I’ve been reading (and writing) romance stories since I was in seventh grade. I won’t share exactly how many years that’s been, but since I’ve passed the doorway into my 5th decade, you can see it’s been awhile.
I’ve seen the idea passed around by friends, family, teachers, and strangers that there’s something plebeian, unintellectual, silly, prurient or just plain stupid. I mean, all those bodice ripper covers with shirtless muscly men — they had to be appealing to a reader’s sense of sensationalism or escapism just like tabloids, right? Or that they are poorly written, follow a formula, and are pumped out like said tabloids without care for quality.
My argument for this is what is so different and drives so much contempt for romance that other genres for whatever reason get to escape? There are poorly written formulaic books in every genre… I’m pretty sure in murder mysteries someone’s gonna die, you’ll meet the actual culprit within the first 3 chapters, and the protagonist will suspect at least 3 other people with great motives for murder before some seemingly innocent clue leads him/her to the truth. Some of these books are so well written you are turning pages as fast as possible to get to that truth, you care about the characters, you want justice to be served. But others you never get past that third chapter because they don’t have what it takes to keep you caring.
Fantasy novels, spy novels, westerns, crime novels, they are all written to appeal to readers who may want to escape for a few hours, how is this different from romance? It’s not. In each of these genres there is something about the human experience that a good author can share with you – whether it’s a hero’s journey, a sense of there being good people who will do the right thing in the world, that justice will prevail, or, that there is love, true love, that overcomes otherwise seemingly insurmountable problems.
I don’t know where the idea that tragedy or misery = intellectual thought. That happy endings are for suckers and to prove you’re not one, that you have to believe they don’t exist.
But all of us are searching for happy endings in our lives. We work hard to make friendships last, we study hard to get the degree, we teach our children how to do the best they can so they can find happiness. We strive for balance and we exercise and we look for and hope for happiness in every day of our lives. So how can we call it unintellectual when it’s something for which we are always yearning? Maybe its something we should follow our hearts to find – but in so doing doesn’t mean we are leaving our heads behind.
So, the next time someone turns up their nose because they see you are reading a romance novel, engage that person in a conversation about what they’re reading. Find ways to point out that there’s nothing more or less intellectual about any one genre. Reading romance doesn’t make you less intelligent, or seeking more of an escape, or even point out that you must be unhappy in your own relationship. It just means you like to read stories about when love prevails, because we have so many reminders in the world about when it doesn’t.