Truthfully, romance isn’t my genre, aside from my reading the occasional regency novel to satisfy my Pride and Prejudice thirst. But romance writers have much to offer when it comes to successful plot structure, characterization and book marketing. It’s a thriving billion-dollar-a-year business, and 2010 alone saw the release of 8,240 new titles! (http://www.rwa.org/cs/the_romance_genre/romance_literature_statistics)
I still have much to learn about writing—so I just read Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell (c2010). This is not an instruction book on the grammar rules of love. Instead, it offers the reasons romance books have so much appeal and reader loyalty. The overriding theme is that romances teach people about relationships. By reading about the trials of other men and women who are seeking happy dating or married lives, we learn to navigate our own love lives.
According to Wendell, ideal romance characters demonstrate traits of honor, courage, and respect. The modern leading-lady may endure mistreatment in the beginning, (no conflict, no story) but she will never settle for an abusive relationship in the end. “Romance specifically creates a sense of hope,” writes Wendell.
Wendell, a romance writer herself, sprinkles in quotes of wisdom from other writers and readers. For example, “You can experience between the book covers what you might not quite be ready to try underneath your own covers.”
She also pokes fun at the genre: A male romance hero must acquire a mullet. He must also think obsessively about the color of his lover’s hair. And frequently use the word “perfect.”
Everything I Know About Love I learned from Romance Novels was an amusing, insightful (and sometimes blush-inducing) book. One of the final chapters brings home the main point: reaching the happily-ever-after takes work.
*For writers it is a reminder that people read for many reasons, but essentially to find hope.
*For readers, it’s a reminder that treating people with decency is the only way to live, both in fiction and in real life.
*For wayward dukes, vampires, and rogues, it’s a reminder that they must put away their past and become faithful to one woman if they want to achieve happiness. And always, always be fascinated with her hairstyle!