In Defense of the Romance Novel

Last week, my beloved Outlander came back to television. If you don't yet know about the Outlander book series and the subsequent television series, now in its second season, well....you are missing out. Big time. As much as I love the television show, I love the books more. In fact, I just reread the first book in the series, which led me to today's post. 

I love to read. I need books like I need air, water and food. I can devour a good book like its the last bag of Cheetos. Books are better though, because they don't get cheese powder all over my fingers. I am also an indiscriminate reader; Young Adult, Westerns, Mysteries, High-Brow Literature - I love it all. But my favorite genre is Romance, which gets a bad rap most of the time. 

I personally don't know why - ok, I do know why. Fifty Shades of Grey was bad. Like really bad. But it still didn't stop me from going back and reading the dirty parts twice (so basically the whole book).  But still, in this day and age, where people would rather wait for the movie, mini-series or television show to come out, I'm just happy when someone chooses to read a book. Far be it from me to criticize their choice.

 The first Romance novel I ever read was the Thorn Birds; while tame by today's standards, it still remains the sexiest thing I've ever read. That book has it all - forbidden love (he's a priest!), an exotic location (the Australian Outback!) and a sweeping plot that spans generations. I was hooked. 

I gobbled up Romance anywhere I could find it. I discovered that Romance novels and Literature do not have to be mutually exclusive when my cousin gave me well-loved copies of Pride and Prejudice and Jane EyreJane Eyre continues to be my favorite book ever, of all time, ever. I reread it three or four times a year and find something new to love every time I read it. 

Romance novels are an easy target - you immediately imagine some old lady greedily reading a Harlequin Romance novel during commercials breaks of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman reruns (which, hello Sully). And while I do know plenty of older women who enjoy a good romance, I know lots of ladies of all ages (and men) who do too. 

But Romance novels, like any genre work, provide an escape from reality. And unlike Scandinavian murder mysteries or say, anything written by George R. R. Martin, they usually have a happy ending. I don't mean happy as in everything ends in sunshine and rainbows; In Jane Eyre, for example, Jane and Rochester lose everything but each other - their ending is ultimately a happy one, but the path that led them there was fraught with misunderstanding, sadness, and bitter tragedy. In a Romance novel, characters don't always end up living happily ever after (Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara, anyone?). They don't have to include a ton of graphic sexcapades (although bonus points if they do). 

Most often, I choose to bury myself in a Romance novel because they're sort of like a big bowl of cookie dough ice cream. Empty calories, maybe, but sometimes so much more satisfying than than crazy menu item you can't even pronounce.