In Praise of Romance?

    Ok, so here’s the  thing- no body likes romance fiction… wait, nobody admits that they like romance fiction. It’s all there, in that little word “admits”, who actually admits to liking romance fiction other than your friendly neighbourhood cat lady? At least that’s the way it seems from where I’m standing.

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What is it about this genre that makes us go all red-faced and hastily change the subject? The fact of the matter is even though we all enjoy a good romance it’s just not ok for anyone who isn’t knitting *I Love Darcy* jumpers to own up to it, right?

WRONG.

Let me give you some facts

 Last year (2012) the Romance Fiction industry grossed $1.336 BILLION in sales in the US, that’s either a lot of friendly neighbourhood cat ladies, or some of us aren’t being totally honest. That’s fine you say, but I bet the other genres do much better…Wrong again!If you added together the mystery and science fiction genres you’d just about make the same amount of money as romance fiction does every year…and classics, let’s just say if romance fiction is the department store, classics are the illegal street hawkers…sorry academics!

Kate Cuthbert Quote

    So why is the undisputed top dog of the fiction world so undervalued by critics? It could have something to do with mass appeal. Romances are popular, lots of people read them and as an overwhelming stereotype popular doesn’t do you any critical favours. When was the last time the highest grossing film won the best film category at the Oscars? The Avengers dominated box office sales last year, but it was The Artist that won best picture. Don’t get me wrong I loved the Artist, but it sort of proves my point. The thing is, everyone has read romance fiction, they just don’t realise. When was the last time you read any book or watched any film that didn’t have some kind of a love story in it? Even Spock falls in love!spock

Is the problem that  romance fiction is unashamedly positive? No matter what the plot twists, there will be always be a guaranteed happy ending, that’s just how it goes  and that is, probably, its curse.  We’ve got so used to being cynical and assuming the worst, that often the happy ending seems contrived and unlikely. This might be true in real life, but that’s the beauty of fiction, it’s not real! If we read to escape from reality, then romance fiction provides the ultimate escape and that ,my friends, is why we love it so much.

Readers of romance fiction know that however rocky the road to true love and happily ever after is the heroine will eventually get there. Preferably with Raul the billionaire tycoon or Lord Alistair Ponsoby-Smythe the Seventh Marquis of Nevergoingtohappen,  however unlikely this might be. This  doesn’t mean that readers are clueless about real life, but all I’m saying is- if it’s acceptable to hope that light-years away there’s a vulcan saying “live long and prosper” it’s perfectly ok to enjoy reading about Raul riding in on his personal helicopter to bring love and financial security to an unsuspecting heroine, especially when that heroine is described as suspiciously like me!

  • beverley hamilton

    It is the unrealistic escapism that appeals. Sitting wrapped in a blanket because the heating has gone off with beans for tea again can make a plot for a book, even if the beans have gone off …..but sometimes we want to ‘dance’ in our heads and feel happy. Perhaps those of us who admit this are more free than those who pretend they only read serious books!! Currently dancing in my head to “MIss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow” – crime, mystery, history, dysfunction ang guess what ROMANCE!!