Whenever you admit that you read (or write) romance, you run the risk of getting hit with a few stupid comments that will undoubtedly piss you off. None of the negative comments you receive are new. They've all been spewed a million times before. But just in case anyone who has ever spouted any of these stupid myths is reading this post and is willing to learn a thing or two, I'm going to address the top myths about romance novels that can crawl into a hole and die (soon, preferably):
Oh, you mean bodice rippers?
Like any other genre, romance novels have evolved since Ye Olden Times. "Bodice rippers" were a thing of the past (like, back in the 70s and early 80s). It's an old time-y term for sexually explicit historical romances. Calling today's romances (even today's historical romances) "bodice rippers" is like wearing a velour track suit out in public and putting shag carpet and an avocado green refrigerator in your newly remodeled house. It's a term that is terribly outdated and can/should be retired immediately. Anyone who calls romance novels bodice rippers these days is showing their ignorance and it is NOT a good look for them.
They're all poorly written
Are there poorly written romance novels? Absolutely! Just like there are poorly written sci fi and mystery novels. And don't even get me started on lit fic. Some of the biggest literary turds of all time live in THAT genre. Meanwhile, some of the best books I've ever read are romances. There are a crap-ton of amazingly talented authors writing romance novels today. So, if you're one of these folks out there spouting nonsense about how poorly written romance novels are, email me. I'd be happy to provide some awesome recommendations that will flip your entire world view on its ass.
First of all, since when is realism the bar by which we judge fiction? When someone says they love zombie books, does anyone ever say, "Well, that's just unrealistic. There's no way a REAL zombie would behave like that." No, they don't. I assume it's because it is a standard of the genre that romance novels end in happily ever after (or happy for now), and these folks are saying that no one truly lives happily ever after. Personally, I think that's a very sad hill to die on. Lots of people fall in love and live happily ever after. Are they happy every minute of every day? No, of course not. But are they happy more than they're sad? Sure. And frankly, maybe if more people believed in happily ever after, the world would suck less. I think it's time we all open our minds to the possibility that we all deserve happiness.
They set unrealistic expectations for women
Why, yes, just imagine what would happen if women started thinking they deserved to be treated well, that they should have agency, and that their partner should care about their pleasure? How truly awful would it be for women to expect that men behave like complete asshats around them? The horror! (You can't see it, but I'm rolling my eyes)
But, all snarkiness aside, this is just an asinine argument. Readers are capable of telling the difference between fiction and real life. Romance novels are no more likely to give readers unrealistic expectations than reading Jason Bourne books is to give them amnesia, or make them think they're highly-trained spies.
Romance novels are for uneducated/lonely people
Anyone who thinks this hasn't spent much time with real romance readers and writers. A shocking population of romance authors used to be lawyers, and just about every avid romance reader I've come across has some form of higher education. And as for lonely people, so what if they are lonely? If romance novels provide anyone even a small measure of comfort, why crap all over them for it? Let people enjoy what they enjoy without yucking their yum. Picking on someone for their choice in reading material doesn't make you sound more intellectual. It just makes you a dick.
How are novels that are mostly written by women for women and show women having agency, self-confidence, and taking charge of their own pleasure anti-feminist? This one has never made sense to me. These folks will dog romance novels, but don't have anything to say about the misogynistic dumpster that was The Rise of Skywalker, the film that destroyed EVERY bit of agency Rey had left? But...I digress. The point is, there's nothing anti-feminist about women choosing to have love in their lives. (And any writer associated with The Rise of Skywaker should be ashamed of himself/herself/themselves.)
Other assorted crap
These aren't exactly myths, per se, but this stuff always comes up when any romance novel discussion starts, so I figured this was as good a time as any to rant about it:
1. FABIO. Yes, we all know he graced a lot of romance covers. But, my dudes, that was many, many years ago. I haven't seen him in anything but a butter commercial since, what, the late 90s? Can we let the poor man rest? He did fine work, but he's not relevant to any discussion of romance novels published after the 90s.
2. Anyone who nudge-nudge-winks-winks to readers or writers about "the good parts" in romance novels. Yes, some romance novels have explicit sex scenes. So what? There are LOTS of "good parts" in romance novels that have nothing to do with sex. Besides, the whole nudge-nudge-wink-wink thing is creepy. Don't do it. (This goes double for men talking to women about the romance novels they're reading and/or writing.)
3. Nicholas Sparks. He's not a romance author. Read his website. He'll tell you himself. He writes love stories, not romance novels. If someone says they love romance novels, do NOT under any circumstances tell them to read Nicholas Sparks. Trust me on this. That man kills lots of women and dogs in his books.
4. "Romance novels don't need a happily ever after ending." Someone, usually a man who writes in a genre other than romance but wants access to the billion dollar industry that is romance, spouts this drivel every few days. There's nothing to argue about here. The ONE defining factor in whether or not a book can be classified as a romance novel is the ending. It MUST BE HAPPY. If a book does not have a happy ending, it's not a romance novel. It's as simple as that. There are plenty of books out there that have romantic subplots, romantic moments, and are very romantic in general--and that DOES NOT make them romance novels. Read this post if you need more info on that. But again, trust me on this one. I know whereof I speak.
5. For anyone guilty of #4. The next step in the HEA discourse is almost always the "what about" crowd. These folks step in to "play devil's advocate" and say, "But what about X novel? Huh? That one didn't have a HEA and it's a romance novel." Their "what abouts" are almost exclusively these books, which ARE NOT romance novels and should never be recommended to anyone looking for romance novels: Gone With the Wind (it's historical fiction), Anna Karenina (it's lit fic), The Thorn Birds (it's historical fiction), Me Before You (it's women's fiction), The Fault in Our Stars (it's a coming of age novel), 98% of Nicholas Sparks books (they're love stories), Romeo and Juliet (it's not a novel, first of all, and second of all, it's a tragedy), Lolita (it's lit fic...and it's gross), Wuthering Heights (it's lit fic), Outlander (it's historical fantasy...trust me. I know this one will spark some debate. But the author herself has been pretty clear that her books are NOT romance novels. If you don't believe me, at least believe her.)
6. Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight. If someone says they love romance novels and you immediately pop up with Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight, you're showing your ignorance. I mean, if you want kudos for being able to name 2 romance novels, sure...I'll give you kudos. But there are so many romances out there that are NOT these 2 books and aren't ANYTHING like them. Not all romance readers loved these books. Don't assume they did, and don't assume all romances are like the only 2 romance novels you can name. I mean, I personally don't know anything about sports ball, so I never pop up and say, "Oh, like the Steelers?" just because someone says they like the sports ball. (That is a sports ball team, right? Meh, nevermind. I'll just keep my mouth shut about it.)
The best advice I can give, and it really is GREAT advice because it can apply to SO many different situations is this:
1. Don't pretend to be an expert about stuff you know nothing about.
2. Don't yuck anyone's yum.
3. Don't be a dick.
Following those simple rules will make everyone's lives better and less stressful. Trust me...
But those are just the romance novel myths that piss ME off. What about you? Let's discuss!
8/30/2021 09:20:03 pm
I'm tired of the assumption that romance only caters to the most privileged segments of the reading population. Romance has HEAs for everybody!
Jennifer, Romance Rehab
8/31/2021 10:57:53 am
Good point!! And you're totally right. The HEAs in romance don't discriminate. :)
8/31/2021 09:04:08 am
Most of the negative comments come from people who've never read a romance (and often from people who read very little in any genre). There are so many sub-genres, and loads of them are feel-good happy novels. What's not to like? I'd take a well-written romance over a bloodthirsty thriller at the moment...
Jennifer, Romance Rehab
8/31/2021 10:59:55 am
That's so true! So many people (a ton of men, for some reason) who've never read the genre seem to have such strong opinions about it. Very strange. What is it that these people find so offensive about stories about people falling in love? Seems like some self-reflection is necessary for these folks...
8/31/2021 08:24:51 pm
This is THE BEST romance breakdown I've read in freakin' years. I can't tell you how often I get "oh, you write porn" or "do you do what your characters do?" I like to respond with "No, I write books with characters who fall in love. And murder." as well as "Do you think Stephen King really kills people?" I mean, come on. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
9/2/2021 03:36:06 pm
You nailed it! Thanks. Unfortunately, you can't always educate those who don't want to be educated. They don't know what they're missing. I'd rather have the good feels and a happy ending.
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