Is Romance Dead?

I was asked at a recent author appearance about when I started reading books. For me it was rather late in childhood.

When I was a kid, both of my parents worked and my Great Aunt Grace lived in the same trailer court. She would babysit my baby sister, and when I would get off the bus I would go over there too until one of my parents got home to make dinner.

Aunt Grace was a diehard romantic, and it was her collection of Harlequin and Silhouette romance novels, neatly stacked on the miniature book case in the living room, that opened my eyes to a completely different world.

Now, I grew up in a very strict household when it came to morals. Swearing was only heard from angry grownups and trashy kids who weren’t brought up properly. Sex was not a subject to ever be questioned or thought about. And all boys were just filthy minded little mongrels who were way too interested in what your bodyparts looked and felt like. When I brought the diagrams of the human reproductive system home for homework from health class, my mother was horrified (today, she’s one of my editors. I tease her incessantly).

So needless to say, when I cracked open my first “bodice ripper”, I was completely shocked…and hooked. I figured out pretty quick that I preferred Silhouettes to Harlequins because the heroines seemed stronger (and the sex scenes were a bit steamier). I burned through Aunt Grace’s stash fairly quickly and started cleaning out the library.

By high school I was broadening my tastes to a little science fiction and my next great love, murder mysteries, but I’ll still pick up a good Romance every now and again. Sandra Brown is always a good go-to, and Amanda Quick too. As far as I’m concerned, “Chick-Lit” is just a new-fangled name for a modern-day “bodice ripper”.

I always find it funny that there is this stigma about romance novels, like they’re somehow cheesy or substandard in literary terms. To me that’s very short-sighted thinking. Story-telling, no matter the genre, requires skill, creativity, and a sense of persuasion.  A writer needs the reader to believe the story they are telling and feel a connection to the characters. Obviously a romance novel is suppose to affect a different part of the brain than a historical biography or an epic adventure tale, but the building blocks are the same.

Maybe we’ve become so overstimulated with the sheer volume of information at our fingertips that we think ourselves too jaded to be drawn into a simple love story. There better be a post-apocalyptic doom or some tragic back story of abuse involved or we’ll lose interest. I personally don’t believe that’s true. Hollywood wouldn’t re-adapt Jane Austin’s novels to movies every five years if that were really the case.

No matter how overexposed and cluttered our brains get, we are all still wired to search out that person who stirs our desires and makes us feel fulfilled and cared for. We are all driven to find the one that completes us. No matter how you package it, that’s all romance really is.

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