"…the difference is that our novels are about the effort and care it takes to develop a relationship."

The above quote is one that I read in a book detailing "how to write erotic romance," and is in itself about the genre of erotic romance. I thought it was unusual for someone to look at the romance novel in that way, especially erotic romance novels, as so often it seems that such novels are about being swept away in the moment, and then finding out that you have fallen in love in the process. And so, I've decided to examine [what I think about] the general romance novel.

Admittedly, I have not read much heterosexual romance, and even less erotic heterosexual romance, but what I have has been full of weak-minded heroines falling for super-macho men. Within the first chapter or two, the main woman has been swept off her feet with a heated glance, or wooed into bed by some sickly sweet words, which are often just another way to get her to jump into bed. The exception to this might be heterosexual romance novels with middle-aged characters, as opposed to their younger counterparts.

After being swept off her feet, the heroine more often than not drops everything that she's doing, be it a job, or going out with friends, to spend as much time as possible with the new 'man of her dreams'. Whom she has only met once. Is there something wrong with this picture?

Whenever she thinks about this sizzling attraction, it is simply to swoon over his manly muscles, or to blush over the feelings he made her feel in bed. Never (or nearly so) does she consider, "hmm. I just jumped in bed with a random man- which is something I usually don't do. How could I possibly be in love?" or "Well, that was something interesting, but maybe I should slow it down a bit to try to get to know this guy before giving myself over to him fully." Instead, she fancies herself in love with his charm and his wit, surprises herself with her depth of attraction, and stops thinking about anything other than the next time that they'll get to have sex.

Now, this could be generalizing a bit. Again, I haven't read too much heterosexual romance, but what I have read is enough for me. Rarely have I read a romance novel with a strong-minded woman who doesn't let herself be swayed by roguish looks and a devilish smile. Rarely have I read a romance novel where the woman thinks for herself. But I digress.

On the other side of the spectrum, with homosexual M/M romance novels, unfortunately there is much the same problem. Perhaps it is a little less pronounced, but it is there nonetheless. The attraction between the two men jumps like a spark between their eyes from a frayed electrical wire- they have to be in bed together. Right. Now. The sex is hot- the hottest either man has ever had! Oh, why hadn't they found this man before?

Quickly, they fall in love. Forget dates, or getting to know each other. That can come later. What about all the sex?! My main pet peeve in the M/M genre is one that I already mentioned when talking about heterosexual romance. One of the men has second thoughts: is this really the person he wants to be with? Is he really willing to drop everything to be with this person, leaving his old life behind? (This mainly happens in paranormal romance.) He's not so sure. But lo and behold! The sex is amazing! He feels the spark! Within days, all his worries are behind him, and he's ready to follow this man to kingdom come.

Where's the realism?

While most of these trends that I've mentioned are only really awful in the more badly written of the romance novels, they do, to some extent, appear in a good number of the well written ones as well. The main character just wants to be taken care of, just wants to be able to not think too hard about things, just wants to be loved for who he or she is. The hero is more than willing to be that person. Everything is fine and dandy, and they all live happily ever after.

In the cases where this is not true, the relationship is fully in shambles. Almost too bad off to be saved! We should just shoot it while it's down, and put it out of its misery!

There seems to be nothing really in between (again, well-written novels notwithstanding.) I get that romance novels are supposed to be an escape from reality, but do they really have to be so far off their mark?

All this ranting probably makes me seem like I really can't stand romance novels. I probably despise them- get them out of my sight before I burn all of them! This is, in fact, not at all the case.

The romance genre, and alternately the erotic romance genre, is actually my favorite genre. This is mostly true when there is some sort of other plot going on in the story, and when the things that I have so kindly been ranting about don't appear in the storyline.

But the above rant is why reading that quote in reference to romance novels being more acceptable than violence and gore so definitely boggled me!

"…the difference is that our novels are about the effort and care it takes to develop a relationship."

…In most of the mainstream romance that I've read, I see relationships devolve into sex, sex, and more sex, without as much "making things work." The relationships are often not started while thinking about taking care; they are fully about physical attraction, and enjoying the company of your definitively attractive partner. Rarely do the characters in romance novels get to know each other first, decide that they really quite like each other, and take it slowly, trying out a relationship to see if it fits. (Again, there are definitely exceptions to this statement.)

In reference to "effort" and "care" in developing a relationship, oftentimes these romance novel relationships end up in an imbalance of power- one character somewhat controlling another, if not overtly, than through the more submissive character caring too much about what the other thinks, and not expressing him or her self. I don't know about most people, but in my world, if "effort" and "care" are put into a relationship, this doesn't happen. If there is a power imbalance in a well-developed relationship, it is because the persons involved want it to be there. End of story.

So, I've ranted, and made some pretty absolute statements about the romance genre as a whole, but I have yet to mention any stipulations- what does this all mean for the romance genre? Obviously, if people think that the most mainstream of the novels (which I assume are what the author of this book was talking about, as it is a book about the general dos and don'ts of writing erotic romance novels) are about the effort and care that it takes to develop a relationship, there is something seriously wrong with the world's perceptions of doing so. In reference to teaching our children the dos and don'ts of relationships, romance novels are probably the last place a parent should think of looking, if they wish to educate their child properly. Romance novels are rarely, if ever, grounded in reality, and teaching a child from the standpoint of a romance novel will seriously screw with their perceptions of the world. I would know, as most of what I learned about relationships (before actually being in one) I learned from romance novels.

Maybe I'm not reading the right novels, but I'm just reporting what I see. There are good novels, and there are bad novels, and some of the best novels don't encounter any of these problems in any way, shape, or form, but I would say that those novels are definitely a minority. So that begs the question: what can we do to fix this problem?

Please excuse the shitty formatting. Fictionpress has the stupidest rules for formatting that I've ever seen, and won't allow for double page breaks. Whatever.