Speaking From the Heart – Where’s the romance in Romance?

I started reading romance novels in my early teens, and have been a fan of the genre since. Now, I publish them, and have been a romance author myself for several years. My knowledge on the subject spans both decades and subgenres. In Speaking From the Heart, I will discuss the evolution of the romance novel in my lifetime, and ask some of the questions that I have as a reader and as an author.

Today’s discussion: Where’s the romance in Romance?

I ask this question not only of today’s authors, but of authors from the past as well. It’s not an easy question, because what makes something romantic is completely subjective to the reader and the author.

For a book to be technically classified as a “romance” the Romance Writer’s of America offers this:  Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. 

As a reader of modern romance, I sometimes struggle to find a romance novel that contains actual romance.  Often the leads are “hooking up” but somewhere in the graphic descriptions , or the manufactured drama that so many think is necessary to validate the love story, there is no actual emotion happening between the characters that makes me  want to emotionally invest in their story.

I don’t think this is new. Looking back at the kinds of books I was reading when I first started, they had their own brand of emotionless interaction, their love stories often even initiated by actual physical violence that somehow shifted and became two characters “falling in love.” The only thing that may have changed in the romance genre is my perspective on it. But the question remains, where is the romance in the stories we label  as Romantic?

Where are the stories that give us the good feels, and the cathartic cries? Where are the ones that make us swoon inside and smile secret little smiles that make the people around us wonder what is going on in our heads? Where are the characters we long to meet, and wish we could emulate, or even become? Just for a day, or an hour, or an evening when we curl up and open a story to become someone else, just for a little while.

For some, romance is roses, and fancy dinners. For some romance is your significant other remembering to place the umbrella by the door so you won’t forget because the weather forecast said it was going to rain today.

Books can be about anything. I’ve rarely met one I didn’t like, but to me, if they are labeled romance, I want to buy some feels when I make a purchase. Specifically, I want some gosh dang romance.