Saturday, June 27, 2009

Romance Apologetics...

Hey everyone! It’s good to be back here on the HEA blog. At the moment, I’m chewing around the whole question of romance fiction, and the fact that somehow the “world at large” seems to consider it an “inferior” occupation – both the reading and the writing of it…

I find the concept a little contradictory. If you think about it, love is universally recognized (aside from the odd total cynic, of course) as a cornerstone of the human psyche. Libraries are jam-packed with books that deal with this theme – from deep psychological explorations examining it’s absence or scars, to the human being’s instinctive search for it, and to it’s redeeming and healing power. In fact, very few “best book of all time” candidates can be said to totally exclude love as part of the novel’s “workings” – kind of makes you think, doesn’t it?

Okay, so “love” is acceptable as a common theme or catalyst in even the greatest literary works. What, then, is the difference between a “love story” and a “romance story” that makes one okay and the other not okay? I always regarded the one as almost-but-not-quite-synonymous with the other, with romance being the “vehicle” and “love” being the subject. I trotted off to the dictionary, to see what I could find, and hey presto: it’s all their fault! (Well, someone has to be responsible, don’t they?)

I discovered a lot of words like “fantastical”, “exaggerated”, “impractical”, “remote from ordinary life” and “sympathetic imaginativeness”. That’s what I write? Really? Hmmm… So where would War of the Worlds fit in? And Dune? And what about Heart of Darkness? Or Othello? I’m confused. Really confused…

The thing is, I put in a lot of time, effort, thought, re-writing to ground my books in reality. I work hard at making my characters believable, at telling their stories in a way that readers can identify with their emotions, difficulties, passions and fears. I explore the “why” behind the “what”, their layers and complexities, and look for personal growth and character development.

What is even more confusing is that pretty much everyone I know (despite protestations to the contrary) accepts the idea of romance as an expression of love in a relationship. Even our solid SA “rugger buggers” know how to wine and dine a lady, and I’ve been to many a rural shindig where the rugged outdoor man, the sheer fun of the party aside, had no problem holding his lady close and whispering sweet nothings. (My Dad, a pretty wise fellow, always said that dancing was vertical movement with horizontal intent, a kind of foreplay where lovers explored the moment….)

And then there are the women of the Age of Enlightenment, who celebrate their well-deserved new status by looking down their noses at the “romancers” of the world, clutching their hefty intellectual tomes and burning (figuratively, at least) the M & B’s or Harlequins they had stashed away in a dark corner. How sad that we have reached such a point of emancipation that we believe we no longer need romance!

Except, of course, that the statistics say otherwise. And these same denigrators of the romance genre are the first (and often the loudest) whiners and whingers when the man in their life forgets the birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s day… They’ll spend an entire week (and a small fortune) planning a night of seduction, or buying that drop-dead-gorgeous dress to catch someone’s eye… Go figure!

The result? I still haven’t quite found the answer to the anomaly. It remains a decidedly “chewy” subject. Despite all this, “romancers” remain the “inferior species” and somehow have to justify their reading / writing preference to the entire world, including those who should love and respect them for who and what they are. In that respect I’ve been fortunate, my nearest and dearest are very supportive. But mention what you do at a public gathering and you’re almost guaranteed the Awkward Silence in which everyone frantically searches for something nice to say, or a nice way to say the something not so nice they’re really thinking. I have to work hard to not say the “and your book was published where?” that all of us are tempted into at one point or another.

For my part, I love romance. I believe in it. I love reading it and I love writing it, and I know I’m not the only one. So I’ve decided to throw it “out there” for the rest of the romance world to grab hold of. Welcome to my Bloghogger Challenge! Pop across to my home blog at: and read the “I read Romance – and I love it!” post, then take up the challenge. Okay, so maybe it won’t change the course of the known universe overnight, but it could be a lot of fun trying…

Thanks for having me, and I’ll see you on the blog!

Judah Raine


Lindsay Townsend said...

Excellent post, Judah! I agree - romance is for some reason a looked-down-on genre.

Crime isn't. Murder, mayhem, sadism - right on! Romance, celebrating the most intense experience people ever encounter - Oh, no thanks.

Romance is old - The Odyssey is the story of a man desperate to return to his wife and son.

What's with all these emotionally tight-as*ed people?

Kathleen O said...

Romance has been around for thousands of years and it is what makes the world revolve.. Of course it goes hand in hand with love, sex, marraiage, scandal, and all the other parts involved. So why not write about and that is what is keeping the book publishers alive today.. Romances are far outselling anything else out there..
And those who look down on romance novels are just jealous and as Lindsay so elquently put it tight-as*ed...
Romance Rules

Savanna Kougar said...

Hey, Judah, great commentary and analysis. The subject is at once, incredibly complex and excruciatingly simplistic.
But then, isn't that love?
Personally, I've come to believe part of the lack of respect has to do with the 'overly male' or the unbalanced yin and yang of our current world.
Honestly, the feminine is simply not very well respected, overall. Of course, when the yang can't respect the yin, it simply means, at the core, there is a lack of respect for the yang self. I've seen this play out over and over.

Lindsay, emotionally tight-as*ed is right on...

Kathleen, yep, Romance Rules!

Linda Banche said...

Savanna, I agree with you. If 90% of the romance readers were men, romance would be the most respected genre out there.

Everyone likes romance, whether they'll admit it or not. There has to be a reason why romance sells better than any other genre. It's time to stop apologizing.