“Just a Romance”

Warning: rant 🙂

Last night on a writing website (which shall remain nameless) I came across this phrase:   “… without these elements, it’s just a romance”.

Just a romance. 

I’ve come across this attitude before, from a female student at an academic institute which shall also remain nameless. “Oh, you’re writing a romance? Huh – I don’t ever read any of that stuff.”

It’s funny how sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, and horror have become ‘respectable’ in literary circles in recent years, but not romance. Never romance.

Yet it’s a driving force so central to the lives of all human beings (with the exception of psychopaths, I suppose)… That emotion, that relationship, so deep and so complex, so torturous and joyful, so magical and so mundane… Love.

But it’s still the subject of derision from some.


I can think of one, blinding, reason.

Romance is a genre overwhelmingly written by, and for, women.

Yes, there’s a minority of men romance authors and there are gay romances for and by men, but. Mostly women.

Whereas sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, horror..? Far more male dominated. Far, far more.

“No,” I hear your say, “it’s because some romances are just so badly written!” 

Yes, I’m sure some are. And so are some horror, sci-fi, fantasy, etc etc… And also some fiction which purports to be ‘literary’. So that’s no real reason.

Now, I’m not one to see sexism under every rock, but… That’s what those with a prejudice against the romance genre are displaying. In my opinion.

You’re tried a few romance novels and they’re not for you? No problem. You just prefer a good fantasy, or crime? Great!

But the snobbery. The derision.  The unconditional dismissal. That demands closer inspection. In my opinion.

“Good storytelling is an art and even though it is an inherent part of our culture, it is under-represented in studies of our (very male) literary tradition.

“Although this shouldn’t be a gender issue today, it’s also the case that men writing commercial fiction tend to concentrate on crime and thrillers, both of which have been granted something of a literary pass in recent years. Once the male protagonist has some personal demons, the writer can successfully persuade the critics that he hasn’t simply written a beach read and be reviewed accordingly.

“Because it seems that there’s nothing less literary than spending time on the beach enjoying a good story!”

To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life.

– Victor Hugo, Les MisĂ©rables.

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