by Angela James
“Without romance novels, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”
Romance readers have long suffered through Fabio jokes, inaccurate assumptions, contempt, and lurid speculation from those outside the romance community. No other genre is the target of such ridicule as romance. And yet, romance readers remain loyal to the books, their favorite authors, and to their community. Romance may be the most popular fiction genre, but not because of all the things non-romance readers like to sneer at. Romance gives something to its readers that no other genre seems to offer.
Romance isn’t a joke. It’s an escape, it’s hope, it’s a community, a source of knowledge, a gathering of friends, an affirmation, it unites differences, offers representation, gives comfort, and provides a voice.
So many articles have been written about romance novels, but none capture the spirit and positive impact these books have had in the lives of those who read them. No mainstream articles seem willing to pay tribute to the readers, the authors, and the words on the page making a difference. So I asked people to share their romance positive moments. This is a small selection of the responses, which were as different as the readers of romance are, but also united by common themes. In their words.
Twitter, tell me about the positive impact romance novels or the romance community has had on you, or that you’ve witnessed. Looking for wonderful tidbits for a romance-positive article!
— Angela James (@angelajames) January 31, 2018
By far the word mentioned most often in the responses, romance novels have given readers hope across illness, loss, despair, uncertainty and turbulent political times.
I found Romance after my brother commuted suicide. It was a very dark and hopeless time, but Romance taught me that hope can rise again even after the darkest of moments and love, in all its forms, can be found if you just open yourself up to it.
— Mariah Ankenman (@mariahankenman) January 31, 2018
Romance was basically the missing link for me in my life. It inspired me to write again, I found passion, I found purpose, I understood myself better, women and even men better! Kept me sane through my bizarre marriage. A huge turning point for me in my life.
— Christine Donley (@chrisanthemum7) February 2, 2018
Romance threw me a lifeline when I was a depressed teenager living with alcoholic parents. In addition to providing me with a temporary escape, romance gave me hope that things would get better and the courage to create my own destiny. I became my own heroine.
— AJJ (@cricksiren) January 31, 2018
I began reading romance novels after my first miscarriage. I believe they re-wired my brain and helped me remember what optimism felt like.
— Mia Hopkins (@MiaHopkinsxoxo) January 31, 2018
When I was a pre-teen my Mom had massive stroke.. my coping skills was to read and create my own safe space . Reading romance brought me into a world of happiness while in a world of darkness .
— Colleenmarieh (@colleenhruska) January 31, 2018
There’s so much hope in them and the world is garbage right now so it’s fantastic to escape into these stories where perfectly imperfect people find themselves worthy
— Leslie (@lesliemp_) February 1, 2018
Representation came up again and again in romance readers’ responses. The gift of seeing themselves, feeling validated, understanding that they weren’t alone… It’s difficult to overstate the value of representation, the opportunity to be seen and heard.
As a reader, queer romance in particular allowed me to see happiness for people like me even when I was at my lowest. And knowing there’ll be an HEA or HFN means even the darkest stories in the genre have hope at their core.
— Elliot Cooper☃️💻☕ (@elliotwrites) January 31, 2018
Romance was where I first saw characters genuinely like me: black women who lived the life I live. I “belonged” in romance.
— Rhonda J. Joseph (@rjacksonjoseph) February 1, 2018
Romance novels are particularly important for marginalized people—as a queer, disabled person I never see myself as a love interest or even dateable in most media, but romance is doing better with this in recent years. https://t.co/TPPPiOpf0l
— Alaina Leary (@alainaskeys) February 1, 2018
Well… I struggled with my sexuality for a long time and discovering LGBT+ romances and the (amazing) community around it made me feel safe enough to explore and finally come to terms with who I am. I feel pretty good now saying I’m biromantic and ace. Thanks romance!
— Emy Calirel (@EmyCalirel) January 31, 2018
Romcoms remind me that real people like me can have fairytale Romances
— Sheritha Singh (@Shersinghzn) January 31, 2018
Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, readers shared the opportunities reading romance has given them, and the knowledge it has imparted.
I was raised by conservative Catholics who never discussed sex. Romances taught me what positive, healthy sexuality can look like and helped break through the intense catholic shame
— Audely Bensen (@AudelyBensen) January 31, 2018
Without historical romance novels I never would have passed my high school history exams. My teacher was boring as hell, and romance brought to life the things he droned on about in class.
— Lizbeth Martin-Lopez (@lizbethannlopez) January 31, 2018
Totally unrelated to anything but general life improvement – romance novels improved my vocabulary immensely. Seriously. I learned more SAT words in romance novels than in classes. Also history. Because historical romance tends to be incredibly well researched.
— Elise Logan (@Elise_Logan) January 31, 2018
Romance novels are what got me reading. I was an indifferent tween until I stumbled across Jude Deveraux’s The Princess. It started my love affair with books.
— Nancy Burke (@Nancy_Burke) January 31, 2018
A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance &
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Those involved in the romance community know that it’s a place where lifelong friendships grow and thrive. For many, romance novels have led to some of their most rewarding relationships.
Romance unites all of its readers along several, timeless journeys to the HEA. And especially those HEAs for All. The Romance Community is the most welcoming and inclusive group I have ever had the pleasure to learn from and collaborate with in my entire library career ♥️
— Frannie’s Romance (@FranniesRomance) January 31, 2018
Some(most) of the best person I’ve met on Twitter are from Romancelandia. Books I never knew existed that I can see myself in were rec’d by the romance community. Even encouragement to continue my own writing.
— L. Anthony Graham (@Grey_Books) January 31, 2018
My best friends and I used to share romance from around age 12 (starting with Rebecca Brandewyne- swoon). Even though we all moved away, we still share books (the postage is insane). When they were my bridesmaids, they quoted ‘Desire in Disguise’ in their speeches.
— Sharon Ibbotson (@seibbotson) January 31, 2018
M/M romance introduced me to a whole new genre I never knew existed. It also introduced me to some of the best friends I’ve ever known.
— Steve Leonard (@stevetleonard) January 31, 2018
Romance has given me a community of friends in my country and around the world. I’ve met (in person) fellow readers from the US to Australia, and I take an annual vacation with romance reader friends. We are a worldwide community, both online and in person.
— Mary Lynne Nielsen (@emmelnie) January 31, 2018
The romance community has given a lift to many of its members during times of sorrow, loss and pain, and when encouragement is needed, a kind word, gift, or just a response on social media can make a difference.
They saved me when I was at rock bottom. One friend, one gesture. A novel in a plastic bag left by my door – the game changer. I was able to lose myself in a book for a moment of peace and find perspective that grew to a renewed love for reading and my passion for writing.
— Heather Castle (@AuthorHCastle) February 1, 2018
Without the romance community, I wouldn’t have met a number of my closest friends. I wouldn’t have the career I do now. Without their support, I’m not sure how I would have made it through the death of my mother 6 years ago.
— Lynda the Guppy (@FishWithSticks) January 31, 2018
This is the best writing community. We have each other’s backs, are always there to support each other through both highs and lows. I’ve never been apart of a community that is so welcoming and understands my struggles so completely.
— Tricia Lynne (@tlynne67) January 31, 2018
It’s no secret that books are inspiration, but those who’ve never read a romance novel might make a lewd joke about just what it is they inspire, rather than understanding the difference romance novels have made in readers’ lives.
A romance series was why I joined the US Navy.
— Black Claire Beauchamp (@synonymsoflove) February 1, 2018
Thank God, I found romance novels at 11. Helped me with the learning disability I had since 2nd grade. Now working on second MA and a published author.
— Nikki Prince (@AuthorNPrince) January 31, 2018
Started reading romance as a teen. They taught me I could ask for what I wanted in the bedroom. That agency parlayed into a 12-year career selling sex toys and education women. PLUS was part of impetus in creating my subscription box @bawdybookworms
— Thien-Kim Lam (@thienkim) January 31, 2018
Race, sexuality, gender, economic status… it’s all that and more. Romance is about hearing the message of “yes, you can” and “it’s okay to be who you are, you will be loved.” Not just representation, but encouragement and acceptance.
Well I finally discover/acknowledge my asexuality because of reading romance. Will never know otherwise. Especially since I come from culture that do not talk about sex openly
— Ami (@amiesavitri) January 31, 2018
I have found romance novels (of all varieties) empowering. Romance is a place where women were at the center (I’ve been reading them for 35+ years when primarily were m/f). Women had a voice. Their desire for love, careers & love, sex, etc were important.
— Jennifer Porter (@JenniferRNN) January 31, 2018
There’s Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s memoir Infidel, where she talks about her youth in a repressive environment, esp. for females, suffered FGM, and how romance novels gave her a glimpse into a world where women expressed their desires and were treated with respect.
— Sabine Sur (@sabinesurlalune) January 31, 2018
Yes, romance offers hope, representation, empowerment, inspiration, friendship and support, but, at the end of it all, romance readers can rely on a sense of optimism and the promise of a happy ending.
I started reading romance novels while was undergoing cancer treatment. I needed positive, escapist stories that promised a HEA.
— Tracey/Alanna is ready for spring (@TA_Martin) January 31, 2018
Romance novels were my reward, my self-care, as a social worker. After witnessing such human suffering, I needed the stories of love and redemption romance novels promised in order to keep me going.
— HarperKincaid (@HarperKincaid) January 31, 2018
Without romance novels, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t be doing a job I’m so thankful for, in a marriage with my best friend, a parent to a beautiful daughter, a believer in social justice and equality, a friend you can count on, and a person who believes in love and happily ever afters. Those might be my words, but it’s already easy to see I’m not alone. Read a romance. Who knows, it may just change your life too! #romancepositive
It brought me to my people, the only ones who really understand me.
— Cassandra Carr 🌊🇺🇸 (@Cassandra_Carr) January 31, 2018
Angela James, editorial director of Carina Press, an adult genre fiction imprint of Harlequin, is both an avid reader of digital books and a veteran of and advocate for the digital publishing industry. She has enjoyed fifteen years of experience in her field, including successfully launching, building and serving as editorial lead for two digital-first presses: Samhain Publishing and, since 2009, Harlequin’s Carina Press. She has edited bestselling authors such as Alexa Riley, Shannon Stacey, Jaci Burton, Lauren Dane, Ilona Andrews, Lilith Saintcrow, Shelly Laurenston and more. She was profiled in Fast Company magazine as a digital pioneer in the romance publishing industry, has been named New York Romance Writers of America’s 2013 Golden Apple Editor of the Year, and is the creator of Before You Hit Send, the popular online self-editing and writing workshop for authors. You can find Angela on Twitter at @angelajames.