Did you know that August is Romance Appreciation Month? Granted, for most romance readers, that would be every month, but a whole month to share the love about our favorite genre? We are there for that. Counting all the ways readers -and writers- appreciate romance could take a lot longer than a mere thirty-one days, but romance readers are not ones to back away from a challenge, especially when it involves reading romance novels, so grab your favorite books, and let’s get started.
What’s to appreciate about romance fiction? No surprise, but a whole lot. Where else can we find a genre where the woman wins, every single time, guaranteed? What about the men? They win, too. By the end of a romance novel, both lovers, of whatever gender, have found their heart’s desire, both within the romantic relationship, and life in general. This may mean ascending (or not) to a title of the nobility, embarking on a career that others thought nothing more than a pipe dream, carrying on centuries-old tradition, flaunting it, dealing with matters far beyond the ken of mere mortals, seeing the spirit of the law carried out (or the letter, or both…or finding a way around it) or, well, pretty much anything else, from the birth of a child to professional success, or even peace of mind.
Peace of mind is also something that reading romance novels often brings. How many of us have opened a romance novel in the ER waiting room, at a doctor’s office, or in line at the DMV? How about closeted ourselves away in a small pocket of peace, during trying times, in our own favorite reading spots at home, for the chance to spend a little while in the middle of a love story? Though romance fiction is often termed “escapist,” most of us are well aware that we don’t get to actually live with the secret coven of vampires, mosey off to a secluded small town or sprawling ranch, or dance until dawn at a glittering ball, but the time spent in those other lives gives us respite for the one we actually do lead, so that we are refreshed and stronger when we are called back to this thing called “real life.” We also come back to it, bolstered with the knowledge that, if our heroes and heroines can overcome their obstacles, then we can take on our own, and we can win.
Since the only guarantees in romance are that the love story must be central, and that it end happily, that means literally anything else can happen in the meantime. Contemporary, historical, paranormal, erotic, inspirational, sweet, spicy, YA, single title, category, series and standalone, and a thousand other different seasonings can be tossed into the mix, all the while keeping the integrity of those two things that cannot be changed. That’s pretty powerful stuff.
In romance, we find that everybody is worthy of love, at all stages of life, across history, into the future, across barriers of class, ethnicity, socioeconomic levels, philosophies, and oh so much more that we don’t have room for it here. Romance can be encouraging, inspiring, innovative, and show us time-honored favorite characters and situations in brand new ways. There’s nothing like the moment when there we are, reading a book, thinking it’s for pleasure, relaxation, respite, or amusement, and BAM, in only a few words, the page turns into a mirror, and we see ourselves. Maybe as we are, maybe as we would like to be, or how we once were, but it’s a visceral connection between story and reader
We see hearts broken, and we see them heal. Though vibrant characters, and the relationships between/among them can be found in every genre, from hard SF to literary, it’s romance that both puts emotion under a microscope and paints in artistic detail. It gives us paintings we can step into, become part of, and carry with us long after the lovers sail off into the sunset, or become supporting characters when it’s other lovers’ turn in the spotlight.
Romance readers, as well, are worthy of celebration. Readers are the grease that keeps the romance train on track. Vocal about what they like and what they don’t, romance readers form instant community upon contact, even if it’s a few minutes spent gabbing in the aisle of a used book store or a couple of chats in a forum. New readers tiptoe beneath the wide umbrella, shopping baskets empty, and look around for the kinds of stories they hope to find. Pirate tales, perhaps, where the woman is the pirate? With writing that flows like music, and maybe a ginger hero, too? Maybe a contemporary where nobody’s rich, and raith is a thing, but not the whole thing, if that makes any sense, and it would be great if it were set on the East Coast? Shifters that aren’t wolves, and can give the reader enough laugh out loud moments that those around them will want to know what’s so all fired funny? Put out the request and romance readers will bring out recommendations in droves. Step into the fold, and you’re one of us, merely by showing up in the first place. Often, the new reader will spark in the experienced one, memories of when they were new, and off they go to revisit old favorites and feel the love all over again. That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, but can you think of a better place to be dropped off than surrounded by all your favorite reads? Didn’t think so.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. What will you be celebrating about romance fiction this month, and how? Buying/borrowing/reading more romance novels? Working on one (or more) of your own? Gathering with romance loving friends in person or cyberspace, to share the love? Pull up a chair in the comments section and tell us all about it. Not sure why there’s only one month set aside to celebrate romance when we read it all year long? We want to hear about that, too. There’s room for everybody at this table.