This is why I write about love

29 Mar

Blokes, stop reading now. This post is for women.

Off you go. Go and do whatever it is you do when you’re supposed to be minding your own business. Thank you.

Let’s get started. Do you remember, when you were a little girl, where your ideas of love and romance came from? For me, it was from the world of Disney.

Someday my prince will come.

I know you, I danced with you once upon a dream.

So this is love, mmm-mmm, so this is love.

A little later, Rodgers and Hammerstein (I know, I’m showing my age, but stick with me). Think Oklahama, Carousel, The King and I, The Sound of Music (Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could, so somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good).

Then, mid-teens, I discovered the magic of Mills & Boon – Charlotte Lamb, Penny Jordan, Emma Darcy – and mixed it up a little with medieval bodice-busters.

Is it any wonder my marriage failed? My husband was no prince, and I was no secretary.

For the last few years I’ve been writing romances – my first published novel, Hearts on Hold, is out 1 July thanks to Harlequin Escape – and I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’m writing this genre.

In my other life, I have a “serious career”. I’m writing under a pseudonym because I’m anxious, if professional colleagues find out I’m publishing romance – even the slightly less worrisome romantic suspense (because, you know, it’s not all hearts and flowers. It has the occasional dramatic bit) – they won’t take me seriously anymore. And you know, it’s hard enough being a woman in a boardroom without having all the others around the table (ie all the men around the table) thinking I spend my spare time draped in a fluffy pink boa and tapping out heaving daydreams on a Fujitsu Floral Kiss. Sorry, that’s their stereotype, not mine.

But it occurs to me that when Gen X-ers like me angst about the next generation of young women, many of whom seem to take for granted the progress of women (or perhaps the lack thereof) over the last couple of decades and who shun the ‘feminist’ term like it’s an indicator of gauche and rampant unattractiveness… perhaps instead of ranting on our proudly feminist blogs we should take to our proudly romantic novels.

Because the stats on romance readership are as strong as they ever were: more than 25% of books sold are romance novels. It’s the single biggest category in the book-buying market, nearly twice the size of the next biggest category (I could leave you to guess what that is – it’s mystery).

35% of romance readers are under 30, and 22% of readers are men (you thought I was joking when I sent the men away from this post, didn’t you?). A lot of women, in the years when they’re formulating their ideas of love, romance and relationships, are reading romance novels. And they’re not stupid – 42% of readers have a bachelors degree or higher qualification.

Despite their reputation for being formulaic and old-fashioned, romance novels have mostly kept up with the times. Heroines these days are rarely “just” secretaries. They’re certainly not subservient. They’re seldom virgins. They are feisty, contrary, intelligent, flawed, beautiful (inside and out) women. They are women who, despite the contradictory evidence the world sometimes throws at them, believe deep, abiding love and happily-ever-after is possible. They’re just like all of us. That’s why we read them. That’s why we love them. That’s why so many young women look to them when they’re feeling that perhaps the dream isn’t going to happen for them.

So that is why I write about love. I want the generations of women who follow me to hold onto the dream – because growing and sharing deep, abiding love is why we’re all here – and to aspire not just to the great loves but to the great lives of my heroines – in the boardrooms as well as in the bedrooms. There’s a way to change women’s ideas about relationships – about equality in connection as well as in opportunity, about feminism amongst strong men as well as strong women – and it’s through books about love and romance.

I’d love to hear what you think, so please leave a comment below.

2 Responses to “This is why I write about love”

  1. Nancy April 7, 2013 at 10:06 PM #

    I haven’t read nearly enough romance novels, but when I do, I miss the characters so much when the book ends. I just want to live in that gorgeous space of two people coming to know each other (and doubt each other, then all mixed up and back together again, ahhh!). One of my favourite series is actually a police procedural, but weaved throughout it is a love story – and it is that more than anything which makes me pick up the latest in the series and start reading in a nano second. And yet, give me a new book and it will sit for when I “have time”. Who ever has time to read a book?! Not me, that is for sure.
    Oh, I love Mr Darcy too. I’d definitely make time to read about Lizzie and Mr Darcy.


  2. Fiona from SRKitchen April 16, 2013 at 11:54 AM #

    Such a beautiful reason to write about love, Gracie. I think I’ve always been a bit of a cynic when it comes to love and yet here I find myself admiring your belief and optimism in love. I guess there is hope for us all 😉


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