Help A Bitch Out

Your Opinions Please: Romance Reading and Real Life

AdviceI’m still at work on the in-progress “Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels,” and I wanted to again humbly ask for your help and your perspective. You are among the smartest folks I know, anyway, so how can I not come begging? (I am almost done and promise not to do this in neverending annoyingpants fashion).

I’m currently working on how romances influence readers, and want to ask you:

Have romance novels helped you with real life relationships? How? Or, in the words of my least favorite essay questions, “Why or why not?” Which books left an impression on you for that reason?

From the book title, you can pretty much surmise my thesis. If I hadn’t learned anything, it’d be a really short (and very easy to write!) book indeed. But you are always welcome to disagree with me.

I’d love to hear what you think, about whether reading about courtships has perhaps changed the way you think of your own relationships, and whether romance has given you tools to improve yours.

Note: I absolutely mean to include sex in that question, so whether you want to discuss romance, sexual agency, sexual satisfaction, and your newfound love of wearing a beaver suit while hitchhiking to meet hot guys, please bring it on. I know that it’s very easy to skirt (ha) too close to the “romance is just porn” accusation because of the sexual explicitness of some romance, and discussing reader response to erotic content can get … oh, pick your favorite: hairy. sticky. tricky. concupiscent. turgid. banana hammocky.

Seriously, I absolutely think that reading about women and men experiencing sexual honesty along with their sexual agency is a very powerful (and subversive) thing. But if you disagree with me on that, I’d love to hear why.

As with my prior entry about the book in progress, please let me know if I can quote you, and under what name you’d like to be quoted. As of right now, I’m using the handles and usernames and not real names unless they were provided, but if the editor gives me a big ol’ WTF? on that, I’ll come back to you about it.

And as with my prior request for your opinions as I work on this book, thank you, thank you, thank you. You rock my world, my casbah, and the entire tri-state area.


Help a Bitch Out

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  1. 1

    I am curious which romance book taught you humor as you are funny!  Maybe that came naturally.

    I wouldn’t say any particular book helped me with my husband, but he has periodically read a few left on the coffee table.  Afterwards, he shared what he liked about the book and even asked me to shelve in in the keeper closet.  His actions only confirm that I indeed found Prince Charming!

  2. 2
    Em says:

    To be honest, they haven’t. Mind you, relationships and me don’t tend to be in the same sentence.
    I’m a fairly emotionally dead person when it comes to real life, so fiction gives me people I can care about without the pain that caused my apathy in the first place.
    Romance novels – being so emotionally charged – are the best for that.

  3. 3
    Anonapotamus says:

    For quite a while I think writing romance worked against me in the RL department. I’ve always read romance, but didn’t start writing it until several years into what I thought was my forever relationship.

    The more I learned about crafting stories, the more I told myself “it’s a fantasy—this isn’t how real guys think and act; it’s how we (women) want to believe they think and act.” And I convinced myself that what I had was as good as it was going to get. More, I think somewhere deep down inside, I kept waiting to get through the bad times to the big payoff on the other side.

    Twelve years, thirty-plus books and some therapy later, I’m newly single, happier than I’ve been in a long time, and ready to Not Fucking Settle this time around. In the meantime, I’ve got a career I love and family, writer friends, and wonderful stories to keep me company.

    Feel free to use this, sooo very anonymously.


  4. 4
    OdetteLovegood says:

    I suppose that you could say romance novels have been a huge part of my real life relationships. They just haven’t been published yet.

    I met the love of my life over five years ago, when I had little to no knowledge of sex beyond how genitalia basically functions, and my prior “love life” consisted of extremely short-lived, overly dramatic or just plain sad “relationships”. Most of these relationships happened because I was impatient and in a rush to date people, so that I ended up dating guys I’d previously never even noticed much or in some cases, downright disliked.

    I also thought romance novels were “porn for women” and didn’t understand at all why my mother adored them.

    Ever since I was little, I had always wanted to be a writer. My dad read Tolkien and Lewis to me every night, and I had The Hobbit memorized by age five. Then, sometime around 2000-2001, I discovered, and dabbled in the trove of horror and treasures that is the world of fan fiction. (I’ve found that fan fiction, by the way, is victim to many of the same stigmas surrounding romance. “It’s porn for sad, lonely nerds; only women write it; all of it is crap.”)

    But as I said, romance and sex were fairly difficult concepts for me to grasp until a fateful person came into my life. For the first time, I felt an irresistible pull to another person. I wanted to know what love and sex were like firsthand.

    Did I have any better idea how to start? Hell no.

    It so happened that my Very Significant Other also aspires to be a writer. And so, quite naturally, one of the things we ended up doing was writing collaborative stories, usually in “role-playing” fashion: each of us controlling one of two main characters, with side characters shared or split up evenly and the plot subject to both of our whims. Both of us also, it so happens, had a particular interest in character interaction.

    So, you might imagine, it was quite natural for us to end up writing almost exclusively romantic plotlines. We were both- and still are, to lesser degrees- shy, introverted nerds with little romantic or sexual experience. Writing romance allowed us to get to know one another and express our feelings in ways we never could have otherwise. I wasn’t just dating one person anymore; breaking up would be like losing twenty of my closest, dearest friends, and depriving twenty more of their own loved ones. It changed my perspective on romantic fiction in the best way possible, because it opened my mind to an entire compelling and satisfying genre. It helped me to figure out what I was doing wrong when I made a mistake- and I have made many, many mistakes in this relationship- because I knew that I would want to strangle a character if they did that. It got me in touch with my own sexuality, and made me realize that sex isn’t something to be afraid of.

    If not for romantic fiction, my first time would have probably been terrifying and unsatisfactory.

    I don’t know if we’ll ever end up publishing anything we’ve written. (For starters, some of our earlier stuff is laughably bad.) But that doesn’t matter to me as much as the ability to keep on writing, keep on reading, and keep on experiencing romance. Especially with the one who introduced me to all three.

  5. 5
    Sarah W says:

    Oddly enough, the rape-y, obsessive, I-hate-you-because-I-love-you, he-loves-me-so-it’s-okay romances that were popular (or at least crowded the shelves at the library and the used bookstore) when I was growing up, showed me how wrong that sort of behavior is. 

    My own characters (female or male) don’t stand for that—or don’t by the end of the story. 

    And I’m raising my kids to know that real love is so much more than teh drama and that they’re worth so much more.  Luckily, there are several great romances out there as examples!

  6. 6
    Nadia says:

    Overall, I’d say being a lover for romances from early high school on did help me in relationships as a barometer of what I did or didn’t want.  The heroines of favorite romances have one thing in common:  they are worth the effort.  And so, eventually, did that seep into my own thinking.  Maybe he won’t have to save me from pirates, or disguise himself to secretly marry me to rescue me from a worse fate, or deliberately lose a major football game to keep me from getting killed by the villain, but dammit, he could make a date and keep it, wash the sheets before I spend the night, and cook dinner every now and then. 

    And yes, there is teh sex.  Learned a lot early on about what’s good for a female, and that sex can and should be good for the female, and applied it in real life.  Now, in the middle of my second decade of marriage, we are still benefiting from my reading habits.  Something new and interesting to try comes up now and again. ;)

  7. 7
    Milena says:

    Well, having grown up mostly as a reader of SF and fantasy, I always read romance with a similar attitude: this is so much fun, but nobody would want that in real life. Bear in mind, however, that when I was growing up, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss was the image of romance.
    On the other hand, teh sex in modern romances is in fact much more interesting… and yes, more informative. :)

    forms78: yes, romance does come in at least 78 different forms.

  8. 8
    Kerrie says:

    The romances I read throughout high school and even into college didn’t do me any favors because they pushed that “Mr. Perfect” image that can never EVER exist in real life. I chased that ideal for a while and finally wised up when I found a totally imperfect but wonderful guy. One thing that those books did teach me, however, was Communication! It can shorten the length of any misunderstanding! Which is great in real life, but kind of necessary in romance novels or they would all be incredibly short. :)

  9. 9

    I think reading romance novels, especially during rocky periods of my life when we had financial or health issues, helped me re-focus on what’s really important.  Too often I think we can end up in stale relationships, especially those of us who’ve been married since dinosaurs roamed the planet.  Sometimes reading a great romance reminds me life is about the people we love, and that together we can weather crises and come out better for it.

    Yes, you can use my name, Darlene Marshall.

  10. 10
    Eve Savage says:

    Romances have definitely had an impact in my life. I didn’t start reading them until later (early to mid 90s), and by then they’d evolved from the “wimpy heroine/raping hero” style to the “confident but flawed heroine/strong yet sensitive” hero style. This enabled me to realize relationships are about compromise. They helped me understand I was worth something and that most important lesson – sex does not equal love. Something I definitely wished I’d understood during university.

    As my life and reading tastes evolved, I started reading erotica which opened up a whole new world to me and my husband. Things we’d thought, but never had the guts to talk about or try, were now described in black and white. They helped us add new joys to our sex life and brought us closer together in the pleasure we give one another. Thirteen years of marriage and it’s only getting better!

    Feel free to quote – Eve Savage. :)

    met75 – not quite 75years ago

  11. 11
    Jess Granger says:

    Wow, what have I learned from Romance Novels?

    I started reading romances at the age of 13 or 14, right when I started getting curious about everything, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself, literally and figuratively.

    At the time, romances were fairly Old Skool, and some of them were over the top.  One scene in Lindsay’s Savage Thunder in particular stuck with me, and it wasn’t until I was much much older that I had the mental capacity to ask the question, “Where would the saddle horn go?”  Then realize that probably wouldn’t be very comfortable.

    But as a young girl discovering her sexual self, it kept me out of a lot of trouble.  Since I could explore those issues and feelings through the books, I did not have the urge to try to figure them out with some pimply-faced awkward boy in homeroom.  Let’s face it.  None of them were Fabio.  Also, in a lot of those books, sex was scary!  Oh, the pain!  Not to mention the fact that so many of those poor heroines seemed to end up pregnant after one go.

    I didn’t end up losing my virginity until I was nearly twenty-two and by that time romances were coming into the golden age of less rapeyness.  Yay.

    At that point, I had discovered my sexual agency.  The things I did, I did because I wanted to do them for me.  They were my experience, not something I did to impress or cling to some schmuck.

    I had a sense of what I wanted from a man.  My first real boyfriend didn’t love me with a passion that could lead to my HEA.  I recognized he wasn’t consumed by me.  My second was all passion, but no substance.  I knew he couldn’t be the one to stand up for me and support or protect me.  I found my husband later, a perfect balance of passion, friendship, and support.

    I recognized those things in him because romances made me think about what I wanted and what I liked in a hero.  They didn’t make me think my hero should be the one in the book.  If a hero in a book didn’t suit me, I’d usually laugh at him, or I’d throw the book at the wall when he acted like an idiot and didn’t treat the girl as I would have wanted to be treated.

    And so I learned how I wanted to be treated. 

    I am reaping the benefits of having an open mind, enough sexual power and agency to communicate what I want, like, and need in the bedroom, and a knowledge that every couple has dark moments, it’s how you work through them that leads to your Happily Ever After.

    You can use my name.  Loved your first book, and I’ll certainly be picking this one up as well.

  12. 12
    Shannon H says:

    Overall I’d say that romance novels have impacted me and my relationships.

    I started reading them when I was around 11 or 12 years old (I’m 19 now) and immediately set super high standards for myself in what I wanted in a guy. Things like Treats me Well, Spends Time with Me, Makes Me Smile, Compromises, etc. Things that are perfectly realistic, I feel. It made me choose to not settle when I could have done so just to say that I had a boyfriend, and being in college now I think romance has made me perfectly comfortable in turning down hook-ups in favor of an actual relationship.

    Plus when I was in a relationship that wasn’t working out, I think that I was able to assess things to figure out what was wrong more easily because I had read so many romance novels and had seen so many different types of relationships. Not to say that I started viewing my relationship as a story or something like that, but I could realize that hey, our only communication this week was that text 4 days ago. This is a Problem.

    And also, back when I did have a boyfriend, it really contributed to sexy fun times as well. I had expectations there that were probably a tad unrealistic, but I knew that they were unrealistic so it wasn’t an issue. It meant that I knew what I wanted and that I was comfortable asking what he wanted and saying what I wanted, and I don’t think I would have been that relaxed in the situation if I hadn’t read so many romance novels.

    Feel Free to quote

  13. 13
    liz talley says:

    I’m similar to Kerrie on this. I had a rosy picture of what love was supposed to look like thanks to the many romance books I read growing up. When I realized guys weren’t going to always do the right thing or be as hygienic or thoughtful as my romance heroes, there was a let down.  Even now, during the course of a book, I find that what’s going on between the h/h in my book affects the way I interact with my husband. He’s like “What’s with you?” and all I can think about is how pissed I am at Rafe because he hurt Gemma’s feelings by flirting with Leticia. Yeah, there’s some transferance.  Don’t worry. My husband gets it made up to him when things between Gemma and Rafe are hot and heavy. :)

    I do agree that romance books promote communication as the root of a healthy relationship. Very seldomly do you see this to be false in a romance book. And the bonus HEA has to give some chemical reaction in the brain that promotes satisfaction and happiness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve closed a book, sighed, and thought “today will be a good day.”

    Liz Talley

  14. 14
    Sharon S. says:

    Reading a really romantic and sexy book will put me in the mood for some lov’in

    . I just started reading PNR/UF over a year ago and I could kick myself for not starting earlier. I prefer a dark strong UF with romance. I love an alpha-male that gets his butt handed to him by a strong no nonsense female.

    I don’t mind being quoted

  15. 15
    Amanda says:

    I think many romance novels are a lesson in What Not To Do, because so many involve the same plotline:  Eyes Meet, Love, BIG MISUNDERSTANDING, HEA.  And, like anyone else, what always gets me is how avoidable the Big Misunderstanding is.  All anyone ever has to say is, “Are you a spy?” “I heard you killed your last wife,” or “Did you make a bet that you could sleep with me within a month?”  I think romance novels have taught me to just be brave and throw the words out there in the first place.  At least then everyone is on the same page.

  16. 16
    Rima says:

    Romance novels RUINED my love life. Ok, I’m being dramatic. But they certainly gave me unrealistic expectations. Knight in shining armor, gentlemen, etc… The books never had the dude belching, farting, and generally acting like a chimp. Ya?

  17. 17
    Jody W. says:

    The good ones put me in a pleasant mood. Everyone in our family benefits when Mommy’s in a pleasant mood! Of course, the same could be said for any enjoyable books, not just romances…but my favorite romances have an uplifting HEA instead of some ambiguous or bittersweet ending that does NOT put me in a pleasant mood, necessarily. Those sorta make me mopey.

    Permission to quote if desired.

  18. 18
    Sonya -- you can use this says:

    When we were living in different states, my boyfriend and I would send each other erotica. Sometimes the only thing the stories had that we liked was they used our names. Reading those and reading romance stories on my own made it a lot easier for me to cybersex, too, as it gave me different ways to describe the same complements and acts of foreplay, anticipation, etc without sounding repetitive.

    Face to face, we often read (different books) together, and I can make him laugh by reading some of the more outlandish bits from romance books.

    And I know that some people hate the porn/romance novel comparison, but I’ve used both to introduce sex-related subjects with my boyfriend. “Is this something you’d like?” “We could totally do that position.” “Those stockings would look really sexy on you.” “I love it when you do that.” Romance and erotica aren’t as good as porn for introducing positions or outfits, but it’s much better than porn for roleplay or toy suggestions and introducing kinkier subjects.

  19. 19

    I read a ton of romance and bonkbusters as a teenager, and they certainly did help me with my lovelife – mainly by establishing firmly in my mind what was fantasy and what was reality. I was a naive but cynical kid with twisted and divorced parents in a single-sex boarding school. Reading Mills & Boons (or Harlequins to you guys over the Pond) and Jacqueline Susann and especially Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers all gave me a clear understanding of what men were never going to be like.

    My big heroes then were Rhett Butler (I see someone mentioned him already) and Ruark from Shanna. I also really really liked Rochester from Jane Eyre. But these were guys in books, and another thing that I learnt was that guys in books could behave like complete jerks (step forward Rosemary Rogers and Judith Krantz) and that unlike heroes, who were rare and precious, guys who behave like complete jerks are alas all too common in the real world.

    Romances gave me high expectations and a sense of the ridiculous. I love a good category romance, but I certainly don’t expect sane behaviour from any of the protagonists, who are all too often clueless nitwits who allow the Big Mis to prevent them from getting together with the love of their life for 152 pages exactly. High expectations meant that unlike some of my peers, I didn’t just go out with some guy because he showed a little bit of interest in me.

    Primarily romances established firmly in my mind that love is something worthwhile, worth hanging on for and worth nurturing when you find it.  Yes, the emmenthal and roquefort could be heavily layered, but the possibility that love can work is one that encouraged me to believe that I too would be able to have a sensible, sustainable relationship. I’ve been together with my husband for 20 years, married for 16, and I know that without romance novels, my lovelife would have been more chaotic and messy.

  20. 20
    Sarah Frantz says:

    Romances taught me everything I needed to know about how to communicate in a relationship and I credit them with my 20 years-and-going-strong relationship with my partner. They taught me to make sure everyone got a say. They taught me to make sure everything was covered—everything. No hiding that one last little niggle. It all has to come out. They taught me how to discuss things. They taught me that the relationship, the “us”, is paramount over the “you and me.” They taught me to respect my partner at all times. And most of all, they taught me to appreciate my partner and to express that appreciation whenever possible. He brought me a cup of tea, whether or not I asked him for it? Thank him. And tell him I love him. It’s the little, everyday gestures that show love more than the grand gestures, and romances taught me that.

    And yes, they totally taught me about sex. They taught me about owning my own orgasm. They taught me about experimenting. They taught me about BDSM sex, about anal sex, about public sex, about making sure both partners enjoy it. They taught me about having FUN during sex. About talking about sex and during sex. I may or may not have practiced some of what I learned, but it’s all important knowledge.

  21. 21
    Cris says:

    Well, at first romance novels had a terrible impact on me because I thought the 80’s Harlequin heroes that I read about in high school were awesome… I had no idea that when a guy treats you like that it’s NOT because he really loves you and that he won’t do a 180 once he says the words, so I let myself be treated very, very badly (the novels weren’t to blame, of course, but they didn’t help).  Yeah, I dated a real-life Harlequin “hero”.  Tall, dark, movie-star handsome, wealthy, athletic, everything, everything.  Oh, yeah, everything.  He was emotionally abusive, dismissive of my intelligence, pushed me into intimate situations that I wasn’t ready for.  I could go on, but you get it.

    Flash forward to the 2000’s when I picked up a romance novel and discovered a new kind of hero.  By this time, I had overcome most of my own issues, so there would be no more 80’s Harlequin heroes for me EVER, then I read Nora Roberts’ book “Rising Tides” and fell completely in love with Ethan.  A quiet, introspective, kind hero?  What?!  It knocked my socks off, not just the story itself (which is great), but the idea of that man being a romantic hero.  Wow. Since then I’ve read many, many romance novels with all kinds of heroes, some of them reminiscent of the old school types (which get promptly dust binned), but found that the ones I liked most were funny, kind, caring, and – to keep things dramatic – a bit damaged.  The best part?  That’s who I ended up falling in love with.  A new school hero.  Handsome, funny, sweet, thoughtful, shy, successful… my very own romance novel hero.  And I really do credit these novels for helping me look into myself to discover what I really wanted and eventually be open to finding it.

    Sarah, you can use this if you like.  Just “Cris” is fine :)

  22. 22
    Kelly says:

    Romances have helped me to think through things.  How would I act in this situation, how would I react to that, would I put up with that, what would be a deal-breaker, what would I SAY?  For example, Would I move across the country to be with him?  Would I take the chance of being able to find I new job that I like as much as my current one?  Do I trust him to be alone with his ex?  Do I care that he has a difficult kid?  Would I want to be with a guy who has that much anger?  Is he too controlling?  Romances have put words to feelings and experiences.  When the hero and heroine break up, you feel the pain, and when you feel it in real life, it’s familiar and less scary.  By acting out things in imagination, I prepared for real life.

    Romance novels are over the top and exaggerated, completely focused on relationships, but that’s what they are for.  The relationship lessons are highlighted by being exaggerated.  You wouldn’t complain about a math book because it doesn’t say enough about ice skating!

    You can quote me!

  23. 23
    Reba says:

    I tried reading romance novels in the early 80s, but the rape narrative was still prevalent, so I turned from them.  Strangely, it was the power of the women reading to demand and expect change in what defines romance that made me give romance novels a second chance.

    I didn’t expect real men to be the same as romance novel heroes, any more than I expected them to be the same as fantasy novel heroes (and let’s face it, no man is going to live up to Aragorn, no matter how awesome he is), but one thing I found surprising was how sympathetic I was to the men.  They had feelings, thoughts, doubts, fears, stupid habits that got them into trouble.  Their strength did not mean they were invulnerable.  The most common tropes of movies, television, magazines, etc. about how men were or should be did not take into account their humanity until well after romance novels did.  Male vulnerability was either a sign of weakness or illness, or the result of a devastating event – not part of the normal, every day world of men as human beings.  Yes, I’m generalizing, but the exceptions only prove the rule.  It seemed to me that men were liberated in romance novels long before they were in other media.  So reading romance made me a little more sensitive to things my partner might not be showing or able to put in words.  While it would be no fun if fictional characters opened up and solved things right away, I wanted to skip that part of the story in real relationships, so by not having it, romance novels taught me that open communication could work wonders.

    The other thing I enjoy about romance novels is the woman struggling for independence in a world that does not recognize her value.  Historicals are especially good for this, but I think they only highlight things that women recognize exist to this day.  To whit, even our literature is seen as “less than,” despite strong writing, compelling story telling, and regular inclusion of universal truths (or as universal as truths can get, anyway).  So women fighting to be seen as strong, smart, fully-realized human beings with something to offer strikes a chord with me.  Since I do have the benefit of civil rights (such as they are) and a more open society (ditto), the least I can do is sally forth with as much pluck as the heroine of a Victorian novel, grateful that, if nothing else, I don’t have to manage a bustle.

  24. 24
    Reba says:

    Oh, and feel free to quote me!

  25. 25
    Tamara Hogan says:

    Romance novels have helped me in real-life relationships in a number of ways, but foremost in my mind is with sexual agency and negotiation. I’ve been reading romances since I was maybe 11 or 12 years old, and long before I got into a situation where a boy wanted to kiss me – or I wanted to kiss a boy, and maybe wanted to do more – I’d read countless stories modeling ways to say yes and ways to say no. 

    Dress rehearsal, as it were. 

    Romances also taught me to recognize and appreciate the funny, kind, sometimes geeky beta hero – and no one does this better than Nora. ;-)

    Go ahead and quote if it’s helpful.

  26. 26
    Alpha Lyra says:

    I wouldn’t say I learned anything about relationships from romance novels. They serve a different purpose for me. I didn’t start reading romance until after my 12-year marriage fell apart due to my husband’s infidelity. Those years during the deterioration of the marriage and the divorce proceedings were horrible. Night after night, I cried myself to sleep. Romance novels not only gave me comfort during these awful times, I think they help shield me from becoming cynical about love and thinking that all guys will eventually betray me. They made me willing to try again. So I’m still looking for my real HEA. No luck yet.

  27. 27
    dick says:

    Well, I’ve learned that many romance authors are very good writers, and, since I think that’s it’s unlikely that one reads very good writers without learning something, I suppose I have.  Still, I don’t think a lot of romance authors really “get” male sexual responses very well—IMHO, i.e.—because much of what they write in that regard seems a bit too fanciful, in keeping probably with the idealization that romance fiction upholds.  But, because of the fanciful nature of romance fiction, any knowledge gained about real life relationships has to be carefully filtered, for regardless how complex the h/h relationship in fiction, it’s always made simple by the end, and in real life that simplicity is never possible.

  28. 28
    Caroline says:

    What romance taught me? There is a lot to go from but, I can jot down some points:

    - There were a few books I read that taught me love is not easy. It takes work. Just because someone gets you all hot in the pants doesn’t mean its going to be a cake-walk down the aisle. You sometimes have to compromise, sometimes examine yourself first, and talk to one another, not just humpity-hump until you say the L-word and have the Twue Lurve ™ ending. Sometimes s*** gets in the way and you have to deal.

    - There were some books that taught me just how stupid some behaviours are. I recognized my own actions in what the heroine was doing. When I stopped reading, slapped my forehead and exclaimed “Wow, she’s a {insert descriptive of asshattery here}.” I stopped and went “butbutbut… I done did that with Mr. X. Oh s***.” I knew that if I read it and it sounded dumb to do, mebbe, jes mebbe I shouldn’t either?

    - Romance novels in general taught me that it isn’t about the bling, but the substance behind the bling that makes it last. Always the heroine and hero, at some level, just want to be with one another by the end of the book. I have rarely read a book where the heroine goes “Well… He’s a billionaire-playboy-oil-baron-secret-Earl-Sheik with a whole barnful of horses, six palatial mansions and a bunch of jets, I guess I’ll be happy with him. Oh yeah, and he’s got a magic wang.” Its always a little deeper than that. The person usually comes to the surface. The need for the person outweighs the trappings, and there is never a second guess.

    - Romance novels taught me it is never ok to let a man take advantage of you. I was so turned off, in my early reading years, with the “force my mighty sword-o-lovin’ on you and you will love and loathe me for it” storyline. Ick. I remember never allowing a guy to just slobber and grope his way about, without my explicit permission, remembering how awful it sounded when I read scenes such as that. The “I can’t stop, I’m so in lust and out of control for you” line never worked on me. A knee to your groin will help then, right?

    - Most important of all…. Romance novels taught me it is ok to fantasize, and dream, and take pleasure in someone else’s happy ending without needing to compare my own happy ending, or dejectedly pine that my romantic life sucks. Its fiction, its fantasy, and its healthy, but it’s not real.

  29. 29
    Olivia T. says:

    I did not start reading romance novels until after the end of my First Real Relationship. At first they were a comfort to me, reminding me that I was well rid of that idiot because he sure did not act like any of the Hero’s in the books I was reading. However, after reading more romance novels I found that Romance is not about a perfect man meeting a perfect woman and living happily ever after. Romance is about a man meeting a woman and struggling to understand emotions and feelings and the changes that come into your life when you fall in love. What I learned is that relationships are complicated and take a lot of work, but that in the end its worth it. It isn’t about meeting a perfect man, its about meeting the man who is perfect for me. Romance has taught me to own myself.

    free to quote

  30. 30
    Caroline says:

    Alpha Lyra:

    Romance novels not only gave me comfort during these awful times, I think they help shield me from becoming cynical about love and thinking that all guys will eventually betray me. They made me willing to try again.

    I think that is a key point to make about romance genre. Bravo to you for making it through that tough time, and you HEA will happen, no matter the form, or structure. Keep swimmin’!

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