That strange “rule” about romance fiction never tackling anything serious

You hear all the time that romance fiction is supposed to be an escape, a fantasy, an anything along those lines. As if you have to keep things light and fluffy and unrealistic at all times.

No problem with that – I want to read something like that sometimes.

However, when did this become the RULE?

I like reality. I really, really do. I enjoy darker stories, and I love books that incorporate the real world into them. Whether it’s showing life as it really was in the nineteenth century, or if it’s showing twenty-first century characters struggling with real world issues, for me there’s something much more rewarding about people finding their way to each other under difficult, realistic circumstances.

However, I’ve been coming across so many comments recently that tell me I might be in the minority.

Surrender (MacKinnon’s Rangers #1) by Pamela ClareThe Accidental Duchess by Madeline Hunter

More realistic books!

For example, a recent discussion about accuracy in historical romance. I mentioned that I’m becoming less and less tolerant of anachronistic characters who act like they live in the present day. I said I wanted to see people living in the society of the time.

‘I would HATE that!’ came the replies.

I was confused. I didn’t ever like Disney much to begin with, but as an adult I don’t want to read fairy tales where there’re no true obstacles of struggles. If a book is in the past (and more often than not, the author gives us as specific year and month the book is set) then why am I weird for wanting to read about that time?

But worse than that is the reaction so many have to romantic suspense.

I’m told so often that it’s an awful, weird genre, and it has no redeeming features, and that I’m somehow a horrible person for reading it.

However, I’m not making any excuses for reading books by some brilliant authors. Yes, romantic suspense has taken a few funny turns in the past few years, and subsequently there’s not all that much of it available. What is coming out is all carbon-copy Navy SEAL stuff where most of the plot is sex, and guns appear as something “sexy” rather than out of necessity to the storyline.

To the Brink by Cindy GerardOver the Edge by Suzanne Brockmann

Incredible romantic suspense!

I get that people have problems with books like that, but you’ll never convince me books like To the Brink, Over the Edge, Deadly Descent and Hard Evidence are not great reads and don’t treat issues sensitively. I love authors who take on real issues with the world and how people’s emotions and relationships are affected by them.

I’d much prefer to read a book like those than yet another Navy SEAL returns to small town Texas to take over his father’s ranch, and he meets the local librarian/wedding planner and they spend the rest of their days making adorable babies.

Romantic suspense can definitely take from real life. One of the best real life love stories I’ve heard in the past year was about two people who joined in the revolution in Ukraine. In the middle of all that chaos they fell in love and married in a tent on the main square, in the middle of the demonstrations.

These are the kind of stories I want to read. Call me crazy, but I don’t just read romantic fiction for an escape. If a SEAL appears in a story, I want him to be realistic, not someone with no scars from his experiences and a desire to do nothing more than settle down into suburbia. Not only is that not interesting to me, but it’s so far from believable I can’t jump into the fantasy of it.

Maybe I am crazy, but I don’t think I’m the ONLY reader in the world who thinks romance can bring more to the table than a little bit of forgettable nonsense. I don’t think romance needs to be mindless fluff, and I don’t think we should expect to turn to other genres to be challenged by a book.

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5 thoughts on “That strange “rule” about romance fiction never tackling anything serious

  1. Omg I think I read that former deal with the librarian book! You make some great points! I’ve noticed a lot of books lately that have to do with the working class society of London instead of the Jane Austen countryside. Thanks for the post

    1. I REALLY enjoy books about the aristocracy, but I’ve heard so many stories about authors not being able to get anything published unless there’s a duke in it, or at the very least an earl! Because earls are apparently so unimpressive!

      One of the best historical romances I’ve read recently was a self-published book about working class characters, but finding good self-published authors out of the millions on Amazon can be hard. 😦

  2. Great post! I see your point and must admit I do sometimes like stories that are more realistic. Though I think I fall more in the unrealistic category books. I really do enjoy reading books like that because like you mentioned they are suppose to be an escape 🙂

    1. I used to love the more unrealistic books, but recently my tastes have been changing. I went back and reread some old favourite paranormal books, and I wish I hadn’t because I didn’t like them as much. 😦 But then I guess paranormal romance isn’t known for being very realistic at the best of times!

  3. Pingback: The Week: 2nd – 8th February | Sonya's Stuff

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