When you walk into a bookstore, there are so many isles of books of such varied genre. Yet many of us bypass all other genre and head directly to the section headed "Romance". Why is that? Critics often say that each book is the same. There is a hero, a heroine, conflict, and HEA. But we all know the truth; there is much, much more than that.
Have you noticed, many authors start as romance writers, but as they expand their writing skills and delve into darker subplots, the spine of their books change from romance to fiction. Sure, these stories still have a romance, but romance between the hero and heroine is no longer the primary focus of the novel. Typically, I find this most apparent as an author moves from romance, to romantic suspense, to stories where the suspense and mystery begins to overshadow the romance.
There is another series which I adore where it began as a romance series, but now the progress of the overriding storyline of the series is taking over each book, as opposed to the romance being the primary focus. These books now also say fiction. Sure, we still read them, we've come to love these authors, but we still return to our tried and true "romances".
Personally, I read romances for escapism. I want to be able to leave the troubles of life behind, and for a short time, immerse myself in a world where the good guys win, the bad guys get caught, and love triumphs.
I asked readers why they continue to read romances, and was overwhelmed by the enthused responses. As you can imagine, the number one reason - HEA. They want to know that the characters that they've come to care about will be happy (and alive, or maybe undead depending on the story...) at the end.
The next biggest reason for reading a romance? Intense Emotion. Now, we're not talking the three-letter word that rhymes with hex. No, we are talking about the crafty authors who create characters that we come to care about, and the reactions that we feel as those characters experience events. With a great romance, we may laugh, cry, fear, sigh, and cheer. Of course, the most memorable stories are the ones that make us feel the entire gamut of emotions. My favorite stories are always the ones that are the "heart-tugger" - where the hero and or the heroine are "oh-so-in-love" with the other.
Another favored reason for reading romances is for adventure or travel. Once minute, we are sitting waiting in the doctor's office, the next we are entering Almack's, or riding a train across Alaska, or cruising on a space ship exploring a new galaxy, or swimming near the Great Barrier Reef. Yet, we know that no matter where the book takes us, or what challenges the characters face, we will always have the perfect resolution.
Romances inspire the readers to make changes in their lives. Typically the hero and heroine must overcome obstacles put in their way and find love along the way. Also, with the basic principles of romance, they often have strong family values. There is a commitment between the hero and heroine, and the optimism that together, their future is brighter.
To finish, definitely the most elaborate response was from author Nancy Lindquist. With her permission, I am quoting her 7 Reasons She Picks Romances (note - I've summarized).
1) Happy Endings
3) Remembering the romance in a relationship before kids
4) Romance makes me smile. I like it when people are happy and in love
5) Romance reminds me that other people deserve joy.
6) Strong female characters who may not need a man, but enjoy having one around because they love him.
7) Romance novels can be complex, but at their heart are simple and pure.
I would be interested in learning your opinions about why you read romances and the comments I received from others. Feel free to e-mail me also with questions or topics you might like to have addressed in future columns. Although I do not make any guarantees, I will take all e-mails into consideration.