Is the romance in romance stories real or is it all fairy tale and fantasy. I personally feel there is some fairy tale but also a lot of reality. And it depends on the actual book.
Harlequin has a “category” Inspirational Romance line [and no, I’m not plugging Harlequin, I just happen to know a fair bit about their Inspirational [Christian] lines because I read them and I’m writing my novels with their romance line in mind. Most of the authors who write romance novels for HLI have their feet on the ground. The stories are, for the most part pretty realistic, with the main characters [who I’ll dub Jack and Jane] struggling with real issues and problems that get in the way of their pursuing their initial attraction.
Are the books written to a formula? No more than any other genre book. Within a genre there are things a writer can write into a story, and things one can’t. And with HLI the short word count makes it difficult to add anything extra to the plot; Jack meets Jane, they are both attracted but there are obstacles to their pursuing their feelings of attraction, they overcome the obstacles with God’s help, and they fall in love and find a Happy Ever After, at least in the short term. Usually the obstacles are fears of the relationship due to being hurt in a previous love relationship or being molested as a child or somehow otherwise abused. Or it may be that each is dedicated to their careers and don’t want to give them up, but have to to have a relationship. This sort of thing happens in our real life lives. In our lives there are a lot of things going on that either promote a relationship or get in the way of it.
Our lives have subplots. Because of the short word count for HLI it’s pretty hard to work in a subplot. I tried to do it with my current WIP [work in progress] but could not keep the subplot and get my story down to the accepted word count.
Basically a reader needs to know what is expected of a genre before reading it. If you’re looking for car chases you usually won’t get them in Harlequin’s Love Inspired. [But you likely will in Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense.] Same goes for graphic sex, or even a lot of sexual undertones and suggestion. Inspired=Christian and it is governed by the Christian Book Association which has fairly rigid restrictions, although I see that changing slowly. Now with Indie publishing and self-publishing the parameters are blurring. But still a person who is uncomfortable with reading sexual stuff wants to read a romance book without being afraid of a hot and heavy scene suddenly on page 60.
So yes, one could say that romance books have some unrealistic aspects, just as does the mystery that always gets solved at the end. So whether it has no sexual stuff in it, [and that includes a guy seeing a woman and having a fleeting sexual thought] or it has hot and heavy stuff in it and Jack and Jane always have orgasms, and what’s more, they always orgasm together, and it’s always fantastic, over-the-top sex, yes that’s unrealistic. Yes, it happens in our real lives sometimes, but not always.
One aspect of most romances that may be considered unrealistic is that Jack and Jane are always gorgeous, beautiful people.
Never overweight, or even struggling to stay slim. I do get tired of reading “He watched her slender form cross the room.” Maybe once at the beginning to establish she’s slender [although I think it should not be emphasized at all] but not peppered through the book. There are authors who don’t do this and they are usually among the ones who make it to my faves list. And I’m not saying this because I think all women are heavy, or should be heavy, but most women already struggle with their feelings about weight or self-image. I hate that we promote the implied myth of “only beautiful people find love.” The trouble is, the fantasy [of the book] isn’t just about Jack and Jane finding love, it’s also about being “beautiful,” which in our culture means “slender,” or blonde, or well-muscled and tall-dark-and-handsome. In my novels that I’m writing for HLI line [hoping to be picked up by them, I don’t have any contracts yet] I’m afraid I do give in to that “typing” of the hero and heroine. I want to write more about beauty in a later post.
And what about the Happy Ever After. Is that just fantasy? Don’t about 40% of marriages fail eventually? Maybe, but let’s turn that statistic on its head. 60% of marriages succeed. I have been married to my husband for 41 years and we are happy. We have come through bumpy times but we made it, and that’s what most sweet [and what I term semi-sweet, ie with some sex in them] romances portray. Jack and Jane overcome the obstacles. Yes, there might be obstacles later, but so what? Life has obstacles. Life has beautiful happy moments, or phases, and life has difficult moments and phases, and Romance, just like any genre, portrays that.
I’d like to hear what you think. Please leave comments.