Personally, I read and write romance for the combination of escapism, entertainment, and emotional fulfillment. Let’s face it, as a married woman with a small child, two dogs, and the recent experience of a weekend getaway that ended with my husband and I passed out on top of the bed in a well-lit room, fully clothed, while a marathon of Roseanne blared until six the next morning when we were programmed to wake, the courtship phase of my life is behind me and responsibilities abound. It’s fun to read about lavish yachts and faraway palaces and to imagine a life far more grand than my own. In my regular life, there are no exotic vacations or parties or sprawling cliff side mansions, no millionaires sweeping into town to whisk me off my feet. Even in small-town romances, which might lack some of the glitz and dazzle, there is a certain level of fantasy and charm that isn’t always present in our ordinary lives. The dates are more creative, the food more delicious, the people more attractive, the backdrop prettier; in a nutshell, life is somewhat idealized in Romancelandia. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s exciting to read about glamorous lifestyles and settings, and it’s enjoyable to watch two people fall in love, despite the hurdles thrown at them along the way.
But does this finely tuned fantasy leave you feeling that your own life is blah in comparison? Romance, in general, is uplifting; by definition, these books guarantee a happy ending. I don’t turn from the computer or book in my lap, look around at my own life and sigh, thinking of how different it could all be, feeling bitter and angry that I didn’t end up with a billionaire husband and a multi-million-dollar penthouse. Rather, I close the book with a smile and go about my day feeling a little lighter. I suppose I could read a deeply depressing book instead, and think of how wonderful my life is in comparison, but again, I don’t gauge my own fulfillment with the lives of characters in books--regardless of the book in hand, I take the experience as something separate from my own. I’m sure the characters in these books have piles of laundry and trips to the store, and endless other “real life” responsibilities, but I really don’t need or want to be bogged down with these details. There’s a division of fact and fiction, and I appreciate the opportunity to escape for a few hours each day.
This is not to say, however, that I only enjoy reading and writing about the wonderful things that happen to characters. Quite the opposite, in fact. As a reader, I love connecting with characters on a deeper level, witnessing their struggles, and watching them overcome their obstacles. As a writer, I recently finished a WIP which included a character going through a very difficult and sad experience. It was raw, it was painful, but it was ultimately resolved. I received mixed feedback from beta readers--some thought it was too much, others thought it fit perfectly. For me, I felt strongly about including this storyline for the emotional connection to the characters, though it might have veered too close to real life problems and too far from the fantasy of romance. I’m still thinking about that one, but it all makes me wonder just why we read romance. When we pick up a book, what experience are we looking for?
So tell me, why do YOU read (or write) romance?