by Kate Loveday
Romance novels often come in for unfair criticism, being variously described as ‘trashy’, ‘trivial’, ‘naive’ or even plain ‘stupid’—and unrealistic.
What the critics don’t take into account is that these stories, as with all works of fiction, depict a slice of life as it can happen. So do mysteries, thrillers and adventure yarns, to name a few. We don’t hear these works scoffed at—and romances are certainly more true to life than science fiction, for example.
A romance novel focuses on the emotional involvement between two people; there are novels that focus solely on the relationship, and there are others that have another darn good story interwoven with the romance. In fact, many books are dubbed ‘romance’ incorrectly. The Romance Writers of Australia gives the following definitions:
- A ‘romance’ is a book where the romance itself is the main plot and the romance resolves happily or optimistically.
- A ‘romantic novel’ has romance as an integral part of the plot but other areas of focus as well.
- A ‘love story’ revolves around a romantic relationship but need not end happily.
The Oxford dictionary defines romance as ‘a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love’. Is that such a bad thing to read about?
And if we like to read a story that has a happy ending—is that a bad thing? Surely there’s enough unhappiness in the world without reading a fictional account of it! And if it brings readers a hope that maybe their relationship will end happily too, is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.
Barna W. Donovan, PhD, an expert on fan behaviour, and professor in the Department of Communication and Media Culture at Saint Peter’s University, New Jersey, has this to say about criticism of romance novels: ‘It implies that female pleasures are somehow inferior and art created expressly for women is somehow less worthy of respect.’
Weren’t those sort of ideas supposed to be outdated years ago? Could it be that the critics of this genre are wary of emotional involvement themselves, and therefore find it confronting to read, and dismiss it with disdain as being unworthy of their attention?
I am happy and proud to be known as a writer of ‘romance’ and ‘romantic novels’. Inheritance, available now, and Black Mountain, scheduled for release in June , are both ‘romantic novels’.
We all need hope and happiness in our lives, so whether you like romance, romantic novels or love stories, keep reading…and enjoying.