Why do women read romance novels? We all know what the endings will be like, they all follow the same sort of pattern, after all, so why do we buy romance after romance, making it one of the top three best-selling genres of 2015?
The first reason is for escapism. I began reading romances when my children were small. After I put my sons down for naps, I’d get the laundry machines going, start dinner, and then sit down with a good romance novel, usually Nora Roberts or Janet Dailey when they wrote category romances. I’d be swept away from sniveling noses and dirty dishes, transported into someone else’s life who experienced candlelight dinners or walks along the beach. When my kids woke up, I was refreshed.
Escapism is important for everyone. If our lives become too mundane, i.e., we get up, go to work, deal with kids, come home, cook, clean, etc., reading a romance takes us away from our lives for a while. My dear aunt, dead these past five years, used to read Barbara Cartland and Harlequin romances like most people eat potato chips. And she told me one time that she got to travel all around the world by reading those books. Since she’d worked full-time her whole life and rarely took a vacation, it was definitely escapism for her.
Another reason I read romances is, I like happily ever afters. I’ve had friends, even my mom once, ask me, why read something if you already know what the ending will be? Because I like traveling the road to the happily ever after. Romances are based on facts, after all. Couples meet, date, fall in love, argue, make up, or break up. The ending might be the same, but the way to it is never alike.
Romance novels are also relatable. After all, haven’t we all dated the self-centered oaf, the workaholic, the chauvinist, the flirt, the cheater? Maybe not all of them (hopefully not!), but enough that we can relate to what the heroine might be going through? A romance novel often holds a mirror up to our own lives. Maybe we even learn from it. Perhaps a reader has gone through a really bad break-up with a no-good guy. Reading about a character who has the same issue might help the reader in her dilemma. A good romance writer will have us cheering or booing throughout the story.
I also read romances because I like to know that people will live happily ever after. Again, friends of mine have told me, “Real life isn’t like a romance. People die, people get hurt in real life.” I know that! Real life isn’t always fun, but why should my escape reading be like real life? Why should I have a really rotten day, and then turn around and read something morbid or sad? Some people will say so that I’ll know I’m not alone with my problems. I’d rather read something light that raises my spirits, instead of a book that brings me down even further.
I do enjoy a good romantic suspense/mystery novel, too. But it definitely has to have the element of romance. Just finding out who committed the crime is not enough for me. I need to have that romance component to make a book truly satisfactory for me.
These reasons I’ve stated above for why I read romance also equate to why I write romance. I like to transport a reader to another place, with people they might not rub elbows with otherwise. I like to create difficulties in characters’ lives to which readers can relate. I love when I receive comments from readers who say “that happened to them,” or they warn the heroine not to fall for a male character’s explanations. These comments tell me that readers are interacting in the world that I created. What is a better compliment to my writing than that?
Isn’t it nice to know that, even in this world of ever-changing technology and world events, you can still sit down with a romance novel and be assured of an entertaining story with a satisfying ending? Not everything needs to be changed to be better. Especially our entertainment.