Every six months or so, the knives come out. Somewhere on the internet, someone will shake their fist and proclaim that Romance is a worthless genre, that romance writers are all hacks, and that no self-respecting reader out there should be caught dead reading such drivel.
Every six months or so, someone makes an idiot of themselves.
Romance is the heart of humanity. Clearly it’s a hot-button issue, because every time the arguments begin to rage, defenders of romance rush forth to set the cynics straight. More than that, they remind the world that the romance genre is the top-selling genre out there, a six billion dollar a year industry. The fact that romance sells so well AND the fact that it is always attacked with such ferocity is proof that love, relationships, yearning, and intimacy are at the heart of who we are.
I would like to propose that in today’s world, romance goes further than that. Right now, in a world that has been whipped up to epic levels of hysteria, in a world where loud-mouthed individuals and groups with a dark agenda can captivate billions and instill them with fear like never before, romance is essential. Now more than ever, the world needs romance novels.
Because it’s scary out there right now, folks. Every time you turn on the news, you can’t help but cringe over something that someone said or about violence and injustice going on somewhere in the world. We sometimes forget that this isn’t the only time in our history that this sort of thing has happened. What I find interesting, though, is what happened last time the world found itself mired in senseless war, questionable conflict, and the strain of social injustice.
I’m talking about the 60s, of course. The Vietnam War. The racial unrest. The uncertainty across the globe. But what else do we remember about the 60s and the Vietnam Era? We remember hippies, peaceniks, music, and The Summer of Love.
Love goes hand-in-hand with peace. We all want peace, but you could definitely make the argument that without love first, without the opening of our hearts, peace isn’t possible. And what are romance novels but deep, expressive examples of love?
The whole point of a romance novel is to have a hero and heroine (or hero and hero, or heroine and heroine, or…you get the point) meet, have a spark between them, and overcome odds to be together. I was struck this summer when I heard Catherine Bybee speak at the Ind’Scribe Conference about how for her, romance novels were how she learned about monogamy and happily ever after in romantic relationships. She was so right. Too many of us don’t have those examples in our real lives. What we learn, we learn between the pages.
I think it extends beyond relationships and happily ever afters. Romance novels go one step further to show us that it is not only possible to conquer demons (literal and figurative) it’s right. In today’s world, it is far too easy to give up and assume that the bad guys will win because they’re louder or more ruthless. Romance novels show us that that’s not the case. No matter how dastardly or clever the bad guy is, love saves the day.
We need this sentiment in the world right now. We need to be reminded over and over that good will triumph over evil, that great acts of compassion are possible, that the future can be filled with peace and happiness. It may be hard to have those feelings when you turn on the news right now, but when you open the pages of a book, a romance novel, you see that it can be done. We may be skeptical, we may be tempted to join those detractors and think that it’s all just fiction, but I think that the more we immerse ourselves in those examples of love and happy endings, the more we can not only come to believe they are possible, the more we will work to make them possible.
So turn off the news. Ignore the detractors. Let your soul breathe for a few hours. Pick up a romance novel and change the way you look at the world. Welcome in peace to a world that needs it, and learn to believe that we can all have our happily ever after.