Romance is the Hope of Life
If you read (or write) romance, chances are, you've received subtle or overt negative commentary on your choice of genre. You've probably hidden the cover, or felt embarrassed, or made excuses, just to keep the peace. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.
The reasons for discounting, sneering at, or the outright hostility toward romances are as varied as the critics. Romances, critics complain, are formulaic, always about honest relationships and insisting on a happy ending. Romances give readers unrealistic expectations of relationships, sex, and the prevalence of well-shaped love interests. Romance readers (code for “females”) choose romances because they don't want to be bothered with—or can't handle—the weightier themes of loftier literary works. And romance readers who are male are one slippery-slope away from eating quiche and wearing pearls.
These reasons have one thing in common: They're all bullshit.
No one, and let me repeat that, no one should have to feel ashamed about what they like to read. Or what they *need* to read to get through the day. Author Barbara Devlin talked about this on a panel at the recent Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference that I wish I'd seen. She writes romance because she wants to share hope with others, because it was what she desperately needed to survive a life-changing injury.
I wrote a paranormal romance with a disabled veteran main character because very few humans are the model of perfection. Most of us have flaws that make us doubt our attractiveness, or usefulness, or ability to find or deserve love. A male reader wrote to me privately to thank me for giving him hope that the loss of a limb didn't make him a total loser. I cherish that message.
Romance is about people, and justice, and hope. It's about overcoming sometimes horrendous obstacles and accepting and giving love. It's what saves us when nothing else goes as planned. It's about finding something or someone in life worth fighting for, and doing it together. My story, “Pet Trade,” in the upcoming Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 science fiction romance anthology, reflects that. Sure, it's about pets, too, and how marvelous they are, but the heart of the story two damaged people finding love, even in the frozen north of a frontier planet.
I get occasional complaints from readers and reviewers that I got icky romance in their science fiction-action goodness. I nod sympathetically, but ignore them. The big damn story arc in my Central Galactic Concordance space opera series is about a time of upheaval that will spread throughout the galaxy. In my books, romance is the balancing counterweight to the unavoidable devastation that comes with revolution.
Change comes to us all, and sometimes in frightening and unpleasant ways. Love is the only thing that will save us. Romance is the hope of life.