My posts during April form part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I will be writing to a theme: book genres, largely taken from the comprehensive Goodreads list.
We all want love in our life, don't we? I'm not afraid to admit that it's very important to me - be that romantic love, platonic love, or the love of a parent for a child. So, why do I have a thing - a negative thing I'm afraid - for anyone who says they write romance? When I see someone describing their work as romance, whether that be allied with the description historical, magical or otherwise, I tend to find myself getting all judgemental. There may be other readers who behave this way, but why do I ?
I trace it back to when I first attended my catholic boarding school aged 11 where all we could get our hands on were the classics, a surprising amount of stories about derring do in the war, or romantic pap. There was a lot of Mills & Boons, with Georgette Heyer thrown in for some period detail. The tales were utterly formulaic, the background followed trends (Australia and/or medical were big, as I recall), heroes had short single-syllable names, had a mysterious past or some sort of complication, oh and were generally rich - or at least richer than the girl. The girls tended to be pretty rather than beautiful, with a natural charm, kind but spirited. Oh and their hearts were never broken - or not for long. They always got the guy, even if not the one they were aiming for at the beginning. I've even seen courses where they teach you how to write to this formula.
I'll admit that, today, the formula appears to have changed ... but only a bit. The girls are less helpless, the guys are less brooding and the women (for they are now women rather than girls) tend to save themselves (or at least take an active part in the saving) and then get the guy. But the endings are still all Happy Ever After, whereas life is more realistically laden with Happy For Now.
There's nothing wrong with a happy-ever-after ending, or the girl getting the guy, or any of those things - just please offer a bit more. Jane Austen. "Pride & Prejudice" is probably my favourite read of all time, yet I insist that despite its opening line, it is not just a romantic novel. Everything written by Austen is about society, manners, class, opportunities, or rather the lack of them and the need for compromise or acceptance on the part of women. That's what makes it wonderful - the romance is a cover to enable the telling of a more scathing tale. Marian Keyes' Walsh family books are another - more modern - example of a tale being ostensibly one of girl meets boy, after all, she's the Queen of Chick Lit. But there is more to them - grief, drug addiction and depression to name just three off the top of my head. Oh ... and the humour, let's not forget the laugh out loud humour, nor the wry observation of family dynamics. For these subjects are well-researched and realistically written, what they aren't is "lite" versions for the girls.
The thing is, whilst I love a bit of romance, I don't want it to be all the book is about. I want the story to be about something more, much more. If a book is categorised as romance, then I'm likely to step aside and pick something else, because there are just too many other genres to read. And I will find reads in those other genres which include a touch of that thing we call love, alongside the main storyline.
I'm prepared to be lambasted one day for these words as someone who is writing about love. Maybe my problem is that I equate romance with happy-ever-after, whereas my tales will almost certainly be less rose tinted and more about how love works in real life.
Am I wrong about romance? What have I got wrong? Who would you recommend to change my mind?