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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TOPIC: Everything You Know About Romance Novels Is Wrong (part 2)

This is a continuation of the post from saturday, 8th December 2012 on Everything You Know About Romance Novels Is Wrong (part 1).

Kymberly from the Grumble Bumble blog has generously given her permission for me to share this post with you.

Myth #3: Romance novels are predictable.
Boy and girl fall in love. The end. That's supposedly what all romance novels contain. Once you've read one, you've read them all. Bo-ring!

I always enjoyed this perception of romance novels, because it's exactly what I hate about, say, mystery novels. Alcoholic cop is stalked by serial killer who taunts him. Alcoholic cop bucks the system and saves a pretty woman right before serial killer murders her in some elaborate fashion. Sound at all familiar?

Books within any genre can stick to a formula, if their authors desire to do so. I can't think of any book that doesn't contain an element that hasn't been done and done and done. Robots? Aliens? Zombies? Vampires? Alcoholic cop taunted by serial killers? Done! Done! Done! So what? If it's written well and people enjoy reading it, what's the problem?

If I'm bored by a romance novel, I stop reading it. I do the same when I read any other book, especially one where a cop just won't follow the rules.

But romance novels rarely bore me. I just find cowboys avenging the murder of their sister and dukes rebuilding the estate ruined by their fathers and maids hunting for a way to get their family out of poverty and pirates discovering stowaways off the coasts of India interesting. And those are just the historical romance novels!

There's also contemporary romance, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, science fiction romance and even inspirational romance, where God is part of the equation. My best friend reads romance novels about Navy SEALS and bounty hunters and FBI agents and the women who love them. I prefer my novels with dashing dukes and duchesses and cowboys and heiresses and spunky modern women who just don't have time for love. Give me a witch and a haunted castle and I'm in heaven.

And I happen to have a ridiculous soft spot for time travel romances, especially ones that involve Vikings. The romance genre has all that and more. This is a big damn tent; come on in.

Do boy and girl fall in love (and these days, boy and boy and girl and girl or some combination thereof) and have a happy ending? Almost always. Just like the hardboiled detective usually solves the case in mysteries and the disaffected writer usually ends up alone and confused in "literature" and the hungry-for-love career girl usually gets her guy in "chick lit."

Get away from me with pinning this "formulaic" accusation on romance novels alone. (You want me to go into a lengthy dissertation on devaluation of the feminine and reduction of an encompassing human emotion to silly women's nonsense? I can do it, I'm not even lying. Don't tempt me.)

Moving on...

Myth #4: The heroes in romance novels are always perfect.
NO, THEY ARE NOT. Honestly, I can't even stand to read a romance novel where the guy is perfect. But, even more honestly, I can't remember the last one I encountered where the hero is perfect instead of, you know, human, with, like, flaws.

I just read one where the hero is terrified of water because his son drowned. Another where the hero can't stand to be around fire because he was burned. There are heroes who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. And many, many heroes who have a significant disability in either their body or mind.

To imply that romance novels only have "perfect" men demeans writers, by implying they have no imagination, and readers, by implying all readers only want a perfect man. Even the physically gorgeous specimens who drip with money and class generally have prejudices and obstacles they must overcome in order to be deserving of the heroine. Because, in the end, romance novels are about the heroine.

And finally...

Myth #5: Heroines in romance novels are always beautiful.
Truly, romance novels are about the heroine. It is the heroine who grows and, by growing, attains that which she desires, which, by the way, usually isn't just the hot guy -- often it is a great job or a beautiful home or a loving family or travel around the world or an illness or disability defeated or adjusted to or any number of things too many to list.

And the heroines can be beautiful, just like the heroes can be gorgeous, but it's not required. I think if every character was flawless, romance readers would revolt en masse. And, like heroes, heroines in romance novels have obstacles to overcome.

And, often, these obstacles involve the heroine's perception of her appearance. They think they're too fat, or too skinny, or too pale, or too dark, or hate their frizzy hair, or their dull brown eyes. It is through the introduction (or reintroduction) of a person into their lives or through an alteration of their circumstances that they begin to see themselves as worthy. Just the way they are.

Now, that's the kind of story I'd want my daughter to read. One where the heroine overcomes obstacles, learns to love herself, and gets the guy. Oh, and has lots of great sex too.

What's not to love? 

Many thanks to Kymberly from Grumble Bumble blog for allowing me to share her post here!


  1. Great blog on what romance novels are really like!

  2. Man, I am armed with so many comebacks now, thanks to Kymberly. Thank you for sharing, Kylie. :)

  3. It’s the romance writer’s job to create believable characters that live real lives in an amazing way. The romantic heroine is that woman every female reader wishes was her, and every guy wishes was with him. The romantic hero is that man who’ll climb the tallest peak and swim a stormy sea to save his once-in-a-lifetime, forever-after girl.

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  5. Myth three is the winner for me. While romance novels have a pretty solid backbone, their content varies greatly. Historical romance novels, for example, take you to different places where you never thought romance was possible. Also, the details and twists that the protagonist can encounter throughout the story are what many readers (including me) crave for.