Thursday, November 21, 2013

Unapologetically Romantic

I love to read romance and have ever since I read my first chaste, sweet, Harlequin as a young teenager in the 70’s. At the time my favorite books were set in Australia. Then somewhere along the way I chanced across a slightly steamier historical romance and was instantly hooked. I read other genres as well but historical romance, particularly those set in the Highlands, is my go-to when I want a relaxing, enjoyable, escape.

For years I dreamed of being an author and writing my own romantic novels. I even majored in English for a while at until I was overcome by a wave of practicality obtained a BS in nursing. Eventually I was able to merge both skill sets and become a successful medical writer. While I dwelt in the world of early drug development, I still dreamed about my novels. Finally, when my kids needed less of my time I wrote Highland Solution, a medieval Highland romance.

When I was offered a contract for it I was thrilled and wanted to tell everyone I knew. Of course the first question from most people was, “What is it about?”

I generally responded somewhat apologetically, “Oh, well—um—it’s just a romance.” The author inside me who fell in love with romance and worked hard to craft a beautiful story yelled “What the hell is that about?” While the stuffy adult medical writer said, “Well—you know—romance? It’s not very important.”

Clearly, I needed to shut her up but I needed to speak her language to do it.

While romance is often scorned by literary critics, according to statistics published by the Business of Consumer Book Publishing and reported on the Romance Writers of America website (, romance was the top-performing category on the best-seller lists in 2012 generating $1.438 billion in sales in 2012.

So why do critics turn their nose up? Frankly, I’m not sure. Perhaps the sheer escapism that romance provides combined with the expected “happily-ever-after” leaves them cold. But why would I care about that? The escapism and the “happily-ever-after” is exactly what I seek in a romance. I love the fairy tale qualities inherent in most romance and I suspect I am not alone.

Having effectively gagged the apologetic medical writer with the statistics she so loves, now I answer, “Oooh, it’s a medieval Highland romance. It contains great characters who I can respect, a few villains, a little intrigue and a heartwarming romance. You’ll love it!”


Anonymous said...

Never had anyone say it's just a romance. Did have women say, "You can't write romance, you're a guy."

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

He can. And so can you.

HEA endings are one of the reasons for reading romance. It's likely that our world situations are driving the desire to see something work out right: the good guys win, and the lovers get together.

Unknown said...

Mike, I'm glad you didn't listen!

Julie, I think you are right the HEA is the point.

The funny thing is the category itself. "Romance" is so many different things. A romance can contain mystery, suspense, action, adventure, fantasy, paranormal elements, science fiction, you name it. As long as it has a couple whose relationship is a key element of the plot, it is romance.

I think that is why 2 different people can read the same book and one person says they can't put it down, while another finds it boring. Some one commented that the battle scene in Highland Solution should have been described. I don't like battle scenes (in fact I hate them) and skim over them when they appear in a romance.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Battle scenes like sex scenes must allow the character of each actor to be consistant with their personalities. That is what makes them a necessary part of th plot and not just add ons.

Linda Rettstatt said...

I started writing women's fiction, but soon realized every story had some element of romance. So I branched out into writing contemporary romance, as well. I love it! Although women's fiction might not necessarily have a 'happy ever after' ending, romance does. And let's face it, the world has enough of those other endings.

Liz Fountain said...

I'm a firm believer in this: good stories are good stories, good writing is good writing. "Genre" and "non-genre" and "literary" labels are more about what the salespeople need to know than about the quality of the stories being told. Like with films, some days I might be in the mood for a light comedy, other days I want to experience falling in love, and other days I need to explore the darker side of the world. I'm just glad all these great stories are out there waiting for m.