Romance books, whether intentional or incidental, can do a lot of things… they entertain, delight, give us the feels, take us to magical, faraway, distant lands, let us dream, give us an escape, and maybe even let us live vicariously through the characters on a page. But sometimes they can do even more than that.
Authors have the power to reach people in ways that nothing else can, and this article explores one aspect of that power. I asked a group of Romance Authors the question…
Here’s what these talented authors had to say:
Romance books change what women EXPECT from men, and indeed, the relationships they have with them.
Thanks to romance novels, women can expect to be treated like princesses, and with respect. They can expect to be a priority in their partner’s life. They can expect passion, and that a man will satisfy their needs in bed – plus not be afraid to ‘educate’ the men in the latter area if they need a little help. 😉
Romance fiction also teaches women that potential suitors may be imperfect and make mistakes, yet can still be completely dateable – so long as they have good values at heart and are willing to grow.
Some might say romance novels give women an unrealistic expectation of men. I disagree. Can romance novels raise our expectations? Absolutely. And why not?
We are not naive enough to demand acts of heroism or bigger than life deeds, but we can certainly demand to be appreciated and loved. Not everyone has that benefit. When we read romance, its not a bad thing to want, if not our own fairy tale, our own happily ever afters, with a person who will respect and love us they way we do them.
Our novels may not be reality, but they can serve as a teaching tool and a guide to how we should expect and deserve to be treated. If our romance novels open the eyes of a woman in an unhealthy relationship, I’d say let’s keeping writing them.
For me romance is not just finding love but also change. Both the hero and heroine have to change (known as a character arc) to be together. They both have to give up something for each other.
Looking at today’s world. You can’t just expect a man to come and sweep you off your feet and do everything. You need to change to be with him. I’m not talking about appearance, I’m talking about letting go of something in the past that’s holding you back. Perhaps this is not applicable to you? But often is – in both books and real life.
What I, and others, write may seem like fantasy (romantic love) but the reality is there are plenty of wonderful men out there. Perhaps they don’t own an island or helicopter to whisk you away for a romantic weekend. But they may buy you a bunch of your favourite flowers, a gift voucher from your favourite store, make you dinner after a hard day. That’s what true love is.
I think romance books change the way women think about men by encouraging them to accept the person right in front of them as a potential hero.
I realize not all of us have that luxury—a spouse/partner who gets up every day and goes to work to help provide for his family, even if he doesn’t do it as a mysterious billionaire, broody cowboy, or smoldering yet accessible rock star. But my own personal experience as a romance author and a woman in a 30-year-plus relationship has made me do that very thing. Your man doesn’t have to meet the romance novel high bar of perfect abs and pecs and a seven figure job to be your hero and I like to think that crafting realistic heroes in every day situations can help readers accept that the person right in front of their eyes every day has the potential to be just that—their true hero—no matter if he’s a mechanic, a waiter, a teacher, a struggling small business owner, or a brain surgeon. To me, the BEST romance novels provide that opportunity—to see men as heroes no matter what they wear to work.
Of course, I can’t speak to those readers in abusive or otherwise negative situations. What I sincerely hope that reading romance novels does for them is change what they understand as the norm when it comes to relationships. Romance novels may be pure fantasy, but they can also provide a baseline for how men should be treating their significant others—with both love AND respect.
Romance books teach women that it’s okay to not settle. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’re led to believe in that age-old fairy tale of having one true love, soul mates, or even happily ever after, though at least we can see maybe those are not outside the scope of possibility. What I do think is that even the ‘bad boys,’ or the imperfect men have a redeeming quality or two, and sometimes it takes the right girl, the right person, to turn it all around.
I know that for a lot of years, I got hung up on wanting to be the hero for tortured souls, and what I took entirely too long to learn is, I’m not meant to save everyone, and that’s okay. Romance books changed the way I thought, in that all it takes is one… If you aren’t a guy’s exception, the one he’s willing to make himself a better person for, then maybe it’s time to admit that he’s not the one for you and you’re not the one for him, and that’s okay.
I find that well-written romance books can help women to see examples of women who while looking for love are strong, independent women in their own right. These heroines show us that finding the “perfect” man is not the answer to all of our problems but rather a way to make a good life even more beautiful. These women can survive on their own, but choose to share their lives with a man. I think choice is the most important concept.
There is a difference between wanting a man and needing a man. These romances can teach us not to settle for anything less, and not to pick a man who doesn’t fully accept us for who we are. We all deserve to be treated with respect.
Romance novels, when done well, can remind us about the healing power of love. Not even necessarily romantic love, though obviously, that is usually the focus of a romance novel. A truly good one can remind us that men are multi-layered and complex individuals who may drive from a different perspective than the feminine, but whose feelings and needs are no less valid than our own.
The can also highlight the importance of the kind of relationship we are looking for, and those may vary. Some want to be taken care of, some want to be the caregivers and some want to be equal partners, all of which are valid choices if you find the right person to share your goals and needs.
Most importantly, I think, is that they remind us of the possibility and the power of love in a world where such things seem fleeting or downright impossible, and help us hold on and keep looking for a relationship that instills the same hope and passion inside us that we feel when we read a good love story.
In my case, I have to admit that I sometimes compare my partner with the heroes in romance books. We all know that the perfect man doesn’t exist, just like the perfect woman doesn’t exist, but books/movies/music – they let us fantasize for a short time.
Sometimes they tell us how it should be, sometimes how it shouldn’t be, and I have to admit that I learned one or two lessons when I think about my own relationships, so thank you, dear authors, for the education!!
I, too, find myself comparing my husband to some of the heroes I read. Sometimes, it only solidifies how lucky he and I are. Others, it’s… wow, I could use some of that. (Lol)
But really, often times, these men are the fantasy and not the reality. We read the ideal, what we want our men to be, and I love that. I think as women, it can help us to express what it is we’re really looking for out of our partners and ourselves as well. It doesn’t always have to be left on the page and over when we close the book or turn off our e-readers.
I find I’m a little critical, probably too much, but that also pushes me to step out of the fantasy world and look at what is unique around me.
If we didn’t get your answer above, tell me your response down in the comments! What did you think of the responses that were given? Did anything resonate with you?
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