic." Wonderful post, Blair.

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  3. Fix the end of Gone With the Wind! I really like that. Not that I ever had much sympathy with Scarlett, but I first saw the movie when I was six and Clark Gable was just way too old for a hero! And thanks for the kind words. Thank goodness for us "romantics" out there!

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    1. Lol. I have to wonder how many of us have re-written that particular ending. And how many of us let Beth March live in Little Women.

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  4. If you don't truly believe in lasting love I can't imagine you'd want to write about it. I love the idea of love!

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  5. Nice article. I'm alway surprised--yes, still--that those most critical of romantic fiction are those who have never read it.

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  6. Exactly, Liz. I've seen people react as if I'd just asked them to pick up a snake. I can't even imagine where they picked up that attitude. But then my mother put me through college writing serial romance for the old Modern Romance magazine!

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  8. One of the problems with the "oh so superior" attitude types about reading romance is that they're showing their ignorance--and they don't even know it. Those of us who write romance know that segment of the book market is the biggest money maker by far. And when you tell them, the look on their face is priceless. Still we struggle to educate and share the warmth of the happily ever after. (sorry, my editor was taking a mental health break so I had to delete and correct copy)

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  9. Great post! I confess. I too have written and given speeches entitled, "Why Romance?" Yes to rewriting the end of GWTW and Little Women as well as modern movies whose endings just suck. Remember Somersby starring Jodie Foster and Richard Gere where he gets hanged at the end? That made me hate the entire movie!!

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  10. I agree totally with your article. Romance novels have and continue to get me through and over rough patches in my life. I've always loved the HEA!

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