Jenny Holiday

Why I Write Romance

Why I write (and read) romance novels

Why do I read romance novels? Sometimes I think the question should actually be: Why doesn’t everyone? Don’t we all care about love? About how we find it, what it feels like, how to make it last?

I was always attracted to the love in stories. My first crush was Superman in his 1980 Christopher Reeve incarnation. I didn’t care so much about Lex Luthor or the whole saving he world thing, but I was on the edge of my seat when he took Lois flying over the city.

I wanted Sam and Diane to get together, and David and Maddie, and Scarecrow and Mrs. King. I didn’t care if, as everyone claimed, a happily-ever-after would ruin the show. I do this as a grown up, too. I loved Buffy and her badass self, but really I watched because I wanted to see if she ended up with Spike. (And to make sure she didn’t end up with the completely uninspiring Angel, thankyouverymuch. But I digress.)

If I was stuck with a story that didn’t have romance in it, I made one up. This is how Greg Brady came to be my imaginary boyfriend for several years in the early 1980s. The first romances I “wrote” played out in my head before I fell asleep every night.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I discovered romance novels. When I did? Forget about it. I’d spent my whole life looking for the love in stories, and—holy crap!—here were stories where the entire point was love.

Now, I get that not everyone likes the same stuff, and thank God for that. I have friends who devour nothing but mystery novels. Doesn’t work on me: I don’t care who did it. Obviously, I’ve been wired somehow for romance. So, hey, different strokes for different folks.

But I still sort of think that everyone would like romance novels if they dropped their ill-informed prejudices about the genre and gave them a try. (Stay tuned for a whole separate post the topic of ill-informed prejudices and the romance genre! Because, come on, who doesn’t want to read a post on ill-informed prejudices?)

People say that romance novels are formulaic. They totally are! They’re about people overcoming whatever stands between them and love. Characters in romances change into better versions of themselves in the process of falling in love. Bring on this formula! I want to bathe in this formula. I want to pour it into a champagne flute and drink it.

But here’s the thing—isn’t this the “formula” we are all striving for in our lives, too? You’re on your deathbed: what do you want to say? “Wow, I’m so glad I’m shuffling off this mortal coil a bitter, dysfunctional, passive-aggressive husk of a person?” Or “I let love into my life and I was happy?”

We’ve all read those things about what dying people care about, right? Do they care about how much they worked? No. Do they care about how fat or thin they were? No. Do they care about who they loved and who loved them? Yes—there’s our formula.

I’ll have that formula please.