For as long as I’ve been reading, romance has been my favorite genre.
Okay, so it probably wasn’t my go-to genre when I was in elementary school because, uh, that would have been weird, but once I was old enough to begin reading Sweet Valley High and then, my all-time favorite series, Love Stories (side note: I actually Googled about this book series last week to see if those books are still in circulation, but looks like I am SOL on that one), I was hooked.
As a reader, I have to work really hard not too feel judged by my taste in books. While I force myself to read books that are not in my comfort zone, mostly to feel like a more well-rounded reader but also because I truly enjoy non-genre fiction, romance is what I always come back to.
A romance novel is predictable; it will have two people falling in love and a happily ever after. This couple will make it against all odds, no matter how many curveballs are thrown their way. No matter how many times the main character screws up or says the wrong thing or lets his/her fear get in the way… it all turns up well in the end.
Real life is not a romance novel. Real life is a lot more heartbreaking than a romance. Real life involves swiping left on a phone app. It involves crummy dates with men who are still boys. It involves confusion and will-he-or-won’t-he and text messages that you can’t help but analyze the hell out of. Real life doesn’t always have a tidy ending. The guy won’t always come back. The guy won’t always apologize for being a dick. The guy will sometimes disappear for reasons you cannot make sense of.
I don’t read romances because I believe in love and/or want my own tidy love story. I read them because they take my mind off the heartbreak that is simply living life as a human. They are something lighthearted to read when life feels a bit uncertain.
They feel like a safe space to come to when my anxiety is out of control, when I’m sad and upset at life, when I need an escape from the realities of this world. They fill a void for me. When life feels unpredictable, I know I can always come to my romances and know that everything will work out, no matter what.
It’s very easy to attach shame to different aspects of our lives, and this is so true when it comes to our reading lives. I know way too many people who scoff at those who read – and love – the romance genre. They think the female characters are flighty and silly and dumb. They think the plots are too predictable. These are the people who a) have never actually read a great romance novel and b) don’t understand the genre. While I’ve read my fair share of romances with female MCs that I want to shake, the majority of them are the opposite of that. They are strong, independent women who don’t take shit from anyone. They are inspirational and funny and sexy and they teach me a lot about life and love and what it means to let your guard down. And don’t even get me started on those who turn their nose up at the predictability of romance. That’s genre fiction, folks. That’s how it works.
I’m not saying that everyone needs to enjoy romance. Just as I don’t need to enjoy classic literature or science fiction or fantasy. But I also don’t believe in snubbing those who do enjoy those types of books. We have to stop labeling book genres as good and bad. We have to stop thinking someone is not a well-read person just because they can’t name an Austen or a Dickens book that they enjoyed.
Romance is my favorite genre because it gives me exactly what reading should give a person: a place to escape, a soft spot to fall. It allows me to sink into another world, learn more about life and love. For me, there’s nothing more exciting than starting a new romance novel from a beloved author.
I’ve also always, always been a genre reader. My go-to’s when I was younger were The Baby-Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley and Boxcar Children and Magic Attic Club. And then I continued to read genre fiction as I grew older. Of course, as mentioned earlier, I’ve made it a point especially in recent years to step out of my comfort zone and read non-genre books, but romance is where my heart is. Romance is what I’ll always pick up when I need to read something that I can trust to make me feel better.
Reading is a hobby, and as such, it’s not something I’ll ever put parameters on. I don’t care if I’m not as well-read as other readers. I don’t read to impress people. I read for enjoyment. I read for escape. I read to feel better.