Romance Novel: Criticising the genre

Before I begin, let me answer two unasked questions. Yes, I read romance novels….it’s the only genre I’ll read more than twice, without thinking twice. And yes, I write romance. What else is there to write? So now, you know me. And my romance history.

Many people think, or like to think that a romance novel is a set of love scenes or rather, a set of sex scenes strung together to make a book. Guess what? It’s the biggest lie of the centuries! Literally. Since the 80s, it’s been a popular belief, especially among non readers, that romance novels are badly written ‘trashy’ books for those who themselves lack enough romance in their life. How do you know the book is trashy if you don’t even read it? And the worst part is the idea that 190% of romance readers are women -housewives who fantasize about a hunk of male flesh. Decades ago, when the genre was just beginning we could have said that 1percent of the talk was true. After all, women were the ones who had to stay at home while the men went out to work or to do whatever they did. And the women who were not so good at knitting as expected probably had to find consolation in a book.

But now, both the men and women do work. So why is the genre still associated to women only? Very stereotypical don’t you think? The romance category has gone through a lot of evolution and in it’s course, has been a source of inspiration for many readers as well. You might even be surprised that a romance book many at times, has been the saviour of a failing marriage. In this article, I’m going to talk about some stereotyped classes of romance books and their real issue.

1. The controlling Alpha male

A typical scenario of this class of romance is a hero who has all the looks of a Greek god, thinks the world of himself and treats the heroine as if she was created specifically to serve and satisfy him. Where the heroine has no say in whatever he wants her to do. As stereotypical as this might be, the underlining and effect factor lies in the journey the hero makes to become the kind of man that a woman needs. Most of these plots will end with the hero finally realising that a woman does not need a controlling man but, a real partner. One who will listen and support. Imagine if your controlling husband read a book like this and finally realised that you both could be happy in your marriage if he let go of his control habits and was more supportive of your decisions. Well, you could start by thanking the writer!

2. The rich hero and the not-so-rich, sometimes poverty-stricken heroine.

I don’t think I need a scenario for this one. Most people are quick to judge this kind of romance novels because the heroes always get away with the wrong things they do thanks to their fat bank accounts. They don’t pay attention to the heroine who stands up to the rich man and tells him what he can do with his money- like maybe be buy a better attitude. And they probably close the book before they get to the part where the hero realises that not money, but affection, kindness and true love are what he needs to be with the woman he wants. And ultimately, find true happiness. You’d think a man would be grateful if he found out that his girlfriend finally prefers his presence and affection to his money, thanks to a novel she read. Or that he does not need a fat account to make his wife happy!

Ultimately, I don’t know what your take on the romance genre is, but I believe that if you truly wish to criticise it, you should at least finish the book. And not judge a book by its genre.

The author of this blog is also a student of the University of Ghana and a romance writer.

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