Anyone who knows me will say that I am a hopeless romantic, and I wouldn’t disagree with them. The romance tag is probably my most used one on this blog, and that is for good reason. I remember when I was younger, I was in Waterstone’s with my family and my sister and I bought a book each. I chose Nicholas Sparks’ The Lucky One. I don’t remember consciously making the decision to buy a romance novel, but I do know that as I have developed as reader, I have always found myself coming back to that genre.
One thing I love about romance, which I know a lot of people hate, is how perfect and unrealistic it can be. I’m sure a lot of the time authors try to make the romance realistic and relatable to readers which I do enjoy, BUT, why would I want to immerse myself into a novel which just mirrors real life? Isn’t the whole reason people read to find an escape? Of course sometimes I understand why it’s frustrating if two people meet and end up madly in love with barely a hiccup along the way. But in an ideal world, isn’t that how we would all want to end up with someone?
Romance is also an important part of dystopian fiction. A lot of dystopian novels are quite dark and morbid and the romance, even just a hint of it, gives the reader a little hope that it will end up okay in the end. Furthermore, romance is even more important in fantasy books because it grounds them in real life. I think it is imperative that fantasy books include allusions to real life or there’s no way a reader can understand or relate. Whether it’s Lily and Snape in Harry Potter (controversial, I know) or characters such as Alec and Magnus in The Mortal Instruments series (who I think I wanted to stay together more than any couple EVER), romance helps the books slot into the real world and almost become plausible. Not that I’m saying I think there is a demon world or wizards and werewolves, but at least if the fantasy becomes too complicated, the romance can help bring it back to reality.
Novels such as Birdsong, Where Rainbows End and any Nicholas Sparks book just wouldn’t be the same without their romance, and while the love story in the war-torn Birdsong is a world away from the teenage melodrama of Where Rainbows End, the science of both are the same. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think anyone should be blindly motivated by love, but in both, love is what drives them and gives them hope for what’s to come. When love is involved there’s always so much more to lose and I enjoy the slushiness of romance and how it makes you feel warm and hopeful and just okay. Some books I find exciting to get stuck into with no idea whether I’ll be on the edge of my seat, crying in despair or laughing out loud, but I love that I know I’ll always love love, in any capacity.
I do agree that while I enjoy classic literature, antiquated romance novels of the past do leave something to be desired (with their patriarchal quips and heteronormativity). Something, however, I think we can learn from them is that while their over-the-top, dramatic, romantic gestures may be unrealistic, that is exactly the escapism I look for when reading. Romance will always triumph for me and it’s that simple. This quote from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is the epitome of slushy romance and why I will always adore it:
“The unqualified truth is, that when I loved Estella I loved her simply because I found her irresistible. Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be. Once for all; I loved her none the less because I knew it, and it had no more influence in restraining me, than if I had devoutly believed her to be human perfection.”