Are romance novels trash or not?

More to books about love, other affairs than just steamy, hot covers



Lorena O’English explains that people read romance novels to “transport to something else.”

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen columnist

Few people know that I started writing a novel when I was in seventh grade. It wasn’t just any novel either; it was the romance novel, to end all romance novels.

Ever since I read my first Nicholas Sparks book (“The Longest Ride,” for those who are wondering), I have been obsessed with romance novels. Something about the two main characters falling for each other in the end, makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The thing is, I’m not the only one that gets that feeling from these stories, which is part of why they’re so appealing to readers.

Whether you’re single, in a relationship or saying “it’s complicated,” reading about perfect people who are clearly meant to be together provides a significant amount of enjoyment. Putting your own life temporarily aside allows you to focus solely on the characters and their quest to find their soulmate, which, if you aren’t careful, can lead to extended periods of reading.

“[Romance novels] transport you, they transport you to something else,” said Lorena O’English, a social sciences librarian at Terrell Library.

Romance novels are the escape so many of us need from our dull or overly-dramatic daily lives.

Don’t let the term “romance novels” discourage you from reading one. While there are certainly stereotypical books that fit this description, there are a wide variety of books available. Fantasy, steampunk and science fiction can all have romance as a sub-genre.

Not all of these books have covers with shirtless male models or bodices being ripped open, and not all novels with these covers are as bad as they may seem. To paraphrase the maxim, don’t judge a book by its cover, especially if it looks like a trashy romance novel.

A good rule of thumb is to read a couple chapters and then decide if you like it or not. I almost always find myself enjoying books that I thought would be horrible.

Be sure not to disparage romance readers if you see them because you may be reading a romance without even realizing it.

“Every book has romance … you read virtually any book and there is a relationship in there,” O’English said. “Everybody reads romance novels and when I say everybody, I mean everybody.”

Whatever type of book you may be interested in reading, there is a romance novelist out there writing for you. As we move into a more progressive era, novelists are working to produce more inclusive texts.

“There are romance novels for every type of pairing you can probably imagine,” O’English said.

I frequently hear people complaining that every romance novel has the same plot. While in some cases this may be true, many authors work to broaden the genre and include plot elements that have never been used before. This genre may be predictable, but sometimes that’s enjoyable.

When you’re reading a romance novel, it’s reassuring knowing that every act of stupidity or flirtation or indecision is necessary for the two lovers to find each other and be together. How disappointing would it be if after all that drama and heartache, the two characters never fell in love with each other?

It is in this knowing of the ending that I believe we find our enjoyment of romance novels. We are confident that the characters will have a happy fate by the end, so we are free to enjoy the path it takes to get there.

Perhaps if we were confident that the steps we take today are bringing us to a soulmate, we would enjoy the road it takes to get there a little more.