I say those words unflinchingly, my face devoid of any emotion. Because I’m not offering them up for debate. I’m stating a fact. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and I write romance.
I’m not ashamed of those words, as much as it sometimes feels as though people would like for me to be. And I know those people exist. I’ve heard their whispers. I’ve seen their side-eyes. I’ve felt their judgments. I’ve met their comments of, “Oh. So you’re a romance writer then,” and “never pegged you as a love story kind of girl” with a stony face and an unapologetic shrug. Yes. Yes, I write romance. Yes, I’m a love story kind of girl and it’s always going to be burning bright, center-stage, in everything I write, in the books I reach for as a reader. I’m supposed to offer up an explanation, I think. Maybe some kind of defense or justification. I never do. Why would I? I don’t wrinkle my nose other other readers and writers for what they read and write. “Oh, so you read fantasy then. How quaint. Give me your every reason why.” That would be rude and unnecessary. I fancy myself someone who is not rude and unnecessary. And I’m surely not gonna entertain people who are.
But as Romance readers and writers, we’re often made to feel like we’re supposed to feel a little less for our chosen genre. Not always. But a lot. There’s always people quick to shake their heads at us, wrinkle their noses, and sigh with pretentious pity. We’re the target of haughty remarks such as, “Ah, I see. Those types of books aren’t my cup of tea.” and then they give us those tight-lipped smiles. “I’ll check your book out, even though I don’t read them.” They toss us bones, do us these favors, by checking out these shelves beneath them for our sake. Not every non-romance reader, obviously. Some like what they like and don’t treat or act like other preferences are less. But there’s enough out there who do. Who treat romance as if it’s all ripped, shirtless men catching swooning, tight bodiced females on the covers and sneer that such books are the culinary equivalent of hot dogs.
Ah, but to those people, guess what? I write romance. I read romance. And I like hot dogs. I do. They’re delicious, hot dogs. Pan-grilled on the stove, topped with sauteed onions and mustard on a toasted bun? My God. Stop. Stop it right now. That shit is delicious. That is manna straight from heaven. It’s almost a religious experience, biting into one perfectly prepared. And satisfying in a way other, “better” foods aren’t. True story: I have never regretted eating such a hot dog. I hope I never see a day that I do. I am not ashamed of my love for this hunk of delight topped with wonder and merriment. Why, if the Queen of England were to come to my house expecting dinner, I’d take one look at her and say, “Your majesty, I am about to knock your socks off. You are gonna finally understand why we threw your tea into a harbor. For the freedom to prepare magic such as this. Oh. And we were also pretty pissed about that whole tax thing, but mostly for this.”
Shit. Now I’m hungry.
What was I saying?
Oh. Right. Romance.
Romance has been around for ages and ages. Since the human race has started telling stories, romance has been one of the ones we’ve told. I suspect that once, a long time ago, stories of love and the power therein were spoken in low tones over a fire while huddled in a cave somewhere. Clearly there’s something worthwhile in the message for it to have always been passed on, whether orally or written.
Do Romance novels exist to fulfill a specific purpose, escapism from one’s dreary existence? Fuck yeah they do. Most forms of entertainment do, no matter the genre. Romance is no different there. Not even a little. We all like reading and watching special and unique snowflakes find out just how unique and special they are. Hell, it’s why Donna Noble is one of my favorite companions in Doctor Who. Most important woman in the universe who believed she was only a lowly temp from Chiswick. There’s a lot of people out there who feel that way. Beaten down by life, unimportant, insignificant. We read and watch to see one of ours become more and we celebrate it when it happens. We need that sometimes, that secondhand validation. We need those stories.
We need love.
And that’s why I write it. That’s why I read it. While I’ll always read it and always write it. Because it’s satisfying. Because it’s important. Because even the Beatles said it was all we need and they were right. A lot of problems in life could be solved if we all loved a little more. A little more loudly and freely and unapologetically.
I write romance. Loud, burning, gloriously mad romance. And I’m not ashamed. No matter who side-eyes, wrinkles their nose, or talks it down, I’m not gonna be ashamed. Why would I be? After all, in the end, it was love that defeated Voldemort.