And Speaking of Romance …

I just returned from Europe, where I participated in a wedding. It was a wonderful family occasion, filled with joy and laughter and all that good stuff — and romantic? My word! Was it ever. Beautiful bride, beaming groom, and perfectly contagious happiness — two days’ worth, actually, because in Germany churches don’t have the authority to marry you. So this couple got married at City Hall on Friday and had their church wedding on Saturday. We all floated around on a cloud of romance for two solid days.

It was great.

It reminded me why I wrote romance novels, once upon a time. And why I probably will again.

Which brings me to today’s topic: Are Romance Novels Trivial?

Well, surely some are. Maybe most are. As are some, or most, novels of any description. Romance itself, however, is anything but trivial.

The choice of a life partner is the most important decision any of us make. It is a decision that affects your personal happiness, the direction you take in life, where you will live, how you spend your holidays, your financial well-being (or lack thereof), your health — mental and physical — and every other conceivable aspect of your existence. In most cases, it also determines whether or not your genes get passed along, and whose genes they will join in doing so. In other words, your choice of a life partner — based on all sorts of quirky personal preferences, proximity, chance encounter and random luck — directly affects every generation that will follow you.

“Affects” is too feeble a word, come to think of it. Your choice of a life partner DETERMINES THE IDENTITY of every generation that will follow you.

When you fall in love, you touch heaven.

When you marry, you set the course of history.

No pressure, though. Carry on. Continue hooking up with strangers you meet while dancing, or letting your college roommates introduce you to their siblings, or chatting up attractive people on the bus or at the grocery store. It seems careless to you now, doesn’t it? Your clumsy attempts to “meet someone” may be letting humanity down. You might be fumbling your one true chance to influence the destiny of millions. But hey, no worries — that’s the way it’s always been done!

Besides, if every marriage were carefully arranged, I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

4 thoughts on “And Speaking of Romance …

  1. Funny but to the best of my knowledge, I have never read a “romance novel” – that is, one that would be put in the ‘romance’ section of a bookshop. Even so, a huge number of the books I’ve read and enjoyed deal with romance in some way or another. Would Tess Of The D’Urbervilles be called a romance novel (it’s usually considered to be a tragedy)? Speaking of which, a great many tragedies concern romances. Is Othello romantic, tragic or both? Even ‘hard-bitten’ novels such as Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct) can have a considerable romantic element. I think I would be prejudiced against any novel that labels itself ‘romantic’ on the assumption that what this really meant was “two dimensional”: in other words, that the woman would be beautiful, the man would be hunky and somehow they’d live happily ever after. Am I wrong? Is there more to romantic fiction? If so, can you suggest a romantic book that might appeal to someone with my anti-romance prejudices..?😉

    • I used to despise “romance novels” on general principles, partly because I didn’t question the bad press they routinely receive (to this day, I have yet to read an article about romance novels that does not contain the words “bodice ripper”), and partly because of the cover art. Despite the old adage, people DO judge a book by its cover!

      Let’s see … what books might I recommend? If your tastes are literary, I would say Jane Austen. She remains the romance novelist most likely to meet with the approval of the literati! Georgette Heyer’s mid-century Regency-set romances are great fun, full of conversations so witty that one feels compelled to read them aloud. As for the rest of us, “genre” romance novelists, there is a vast array of books appealing to every conceivable taste now.

      That being said, they do tend to be “commercial fiction” — like popular movies, most romance novels follow the storytelling conventions pretty closely. But there are paranormal romances (involving time travel, or people falling for vampires or angels or what-have-you), gritty urban fantasies, sci-fi romances, romantic suspense, “woman-in-jeopardy” books (the new term for what used to be called “damsel in distress” books), historical romances of various kinds, romances that involve mysteries — some violent, some creepy, some not — romantic comedies, and on and on and on. There’s also “romantica,” a hybrid of romance and erotica, with varying levels of heat. All kinds of stuff.

      As for the beautiful woman and hunky guy living happily ever after, I can see why the premise might provoke a yawn. But as in any other type of novel, the devil is in the details! In the hands of a good storyteller, even the most hackneyed plot can come alive — as William Shakespeare would tell you.

      There are good books and bad books and mediocre books in every genre, but I would submit that the multi-faceted romance genre is so astonishingly huge that it naturally contains some very good books indeed.

      Have you tried Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series? She was dismayed when her publisher shelved her in the romance ghetto, but the books managed to defy the odds, break out and find a male readership!

  2. Interesting. I’m sure I have no real idea of the scope of romance novels. Does Rebecca count? I rather like Daphne Dumaurier but if that’s romance it’s pretty dark…

    I’m not really so keen on ‘genre’ labels these days. It was only a few months ago that I discovered that there have been some very good ‘Western’ novels written (previously I had dismissed all Westerns, quite unfairly, as trash). A Western novel such as Guthrie’s The Big Sky stands up there with the best in any genre.

    I hadn’t thought of Jane Austen as ‘romance’ but I suppose she must be. I shall have to branch out in my reading!🙂

  3. Often you’ll find du Maurier shelved with romances, I suppose because they don’t know where else to put her. Or because they imagine she’ll sell better there (which was the rationale behind shelving Gabaldon among the romances)!

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