Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Allure of the Romance Novel

All anyone has to do is peek over at the list of authors on the side panel to see that when it comes to reading, I am currently a fan of the romance genre.  With the possible exception of Diana Gabaldon, whose epic Outlander series somewhat defies any true categorization, all of the talented women listed are romance novelists.

There was a time when I had little interest in even picking up a romance novel.  In the past, I've tended more toward mysteries and thrillers and general popular fiction.  Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Grisham...you get the idea.  They are still prolific, talented writers I admire, but I no longer seek out their novels as I used to.
While I still consider Stephen King an amazing, one-of-a-kind author, I find I no longer want to spend any extra time considering "the dark side" of life.  No more of King's rabid dogs and murderous sewer clowns, Koontz's lab experiments gone horrifically wrong, or Grisham's lawyers running for their lives.  The daily news has enough of the horror and fear; it seems I can't bring myself to seek it out as entertainment.

Ah, but then there's the romance novel.  Especially the historicals.  With these, I can truly escape to another time and place, one that doesn't hold quite so many echoes of the world we now live in.  The inhabitants of that historical romance world dress better, behave better, and appreciate the world around them and the people in it.  They live more simply, gathering together to read a book or listen to a concert in a neighbor's drawing room.  They hold house parties and balls and interact with the utmost civility and good manners.  Children are respectful of adults, men strive to be gentlemen, and hard work is both expected and pursued.  In the historical romance world, there are no televisions, iPods or cell phones.  When people are together, they have actual conversations; they don't walk along texting other people, ignoring the person beside them.  They appreciate the company of others. 

Naturally, a good portion of the allure of the romance novel is the romance itself.  Who doesn't love love, after all?  Who doesn't always hope for happy endings?  And with a romance novel, there will always, always be one. It's pretty much guaranteed.  And despite what some believe about the sex in romance novels, while they may vary in intensity from mildly steamy to erotic, in my experience they are almost invariably written with sensitivity and with the goal of conveying the natural progression of love.

Of course, the characters in romance novels are not perfect. There are always conflicts and misunderstandings, arguments and sometimes danger.  But these are inevitably worked out or overcome, and the villains receive their comeuppance while the heroes and heroines discover love and begin their Happily Ever After.  And these days, I would much rather set aside the endless stories of crime and unhappiness, and choose instead to remind myself of the possibilities of love and hope.

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