Tango Mag: Why Romance Novels are Smarter Than You Think

TangoMag asked me to write about my definition of romance, so I drew on a whole lot of romance reading to write a short advisory article on how romance novels can help you keep the romance in your life: Why Romance Novels are Smarter Than You Think:

Romance novels can teach you that romance itself is not merely a single gift or a gesture, and it sure isn’t just knockin’ boots. Romance doesn’t even guarantee a happy ending—anyone who has been through a bad breakup can tell you that, myself included. It’s not chocolate or hearts, diamonds or roses, yachts or airplanes. It’s not the gesture itself that creates the romance. It’s the motivation behind the gift or action, no matter what time of year it arrives.

Romance can include sex but it is not just sex. So that itchy uncomfortable g-string you think would be the hottest thing since hot was invented? Maybe not. Romance is when it’s Not All About You. It’s valuing someone else’s happiness as much as, if not above, your own, and doing something merely to make that person happy. It’s not getting some; it’s giving some.

One thing that drives me barmy is the accusation that reading too much romance can mislead women into unrealistic expectations of real life romance. I will admit that sex in a romance novel can be among the most bizarre experiences and certainly can demonstrate a disconnect with How Real Life Works, but romance? Routine care and encouragement of a relationship? There is a lot to learn about love and relationships in your handy romance:

Reading romance helps me, for example, recognize truly elegant and heartfelt moments when I find them in the real world, outside the pages of fiction. Romance is neither the Fabio hair nor a grand, sweeping moment with a crescendo of music and flowers raining from the sky. Romance is a lifelong habit present in the way we treat those we love and choose to be with. Most importantly, romance is found in how we treat ourselves.

(I have no idea why the stylesheet doesn’t load at that site when I look at it – but the words are there, though in funky format. Hope it looks better from where you’re sitting. It’s probably just me.)

 

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  1. 1
    library addict says:

    Nice article, Sarah.  I particularly liked the bit about why relationships need routine maintenance.

    And FYI the site loaded fine for me.

  2. 2
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Totally OT: Am I the only one who finds the new Ellora’s Cave ad creepy?

  3. 3
    Kristina says:

    Very good article.  I have always appreciated when a SO would exhibit the small romantic gestures.  And believe me if anyone was going to develop an “unrealistic expectation” it would probably be me since I’ve been reading Harlequins since I was 11 and haven’t been in all that many LTR’s.  Yes I have strict high standards but that’s not cuz of romances, but cuz of precedeing low standards exhibited by older sisters.  :0)  Who BTW, do not read romances.

  4. 4
    Kristina says:

    @Kalen re: OT.  Ummm yeah that does not make me want to rush over there and check them out.  *shudder* It’s like spying the wannabe cougar next door masturbating .

  5. 5
    Brooks*belle says:

    Love this:

    Romance is when it’s Not All About You. It’s valuing someone else’s happiness as much as, if not above, your own, and doing something merely to make that person happy. It’s not getting some; it’s giving some.

    Since becoming a regular romance reader, I also find myself looking at my husband with sympathetic eyes and remembering to take a moment and do something each day to cherish him and be his soft-place-to-fall.

  6. 6

    The last paragraph says it all.  Reading romance – at my insistence – reminded my husband of all those little seductive things men can do prior to doing the deed itself – opening a car door, washing the dishes, comforting a crying baby, walking the puppy, throwing in a load of laundry, dancing in his bare feet in his worn jeans in the kitchen to the music of Barry White.  The beauty of romance, and a well-written romance novel, lies in the little details surrounding the love story, not in the sex act.

  7. 7
    Kristin says:

    Very nice article!

  8. 8
    joanneL says:

    Lovely. But Sarah?

    knockin’ boots

    LMAO. Only you could slip that into an article about romance!

  9. 9
    Carin says:

    I loved the Eve/Roarke reference!

    And I’m not a fan of the EC add either.  I have to admit I watched it cycle through a couple times in complete disbelief.  I haven’t watched the others yet…  so it got my attention.

  10. 10
    Mary G says:

    Wonderful Post. Better than I could ever express.

  11. 11

    Great article!  I enjoyed catching some of your references :).

  12. 12
    Glynis says:

    Beloved Boyfriend suggested that the article would have been better named “Why Romance Novels are Smarter Than You”.

    He is exceedingly awesome.

  13. 13
    SheaLuna says:

    Excellent article, Sarah!

    One thing that drives me barmy is the accusation that reading too much romance can mislead women into unrealistic expectations of real life romance.

    Amen and Amen.  I’ve never understood how expecting to put a modicum of effort into a relationship translates into “unrealistic expectations”.

  14. 14
    KristenMary says:

    Good job, Sarah. I think La Nora has said once that what she writes are books about relationships which pretty much sums it up for me. I second the commenter above, reading romance has given me a greater appreciation for my husband, not given me unrelastic expectations.

    And OT Kalen, I agree. Seriously creepy. Samhain’s ads lately have been so lovely and striking and this one for Ellora’s Cave is like the exact opposite. I would rather shop at Samhain just for the ad alone. Advertising Fail.

  15. 15
    RebeccaJ says:

    One thing that drives me barmy is the accusation that reading too much romance can mislead women into unrealistic expectations of real life romance.

    I think the problem with this is that there are some things packaged as “romance” that are NOT romance. Like when the “hero” is dominating and controlling and vindictive. We’ve all read “romances” where he gets her fired from her job or threatens to destroy her family if she doesn’t comply with his wishes. This isn’t “romance”, this isn’t love, but it’s packaged as such and I think this is where the distorted ideas about real life relationships come into play. It’s also my biggest pet peeve with romances. Writers try to convince us that all of this is done out of love, when it’s really done to emotionally control and manipulate.

  16. 16
    Tessa says:

    Sarah, smartly written as usual, it’s so nice to read such cogent analysis of books I love.  I may be biased, but I feel like there is an increased mainsteam acceptance of genre lit. in general and romance in particular.  Does this sound true to anyone else, or am I overly excited to see a few high-profile defenses, and therefore reading a small number of statistically insignificant instances as a crashing wave of cultural change?

    BTW, I’m so glad I’m not the only one creeped out by the EC ad.  Neither of the actors appeal to me and the narrative is just off-putting.  And I’m the right demographic in every way.  Just eeuw.

  17. 17
    Rebeca says:

    Thanks for such an articulate defense of the genre. Romance, for me, is an affirmation of love and happy endings. Its not about the White Knight, its about the transformative power of love and a reminder that flawed (3 dimensional) people can find happiness.

    Plus they’re pretty hot.

  18. 18
    MD says:

    Nice article. I am actually an example – grew up in a very dysfunctional family. Romance books, and discussions about them online, were the things which first got me to think about what real love, and good relationships, mean in practice. Which, in turn, led me to therapy, and eventually helped me build much better relationships. So romance novels actually helped me learn about real life, and real relationships.

  19. 19

    Thank you so much for this new feature.  This is a great resource for us and the reviewers have done a great job of reviewing the product and writing their critiques!
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