Why I Read Romance

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Am I a romantic person?
*giggle, snort*
No, I can tell you without any irony that I am undoubtedly not a romantic person. (Do you think it’s possible for me to use any more negatives in this sentence?)

I am the kind of person who sees pictures of cute kittens and mini-humans and says “aw” more because I am obliged to than because I am actually overwhelmed with cuteness. Public displays of promposals and homecoming ask-outs make me uncomfortable; my smile always feels slightly fixed and my hands are always slow to clap. To me, the idea of having all that attention fixed on you is scary. I don’t mean to sound prudish, but I think all that cuteness and romance is nauseating and unnecessary. I always feel sympathy for both people participating in the spectacle.  There are so many expectation and  the pressure on them has to be astronomical.

I am usually a serious person. Words like “practical” and “prudent” are flung about around me. How many times have you seen the words practical and romance go together? That was rhetorical- everybody knows that practicality is the death of romance.
So, sometimes people in my life are surprised to hear I read romance. The amount of doubt and shock I receive when I confess my fondness for the genre is insulting and amusing in turn. Yet, I can’t resent anybody for being so confused because I often am just as befuddled. Why do I like reading romance?

I  adore the romance genre. Not for the love stories or because I dream of my own Prince Charming/Edward/ Mr. Right ( whoever I’m supposed to be swooning about), but because I love the stories.
A romance story done right is the ultimate equality of both sexes. Despite what non-readers might think, every romance story does not contain a weeping damsel in distress and a strapping highlander who needs to save her. Romance books speak of emotional vulnerability and placing your trust in other people’s hands.  Even if at the beginning of the book, one character has money, social connections and power- in real romance books, there is always a shift of power between the protagonist and their love interest. By the end of the book, they are emotional equals meeting each other on level ground.

For a sheltered teenage girl like me romance books are intoxicating. Regency novels show subtle women empowerment at a time when women had no rights. Fantasy is a warning to not throw your energy and time at someone who will never appreciate you. Sci-fi does everything it can to say that you can have a career without sacrificing love. Chick-lit is brilliant at showing women becoming more confident of the abilities and skill they have earned through heard work and determination.

A good romance book is meant to be inspiring.  It’s supposed to spur you into doing something nice for somebody else with no expectation of reward. It shows you that love is truly selfless (not necessarily self-sacrificing). At the end of the story, love has to make people want to be better.

I’ve heard the arguments: Romance is bad because it’s so rah-rah. Real life, I am told, is hard and things don’t come quite so easily; You have to work hard to get ahead.  Apparently, romance novels are filling my head with unhealthy expectations and naive optimism.
Maybe. I don’t have enough experience or worldliness to prove otherwise. But I am going to need a better reason to stop reading romance novels. The argument that romance novels are useless is not a categorical truth. Romance novels are not a terrible evil and a plague on literature. They are beautiful, compelling stories which deserve to be highlighted and praised. True, they entertain- but they also inspire.

I recently read Ilona Andrew’s Analysis of the Aplhahole Trope.  As always, she is ironic and funny and amazing.  I had a general idea of  why I liked romance books, but Ilona Andrews explains with so much specificity, that I am in awe. She exposes the true core of what it’s like to be a romance reader with so much accuracy, it makes me proud to read romance novels. I highly suggest you read her blog post here.

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