Growing up, romances were considered the worse books to read in my house. At least certain romances were. Chick lit and high school romances were acceptable to read on occasion and classics were always fine. But traditional romances with a man and a woman embracing on the cover? Those were trashy, poorly written, and only worth reading for the sex scenes which probably made up at least half of the book’s contents.
After a certain age, I was allowed to read whatever book I wanted to, but romances were still looked down upon as the least valuable genre. However, by the time I hit middle school, romance novels were just too tempting.
Since they’re available at every place ever that sells secondhand books, it wasn’t hard for me to find romances and form my own opinions about romances. And it wasn’t long before I really liked them, so much that I started my own blog to review just them. And millions of other readers love them just as much.
There are a lot of stereotypes involving avid romance readers, like desperate spinsters, lonely women, and curious teenage girls. But the truth is, the majority of romance readers are college educated women who are married and have fulfilling lives. So even though there is a level of escapism, there’s a lot more to the appeal of romance than that.
Many women, myself included, like it for the positive messages in the books. The heroine almost always has insecurities about her body or her wits or personality and yet the hero is still completely enraptured by her. For instance, in Lord Braybrooke’s Penniless Bride by Elizabeth Rolls, Christina Daventry is incredibly insecure about her financial means, looks, and heritage. As the bastard daughter of a nobleman, she is only one wrong move away from being on the streets. However, somehow she captures the heart of Lord Braybrooke without even really trying. While people could chalk it up to the fact that she’s really beautiful without even knowing it, that’s not true in all romances. In Morning Comes Softly by DebbieMacomber, Montana rancher Travis Thompson marries a woman he doesn’t think it beautiful in the slightest. However, he ends up falling in love with her anyway. While not everyone thinks finding love is the ultimate goal in life, in romance books, it means happiness. Romance books say that everyone can find happiness without changing who they are.
While the positive message is attractive to readers of all ages, others, especially teenagers, have another reason to read romances.
“They help me study for SATs,” a friend once told me, laughing. “It’s strange, but where else am I going to read words like florid, staccato, and amorous outside of vocab exercises and classics?”
She had a point. Despite my family’s thought that all romances are poorly written, I have noticed that I need to turn to the dictionary with them more than any other genre. It’s not so much that they are trying to hard to be ‘intellectual’. It’s more that there is a lot of emotion in romance books, even more than other genre because the main storyline is an emotional connection. Sometimes, ‘happy’, ‘sad’, and ‘angry’ just doesn’t cut it so the writer turns to bigger and less-used words to describe their characters and their settings. While this isn’t really a reason to read romance books, it is a bonus for some people. I know I’m not the only one who thinks so. In the guidance counselor office at my school were some romance books with the SAT study material that had been picked out for their vocab usage.
And of course, plenty of people read romance for escapism. Many like the idea of a man completely devoted and focused on them, without the distractions of social media, sports, or work. Some compare reading romance novels to foreplay because in romance books, the women always have the men’s full attention, which is also true for foreplay. For those in the teenage crowd, they like experiencing romance in the books because they are curious or their own love life is lack-luster from slim pickings at their school. But even those satisfied with their love lives love romance books for escapism because they don’t just show an ideal relationship. They also show an ideal world, where there’s always a happy ending, family reunions are fun without the stress, and bad hair days are once in a blue moon. Even dystopian worlds are considered ideal, because they are full of excitement and danger, unlike our usual, monotonous yet safe lives.
No matter what your reason is for loving romance, if you are as avid a reader as I am, you probably burn through the books easily. Sometimes I can read as many as four of them a month. Actually romance readers read more than readers of every other genre. Scribd actually had to remove the majority of their romances because the cost of the books the readers were reading exceeded the amount they were getting in subscriptions. However, it’s often hit or miss on if the romance is good or not. Even the tight genres provided by Harlequin and Silhouette can have a few duds in a brand you normally like.