I’ve known I wanted to be a writer from the time I was young, and even before I was aware there was such a thing as a romance genre I was writing romantic stories. I still have a school project I did in the 6th grade that was a cloth-bound little book that I wrote and illustrated. It’s the story of how a prince and princess fell in love and lived happily ever after.
When I was in high school, I began reading books in the romance genre courtesy of a good friend and her mom. I fell in love with those stories, even though some aspects of those ’80s romances would likely make me cringe now. But at their heart was the basic human desire to be loved and to be able to share the love within us with someone else. Like most things, the romance genre has evolved. While you might still find damsels in distress, they are just as likely to save themselves as be saved by some knight in shining armor. But even though the heroines have become stronger and more self-reliant, that doesn’t mean they don’t want love in their lives. And despite those critics out there who like to denigrate the romance genre, I firmly believe that love is a basic human need. We can have all the food and water our bodies require, but we’ll still crave someone to love and be loved by. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Honestly, in a world where the news is filled with one horrible thing after another, I think positive stories of falling in love and making a commitment to another person is just what we all need. Some light to counter all the encroaching darkness, something to remind us that the world isn’t all bad, that there is still reason to hope. I was reminded of this when I passed a sign recently that bore a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
I’ve never understood the need some critics have of writing romance off as unworthy. There are a lot of readers in the world, so there is room for romance just the same as there is for mystery, thrillers, nonfiction, religious fiction, and literary fiction. The existence of the romance genre doesn’t keep a literary novel from being published. Good writing of all types will rise to the top and find an audience. So I would challenge critics to refrain from putting down another genre in hopes of elevating their own. And this goes for fans of romance, too. It bothers me just as much to hear romance authors or readers putting down literary fiction as it does to hear the authors and readers of literary fiction poo-pooing romance. Rise above your prejudices, and realize that just because something isn’t to your taste doesn’t mean it is less or unworthy. And I challenge you to read the types of books that you may have in the past looked down upon. You might be surprised when you’re touched by a story of love, of struggle, of deduction or a unique perspective on the world around us.