Ever wonder why women love romance novels? Author Anne Montgomery did, so she interviewed a selection of romance authors that runs the gamut in heat levels. Here’s what they had to say about the popularity of this genre. Their answers might surprise you, because it’s not always about the sex.
from Anne Montgomery
Once, after reading one of my manuscripts, my agent said, “I really like the historical part of the story. Why don’t you write it as a stand-alone romance?”
I winced. A romance novel? Me?
I’ll admit here that I’ve been a bit of a snob in regard to that particular genre, which I was surprised to discover is the number one book-selling category on the planet. Not sure why I’ve often scoffed at romance novels. Perhaps it’s the covers: the swooning women with their heaving breasts, the muscular men, all sixpacks and flowing hair. Those books just never sang to me and I never understood why other people wanted to read them.
So, in an effort to learn, I contacted some of my lovely romance-writing friends. I put on my old reporter’s cap and grilled them like a detective looking for clues, my goal to understand why anyone would want to read a romance novel.
Boy, did I learn a lot!
“Romance gives us a glimpse into another world,” said author Tina Ruiz. “Sometimes it’s a world that we don’t have around us. Romance novels are like fairy tales to grown up women, where the men are nice, cater to our every whim, and shelter us from everything that might make us sad or hurt.”
“It’s possible the diversity of romance novels is a magnet for diverse individuals,” said romance author Nancy Kay. “From contemporary, to historical, to mystery and thrillers there are any number of themes to attract a number of tastes.”
Okay. But why are these stories tops in sales department?
“In my humble opinion it’s because we live in a shattered world that is full of bad stuff and romance is the ultimate good stuff,” said author Catherine Castle. “True love, loyalty, people who care about each other’s happiness.”
“Simple answer – escape,” said author Sloane Taylor. “Escape from the husband/wife who takes you for granted. Escape from the kids demanding all your time with not even a thanks. Escape from the boss who is a major ass. Escape from the bills that keep mounting. And especially in today’s world – escape from the pandemic and it’s personal repercussions.”
“The mainly happy endings in a frequently bitchy world,” Australian author Vonnie Hughes explained.
Hughes went on to say that romance novels don’t cost as much as other genres and they tend to be shorter, so don’t require a big investment of time.
I have certainly read books that contained romance, though that part of the story was mostly secondary to the plot, so I was curious as to what exactly defines a romance novel. Of course, my first thought in our post Fifty Shades of Grey world was sex. But Ruiz pointed out that actual sex is not always the big draw.
“It is the illusion of sex that grabs our hearts,” she said. “In a lot of movies, the man and woman don’t even kiss until the very last scene. That moment gets built up from the moment they meet until the end of the book or movie. It’s the part we are all waiting for, so when it happens, it is absolutely wonderful.”
Still sex is often part of the format, except in sweet romances, which close the bedroom door.
“Reading a book where sex is prominent is pretty awesome,” Ruiz said. “Because it gets portrayed in a different way than we have it in real life. Some men…are not perfectly, let’s say, kempt, when they walk into the bedroom. The men in the books and/or movies are like a Prince Charming. Every hair is in place, his teeth shine, his eyes twinkle, and his breath is probably minty fresh.”
Another rather obvious requirement in a romance novel is that romance needs to be the most important part of the story.
“The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work,” Kay said. “There can be subplots as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.”
And, there’s something else I learned. Romance novels apparently should not end on a depressing note. There must be an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending,” Kay said. “In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.”
That sounds nice, doesn’t it? I can now see the appeal of romance novels. Perhaps it’s time I gave one a try.
How about you?
Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. It’s not romance but I hope it intrigues you.
As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.
When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.
And then the girl vanishes.
While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.
Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.
When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.