Good Friday morning, y’all. I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I’m sharing a friend’s blog post on our WORD BY WORD Blog. Helena Fairfax and I met quite a few years ago when we both had the same publisher. Even though we’ve both gone in different directions, we’ve remained good friends. Helena lives in the Yorkshire area of Great Britain. She writes delightful romances and is part of an award-winning anthology Miss Moonshine’s Emporium. Here’s the link to her website. https://helenafairfax.com/ I know after reading this post, you’re going to want to know more about Helena.
Marsha R. West
The positive messages of romance novels
Another month of the year has gone by, and a terrible month it’s been, both for the world, and for me personally. So, I’m especially glad this month to welcome the topic of our authors’ Round Robin, set by author Rhobin Lee Courtright.
I write – and love to read – romance novels, a genre despised in some quarters, even though romance is the bestselling genre in the world.
One of the criticisms I’ve heard levelled at romance novels is that they’re not realistic. I could argue that the story of a man on Mars growing potatoes in his own poop isn’t terribly realistic! (Bestselling novel The Martian – a book I loved when it came out.) But no one ever seems to level the same type of criticism at any other genre the way they do at romance.
Just like any other type of novel, romance novels are fiction. They deal with a made-up world that’s come out of the author’s head. But one of the most important messages romance novels hold for me is this: This is how the world could be if we were all just better people. In this present world, which can seem so full of violence, greed, selfishness and intolerance, the message of romance novels is that selflessness, compassion, tolerance of others and plain, ordinary thoughtfulness are qualities that foster happiness in others and in the hero and heroine.
I recently gave a course for the Romantic Novelists’ Association on ‘What Makes a Page-turning Romance?’ Many people – the people who don’t actually read romance novels – think they’re all stuffed with wealthy, controlling heroes. In fact, the heroes of romance novels come from all walks of life. In my own novels, the heroes have jobs like an accountant (Penny’s Antique Shop of Memories and Treasures), a diving instructor (Felicity at the Cross Hotel), a security guard (In the Mouth of the Wolf).
So what makes a romantic hero? He may make mistakes, but he not only always tries to do the right thing, he gets off his arse and goes out of his way to do what’s right. It sounds simple, but there’s the perfect word to describe it in the OED: ‘noble’ – and a hero can be noble whether he’s a lord or the man next door. Another criticism levelled at romance novels is that women are seeking an ideal in men that doesn’t exist. Who wouldn’t want to be with a partner who goes out of his way to do the right thing?
As for the heroine, in how many other genres is a female character consistently at the centre of the story? In my own novels, I like to make my heroines hard-working, sensible, thoughtful and compassionate women. They aren’t paragons of virtue – they have faults, same as anyone else – but they’re the sort of women you’d love to have as a friend. They’re also self-reliant. They aren’t desperate to find love, but when love strikes they are loyal and passionate.
Romance novels bring hope
I find something really uplifting in the way ordinary good qualities are represented in romance novels, and how they show us about compromise and selflessness, love and loyalty. One of the best things about romance novels is that they can transport readers out of whatever personal stressful situation they may be in and leave them with that feeling of being uplifted. We can enjoy the delicious anticipation that everything is going to turn out just as it ought – the girl will get the boy and the bad guys will get whatever’s coming to them. People’s lives – my own included – are full of personal tragedy. (And during the pandemic sales of romantic fiction saw a particular boom.)
Romance novels create an optimistic world for others. Above all, for me, they give a message of hope in what can often seem a hopeless world.
Do you read – or write – romantic fiction? If so, what draws you to it? If you have any thoughts on this topic, I’d love to hear from you.
Below is another of Helena’a books, such a delightful read. Hope you will check out her website Marsha