Romance Novels Don’t Bite, Unless You Want Them To

I come to you today as a reader, not a writer. I read romance novels, I write them too, but like I said today, I’m just a reader. I love romance novels; I can average one a day if the kids would take longer naps.

I read them all and I have my favorite authors. For historical romances I go to Julia Quinn, for westerns, historical or contemporary, I gravitate towards Catherine Anderson. Suspense thrillers? Karen Rose. Vampires? Charlaine Harris. Who is a good contemporary writer? Uh, hello, Nora Roberts. Hell, I even read erotic romance, also known as romantica. I go to Sarah McCarty for that. She has me blushing by chapter two…Sparky blushes about 5 minutes later. 🙂

I love reading them and finding new authors. I’m excited for books that didn’t even come out yet from authors that have never been published before! (Tawna Fenske and Stefanie Sloane, this means you.) Its a sickness, really. I should get help.

I used to deny my love of romance novels. In fact, when my good friend lent me several Nora Roberts books I refused to admit that I was a fan of hers. Like everyone else I had my preconceived notions about romance novels. I envisioned phrases like “heaving bosoms” and “throbbing members.”

For some odd reason there is a stigma with reading/writing romance novels. It’s like if you admit to liking them you’re admitting to being a sexual deviant that wears pink boas while popping bon-bons and gushing over the sex scenes. And while I enjoy bon-bons like the next girl, that by no means describes me. And quite frankly boas make me itch.

Many people ask me why I read romance. They perceive me to be a somewhat intelligent person and they can’t understand how someone like me can read what they obviously consider to be literary smut.

So, here are three reasons, in no particular order, why I read romance novels.

1. Sex, Sexual Tension, Intimacy, Bow-chica-wow-wow

Well, if you’re going to start somewhere this place is as good as any. Besides, you all know that 9 times out of 10, eh, I actually think its safe to say that 10 times out of 10 when you hear romance novel you think sex. You may think that since I read them I must be obsessed with sex. Lets be honest here. I’m human, healthy and in a loving relationship. Its safe to say that sex is a part of my life. I mean, I do have two children. I believe that if you’re old enough, take care of yourself and respect yourself and your partner have at it. I know love isn’t always a part of it, and if its not, then I feel sorry for you.

Sex is physical, romance is emotional. Romance novels takes the physical and turns it emotional. Romance novels are about the development of a relationship, sex is a natural progression in most loving relationships.

However, not every romance has a sex scene. I’ve read remarkable inspirational romances where the sexual tension is released with one long kiss that had my toes curling. But, yes, most romances that I read have a sex scene, if not several, and I do enjoy them. If its written well with realistic characters it can be quite beautiful and satisfying, for all parties involved. 😉

2. Emotional Drama

Even in the wittiest, light-hearted of romance novels there is some type of emotional drama, upheaval, just something that makes it seemingly impossible for the couple to believe that they could actually end up together.

I love drama. Just call me TNT personified. I not only know drama, I love it. The bigger the drama the more I want to read. I love misunderstandings. Did someone lie to protect their pride? Bring it. Hidden pregnancy? Brilliant! Lost loves finding each other again only to be involved with other people? You had me at “lost.”

When I read romance novels I want my emotions to go through the ringer. I want to laugh, I want to cry, I want to throw down the book in disgust over what a character said then pick it back up even faster to see how the jilted character reacted.  (I’ve done this several times while reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Awesome series, by the way. Those characters became real people to me, which can be very dangerous for one’s sanity.)

Real life can be very dramatic and you never know how things will turn out, but with a romance novel you know that there will be a happy ending, which brings me to my next reason.

3. Happily Ever After

In Tuesday’s post I blogged about my own HEA or at least the potential for me to live one out. I love the idea of HEA. If you don’t, well then, you have no heart.

I know that when I pick up the book no matter what happens the end will be happy. It’s like a Disney Princess movie…but with sex. I want trials and tribulations. I want it to seem like these two people can’t be together but in time they throw away their pride, easily the biggest threat to all relationships, and just offer each other they only thing they can – themselves. Sigh.

Romance novels are about the development of a relationship. It follows a relationship from the beginning with stolen glances, through the bumps and obstacles until they reach their happily-ever-afters.

Life is tough as is. There is nothing wrong with wanting to believe in happily-ever-afters. We should all want that.

These are only some of the reasons in quite general terms. I could go on and on, but I won’t. I know that this post won’t change people’s minds, its not supposed to. Its just supposed to let you know some reasons why I read them. And you should know that I am considered somewhat of an intelligent person and thanks to my degree in English Lit I have read works from Chaucer and Shakespeare to John Irving and Dee Brown, from Henry James and Jane Austen to Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut and in all of them there is some mention of love/romance. The horror.

So fellow readers, what do you read? Why do you read it? And most importantly, does it have sex in it? Just kidding. Honestly, what pulls you towards certain genres?

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About Karen DeLabar

A writer who divides her time between her family and her computer while sparing some time to her other loves of theatre, books and scotch.
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12 Responses to Romance Novels Don’t Bite, Unless You Want Them To

  1. Diane says:

    In my single days and quite honestly during some of my married years I would tell people I read romance novels because I had to get it from somewhere. It was safer that way than going out and looking for it in all the wrong places. Even though I am in a loving relationship now I do still enjoy a good romance novel.

  2. Kaye Peters says:

    Ha! That’s one reason to read them. The set of Nora Roberts books that my friend lent me were the circle trilogy of hers. It had vampires, magic, sorcerers and the like. Nothing what I had perceived romance novels to be. I was pleasantly surprised. (Obviously.)

  3. Ana Quinn says:

    I agree, there does seem to be a stigma when it comes to reading/writing romance novels. I have gotten quite a few looks when I said am writing romance (Not to mention my mom’s reaction!)

    Still, you are right that a good chuck of classic literature revolves around romance. I think that is because romance plays such a strong role in most people’s lives, at least at some point, that it is hard to ignore it.

  4. 2blu2btru says:

    I read everything, but I love romances (I’m partial to Harlequin, myself). My favorite was/is Betty Neels. Great romances with spunky characters, tension everywhere, and the big payoff is usually no more than a kiss (most of her heroines are plain, realistic looking women, too; that helps).

    I also like Chick Lit (Bridget Jones, anyone?), but not all of it. It has to be well written and not too unbelievable.

    I like memoirs if they are well written. Also, even if I’ve never been in that situation, I have to be able to relate to the feelings, circumstances, or decisions of the person (for example, I read Wasted: A Memoir, about a woman with an eating disorder, and I recognized those feelings of low self-esteem, lack of control, wanting to be pretty, etc.).

    I read “literary fiction” but only if it is engaging as well as well-written. One of my favorites is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I can get as in-depth with it as I like, or stay with the surface story.

    In my writing, I’ve written a bit of chick lit (my still unfinished NaNoWriMo novel), some literary fiction, short stories, and one novel I can only describe as a jazz novel (even though that’s not really a genre).

    I read what makes me feel more often than what makes me think sans feelings. I love to be on the emotional rollercoaster, which is why a really good romance or chick lit book can be so satisfying for a English Literature degree holder. 😉

    • Kaye Peters says:

      I haven’t read anything by Betty Neels, I’m going to have to check her out. As much as I love romance the whole gorgeous woman who doesn’t know she’s gorgeous gets a bit tiring and I am always looking for the plain Jane heroine that steals the hero’s heart.
      Thanks for posting!

      • 2blu2btru says:

        Oh, please do! Her books are really good. The woman is almost always English, the man is almost always Dutch. The woman is usually a nurse, and the man is always a Dr., usually a surgeon. Come to find out, she was a doctor who met a Dutch surgeon and was happily married to him the rest of her days! What fun to tell your own love story over and over again in so many different ways!

  5. Sandy says:

    I liked your article and you have named some really good authors. Please add Judith McNaught and Jennifer Crusie. Their books are awesome. They make you laugh, cry and howl with delight.

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