Contemporary romance was my first love when it comes to romance novels. My mother was an avid historical romance reader and got me started on romance with those books. However, it wasn’t until I bought a handful of 1960s Harlequins from a used bookstore that I truly feel in love with the romance genre. These days I love almost every genre of romance, but it all started with contemporary.
Here are my top 10 reasons for why I love contemporary romance:
1. Strong Female Characters
I love strong, independent heroines who can truly take care of themselves. It’s been a long time since every heroine needed saving in the romance genre. Yes, the book is partly about their growth as a person. So I want the romance to show how hero and heroine compliment each other. But that doesn’t mean the heroine has to be weak. She can be strong and still be even better with the hero. In contemporary romance, women of today deal with today’s issues with integrity, strength, and grace.
2. The Men (Guys You Could Learn a Few Things)
One complaint of naysayers against romance is that the men are not written realistically, but how women fantasize about them. I say…what’s wrong with that? From contemporary romance in particular, I think real men could pick up a tip or too. And it’s not that women want a ripped body or three back-to-back orgasms. What I like about the men in contemporary romance are who they are as people. The heroes tend to be men of integrity who do the right thing in tough situations, who treat people fairly, who genuinely like the heroine, and so on. In addition, they are supportive of the heroine, wanting only the best from her. They make each other better people when they are together. They are true partners. Isn’t that something to strive for in real life?
3. Witty Interactions
I love the witty exchanges in contemporary romance. The back and forth that shows how the hero and heroine are on the same playing field. Those witty exchanges make me laugh, help build the dynamic between the characters, help build the sexual tension, and are just plain fun. Plus, think about all those times when you thought of the perfect response to a conversation you’d had. These books are a chance for a character to say all the things you wish you’d thought of in the moment.
4. A Sweet Escape
The older I get, the more I believe that real life is hard enough. I have a relatively wonderful life, and even I have my downs. Why would I want to read something that focuses on the down side? I’d much rather escape into a happy world where love conquers all. My down time (reading, watching TV, etc.) is my time to let go of the worldly cares and woes, and just…escape. In my opinion, we don’t need to add more drama or more negatives to life through art. And yes, I get that art is often a reflection of life. But my personal preference is for art which reflects the beauty of life. What is more beautiful than love?
5. A Different Life
My path in life is relatively set. I am a mother, a wife, my career experience is in business and writing/publishing. It is highly unlikely that I will suddenly take up paleontology or become a high-powered attorney. Through these books I get to experience a tiny bit of what it’s like to live other lives. I get to be many personalities, I get to experience many jobs, I get to have different backgrounds or relationships. Again, I wouldn’t change my life in any way, but it’s fun, just for a minute, to be someone else. By the way, by reading all these different characters, I also get exposed to people who think and feel differently than I do, which helps me understand and empathize with people around me in real life. That’s just a bonus.
6. Different Paths to Love
Everyone has a different love story, which means there are infinite paths to love out there. I love all the different tropes–plot devices used to bring couples together–such as enemies to lovers, accidental pregnancy, inheritance, neighbors, and so forth. I love them not because they are common, but because there a ton of them, and a ton different ways to approach each one. More are invented each day because more ways to meet your lover are invented. For example, thirty years ago, internet dating wasn’t even a thing. Each love story in the real world is unique, and that is no different in the written world.
7. Explore the World
I get to live all over the world through the contemporary romance books I read. I’ve been to Australia (cities and the outback), the U.K. (cities and the country side), Amsterdam, all over the United States and Canada, France, Tokyo, the Amazon, South Africa, India, Russia. The list goes on and on. I also get to experience a tiny bit of those cultures–common phrases, what people do in every day life there, interesting tourist spots, and so forth. I’ve developed lists of places I want to visit because of the books I’ve read. Many of them off the beaten path.
8. A Host of Characters
I tend to be a serialist when it comes to my books–in other words, I like series. I get invested in all the characters and like to see other characters pop up in future books. That is a common occurrence in contemporary romance. Even better is that, in this genre, more often than not each book is a different romantic couple. There’s much less “Happily for Now” in contemporary romance than you find in other romantic genres. This is great for me, because I don’t want to read three books about the same couple.
9. The Emotional Connection
For me, reading romance is about the emotional connection. I can’t tell you how many people belittle the genre, saying they picked up a copy once and skipped straight to the love scene and couldn’t believe people read this. This reaction, to me, shows ignorance and lack of even trying to understand. Those people are missing the entire point of a romance. The emotional connection. Sex may or may not be part of that story, but if it is included, sex is only one form of expression of that emotional connection. If you skip straight to it, you missed to good stuff…learning about why that is an impactful scene to the characters and the story of how they fell in love. I love the love story in contemporary romance–the way the couple meets, how they interact and play off each other, and how, in the end, they make each other better people. An emotional connection like that is one to celebrate.
10. Happily Ever After
In the end, I want the characters I’ve emotionally invested in to have their “Happily Ever After.” I’m finding I can’t trust romances on television shows, or even movie franchises, any more. To keep the drama high, romances that finally get their HEA in those forms of media are often later ripped apart somehow. Look at Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Peaky Blinders, Downton Abbey, Hell on Wheels, and so forth. Even Friends couldn’t keep Ross and Rachel together very long. And yes, sometimes the couple ends up together in the end, but by then they’ve lost me. I love contemporary romance because they DO get their HEA usually without having 7 seasons of ups and downs in between. Yes, they have conflict which has to be resolved first, but once it’s resolved…HEA. This probably comes back to my #4 reason. I read and write this genre to escape into a HAPPY world where everything works out. A world where love and dedication to each other is something to be celebrated. I don’t need drama, I get enough of that in my life already.
What about you? Do you agree with me? Disagree? Why do you love contemporary romance? I’d love to hear!