Hi friends! I’m very pleased to welcome N.J. Walters to ALBTALBS! She’s a first time guest here, and we always love that! I frequently put out calls for guest posts and N.J. was kind enough to respond, so everyone please welcome her! This is a fantastic and timely post. Read on!
Why We Need Romance Novels More Than Ever
The romance industry brings in more than a billion dollars in revenue a year in book sales. In spite of this, many people, including those in the mainstream media, often still refer to the romance genre with a snicker, calling the books bodice rippers.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love some of those older books—Kathleen Woodiwiss, Johanna Lindsey, Rosemary Rogers—the ones with the heroine’s ripped bodice and brooding hero on the cover. Those early writers paved the way for what we have today—a vibrant and diverse industry. From the beginning, romance authors have pushed the boundaries. The heroines in the stories are often successful business women in their own right. They’re mothers and sisters and daughters and friends. They’re part of the fabric of the community in which they work and live.
There’s nothing wrong with pure escapist fantasy. Now your traditional Science Fiction, Western, and Mystery genres all offer the same thing—an escape from reality—yet are rarely criticized in the same fashion as romance.
When you say romance, the general public thinks about the wildly popular books with fabulously rich lovers like Christian Grey and Gideon Cross. But there is another side to the romance genre. It has a huge range of subgenres from basic contemporary to western, science fiction, fantasy, suspense, mystery, paranormal, and erotic. Within those subgenres you’ll find diverse offerings. A contemporary book might feature a hometown girl struggling to run her business and make ends meet while raising a child or younger sibling. You might also find a returning military veteran dealing with the complex issues of PTSD and trying to integrate back into normal life.
Romance authors have never hesitated to tackle important social issues. They’ve covered everything from poverty (rural and urban) to physical and substance abuse. They’ve dealt with autism and mental health issues, not to mention physical challenges. Bigotry, homophobia, interracial marriage, human trafficking, the drug trade, cults—if there is a topic covered in the news, you’re sure to find it in a romance novel.
I think that one of the main reasons a writer can take on such compelling and complicated issues in this genre is that the reader knows the book comes with a happily ever after. (HEA) If it doesn’t have a HEA or at least a HFN (happy for now) it’s not a romance. It’s fiction. Some critics cry that romance novels are not realistic, that they give a false view of relationships and the world. I would disagree. A romance author can lay out the issues and show the heroine and/or hero fighting individually and together to overcome the challenges they face. They give hope and inspire.
And isn’t that what life is all about?
At it’s very core, life is about relationships and connections—family, work, community. We all want to fall in love, to have people who care about us, have meaningful work, feel connected to a community or group. After food, water, and shelter, a sense of connection is our greatest need.
It’s time for the rest of the world to figure out what readers of romance already know—romance is a powerful genre. Not only is the industry dominated by women, unlike most other professions in the world, it is also a powerful force for change. Authors have always been at the leading edge of change, pushing the boundaries of society.
Sometimes the message is subtle or disguised by fantasy. Maybe it’s a young woman from a Regency novel who pushes to keep her independence, wanting her own career instead of falling in line and marrying as society deems she should. It’s a romance so there has to be a HEA, but the heroine and hero both learn that she can have both if she and her partner are willing to compromise. Maybe it’s a female werewolf escaping a brutal past from her pack and learning to get past those horrific memories and scars to find a full and meaningful life and, yes, love.
Sometime a novel can be groundbreaking, as was Susanne Brockman’s All Through the Night (2007) where a major publishing house released a romance novel where openly gay FBI agent Jules Cassidy— supporting character and fan favorite of her Troubleshooters series—finally marries the man of his dreams.
Times are tough in the world right now. Whenever you turn on the news it seems as though the entire world is plagued with strife, conflict, and tragedy. There are so many problems we all face on any given day. It’s no wonder the romance business is booming.
We all need hope. We all need a place where we know things will work out in the end, no matter how doubtful it may seem at times. We all need to believe that love is true and strong and forever and can weather any storm or problem that life might throw at us.
I’m a romance writer because I believe we are all capable of great things, of finding our way out of the dark, in embracing our best selves even when times are tough. Maybe especially then. I write strong heroines and heroes, fighting demons (sometimes literally), who must push their way past their fears, overcome their circumstances, and become better versions of themselves. They do that on their own and together.
I read romance for the very same reason. The variety of books available is astounding with the explosion of the ebook industry. I’m inspired, entertained, and moved by the books I read. I’m in awe of my fellow authors who tackle huge issues while creating an amazing love story.
We need the romance genre more than ever. It’s a haven in the storm during troubled times. It also entertains, making us laugh and cry, making our heart sing.
What could be better than that?
~N.J. Walters is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has always been a voracious reader, and now she spends her days writing novels of her own. Vampires, werewolves, dragons, time-travelers, seductive handymen, and next-door neighbors with smoldering good looks—all vie for her attention. It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to live it.
Visit me at: Website, Blog, Newsletter Group, Facebook Author Page, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, BookBub
Thank you for this post, N.J.! Definitely it’s always time for romance, and especially now that we’re seeing more varied stories and settings. <3
I’d also like to note that I picked the covers – so apologies if they’re off etc. :X
I have always loved the romance genre.
What a great post! And very well said, we do need the romance genre more than ever. It’s not without its own growing pains, but it will pay off.