Reading a general fiction book is like a five course meal with dessert afterward. A romance novel is like a tub of ice-cream eaten when no one’s looking.
All women do not love reading romance novels but most do. I do. For me , it is a form of entertainment and escapism. It may be stereotypical and hackneyed but it is comfort food.
Romance novels are centered around the same few themes that (writers and publishers believe) women enjoy.
1. The Comfort Fact – Romance novels rarely, if ever make one think. Reading a thriller puts me into high-alert mode and reading literature makes me think, question and even underline at times .But reading a romance novel is a bit like eating potato chips while watching your favourite show. Yes, it’s unhealthy, it’s unrealistic as a source of genuine nutrition for the body , but a part of you loves it and cannot resist it. Once you’ve had some, it stirs cravings that you have doing guilty pleasure reading more often.
2. The Main (i.e. Male) Aspect – Real men are often duds. Even when they are very attractive, they are taken or they simply don’t know how to talk to women. If they know how to talk, they have control issues. If they don’t have control issues, they have annoying mothers or too much work at office. You get the picture? I am not saying that men should be perfect but it’s so interesting to see how heroes in romance novels always have time – to be at the beck and call of the heroine, to rescue her, to talk to her, to suitably annoy her and advise her. Romance novels are completely make -believe . The important thing about men in these books is not that they are always gorgeous or rich but they do know exactly what to say and what to do. A quality which men in real life lack.
3. Other issues that women deal with – Most contemporary romance novels are chick-lit. There are bosses to contend with, angry parents to appease, friends to go shopping with, ladies night outs, pimples to pick, body hair to remove. A lot of women enjoy reading romance novels because they speak to them.
Imagine, you lead a monotonous life full of paper-work, you have colleagues who gossip incessantly. You are pretty but not pretty enough. Your parents want you to marry.You have a little tummy you can’t get rid of, Your friends , though they support you have lives of their own. Sounds like your life , right?
Now imagine, you run into a very cute guy while having an embarrassing moment, he turns out to be your boss. He’s snarky to you but nice too. Your heart flutters a bit. Isn’t that what romance novels are for? A little thrill in the mundaneness of everyday life?
4. Plots and Variety – I have read hundreds of romance novels. Though people criticise them for being a corny, sappy bunch of sameness, there are a lot of romance novels with diverse , thrilling and different plots.
There are romance novels that deal with espionage, murder, regency england, heiresses, royalty, sports (SEP’s NFL series is my favourite), courtrooms, schools, colleges, workplaces. For every kind of woman there is, there is a romance novel that would appease to her at least in terms of lot and setting , if not in the romance at least.
5. Sex – In my school, when boys snigger over porn clips, girls were busy with books like Forever by Judy Blume which had as much sex as the porn clip would but would also have plot, build-up and deal with issues like contraception. No romance novel today is without a few sex scenes. My first romance novel was a Mills & Boon (written by Betty Neels) about a Doctor in a small village. That had one kissing scene. Now, I can’t find one book that tame. Women are ready to atleast talk about sex quite openly, many find porn distasteful and romance novels add a bit of spice to life. A bit of illicit reading is fun, just like stealing liquor from your dad’s cabinet.
6. Good Writing – Regardless of what people say, many romance novelists are fantastic authors. They are humorous, witty, easy to read. If you could find a bunch of authors who led you to a make-believe , exciting world with hot men , romance, sex while writing elegantly, why would you not want to keep reading them?
7. Love – A lot of romance readers are in love with the idea of love. That keeps them hooked.
If you think about it , every book has a little bit of love and romance, which readers look forward to or are engaged by, romance writers just expand on it. They have a very large demand to do so. Where there is demand, supply will come.
Personally, I don’t think you should read a lot of romance novels if you build unrealistic expectations in relationships. There is no Prince Charming. And I draw the line at three fictional boyfriends.
– Ayushi Mona
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