Why Romance?

A few months ago, I was in my local Barnes and Noble. As I stood, innocently browsing the stacks in the (rather pitiful) Romance section, a man came from the in-store Starbucks, wife/girlfriend in tow. He walked up to me, laughed, and said, sneering, “Romance? Why Romance?”

I promise you that this actually happened. It was a moment.

The encounter, although undoubtedly rude, did raise a couple of questions in my mind and I’ve been mulling them over since then. Here they are in a nutshell:

  1. Why romance? Specifically for me, but also what is so appealing about the romance genre? What makes it the best selling genre out there?
  2. What exactly IS romance? How is it different than erotica or even pornography?
  3. Why would a complete stranger feel such contempt for my reading choice that he would confront me in a public place? Why am I somewhat sheepish when I admit that I write and /or read romance?

Don’t worry. I’m not even going to try to address all of these questions in this post (and I hear a massive – thank God). But I have been thinking about them, and I think they’re worth talking about.

So, first, as the rude man asked, Why Romance? Why do I love reading romance? Why do I want to write romance? What is it about this genre that appeals to so many people?

The author Harold Kushner said, in a very different context, that to be human is to constantly search for intimacy. I think he’s right. We want intimacy. We want to find the “other”, to understand and be understood. We want to know that we are not alone.

I think that in this sense, intimacy equals importance. We long to be important to someone else. We want our lives to matter. We want someone to choose us. Joseph Campbell said that, love means “I choose you.” For better or for worse, I choose you. YOU are my choice. Nobody else, just you.

And, in my opinion, therein lies the beauty of the romance genre.  Romance is all about the choice. The importance. The intimacy.

When we read or write romance, we are invited into the choice two people make for each other. Through the mystery of story, we share the choice with them. They love each other and, when the story is done right, we love them. We share their emotions and their importance. And by sharing it, we take away some of it for ourselves.

So how did I respond when the rude man confronted me at the Barnes and Noble? I was actually pretty proud of myself.  I laughed at him, because I felt sorry for him and because he deserved to be laughed at. Then I said, “Why not Romance? What could be more important than love?”


  1. Rhonda Stapleton says

    True dat!! I’m an unashamed lover of romance and make no bones telling people about it. What could be more honorable, more noble, more selfless and great than love? *girl sigh*

  2. Well said, bravo! And? You linked it correctly – woohoo! 🙂

  3. Nicely done! Besides, romances like these have happy endings, and in this crazy world, we can never have enough of those!

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