I never thought of myself as a romance writer. My go-to staple genres have always been science-fiction, fantasy, psychological thrillers, and horror. Those genres sometimes include romance but it’s not usually the main subject of the book. Yet, whenever I sit down to write something, romance comes out. It puzzled me until I analysed it and the truth dawned on me. We all want love. I’d say we crave it. We want to be loved and fully accepted by another human being. It drives us.
When we read a romance novel, we experience feelings of love through the characters in a way that may not exist in our everyday lives. It gives us the high, the hope that the love we yearn for is possible for us. It helps to renew our belief in love.
We live in a world where we’re bombarded with images of pain, divorce, disasters, acts of violence, and war. But when we read a romance novel, we reconnect with love, with the idea that there is something higher than the pain and discontent that pours daily from our TV screens or from social media.
For readers who have not yet experienced a soulmate love, reading a romance novel can open them up to what that might feel like and how worthwhile a pursuit it can be for them. As one of my characters says in my novel, Under A Namibian Sky, “In the end, love is all we have.”
Yes, love is all we have. We come into this world with nothing but love and when we leave again, that’s all we can take with us. It’s how we expand our souls through love while we’re here that matters most.
Human beings and human relationships are complex. So, stories are a safe way to explore those complexities and can even help us deal with our own issues.
There are many other reasons romance novels are important, but that it can also be entertainment is not to be sneezed at. When a reader with a demanding job or a mum pulled in many directions, read a romance novel, it’s a great way to just relax, have fun, and escape from the daily grind.
Even though nowadays, romance novels are widely accepted, there are still those who turn up their noses at the thought of reading one. That these novels are unrealistic – who really gets the happily ever after, right? – or at worst, that such novels are ‘trashy,’ ‘titillating’ or ‘fluffy,’ and inferior to other genres, is still very much the perception, especially of those who do not read romances. (Interestingly, opponents of romance novels often overlook the fact that classics such as Jane Austen’s books are the most sigh-worthy romances. I assume it’s because her books are ‘older’ that it doesn’t count?)
And yet, the romance genre is the biggest selling genre in the book world. Why? Why do we read them?
I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts about why you feel romance novels are important?