As the evolution of romance continues, its eternal appeal mutates and changes with the attitudes of society. It’s a bit like culture shock to see how the very definition of romance has changed during the past ten years. Like all emotion-based needs, the hunger for something that satisfies your desires is almost a living thing within you, and perhaps that more than anything else explains why romances remain the biggest selling genre in the publishing world.
For me, one of the more interesting constants is the on-going love affair with love stories is the never-changing ideal of romance. The hero is often the prime focus of most stories, and it’s been observed that a great hero can save almost any tale. If readers fall in love with the hero, the book is a success on an integral level.
The perennial favourite hero is the Alpha-male, and he is a staple in virtually any subgenre of romance you care to mention. The man who is strong, forceful, secure in himself, borderline arrogant in that not so nice way, but always a man of action in some fashion. He is masculine in the most basic and base ways. BUT, he’s never a total asshole. If you send him too far in that direction, no one will love him, least of all your heroine, and no matter how good your story might be, it’ll fall flat for the romance reader who can’t understand how any sane woman would want such a man.
The flip side of the coin in traditional romance is the heroine, who tends to be the feminine complement to the Alpha hero. She is secure in her own skin, smart, honest even when she keeps secrets. (A trait your hero better have, too, of course.) She is not afraid to be female, or to admit if she needs the hero. She embraces her weaknesses as well as her strengths, and she enjoys being herself. If you don’t allow the heroine to be as three dimensional as your hero, your story will be very unbalanced, even if it is the male character who ultimately makes the story appealing to most readers.
Romance is a wonderful way to explore basic human nature, it’s one of the bonds that unites us as the human race, and love is an emotion virtually all living beings can understand. Through romance stories, many people are able to escape the stresses of their daily lives, experience places and situations that are out of their reach in real terms. We laugh, we cry, we hope and thrill to the joy of falling in love… all of these emotional responses are evoked from the words of a good writer who crafts with skill and care.
I’m a traditionalist in many ways when it comes to the stories I want to read. Time has become a precious commodity to most of us, and when it comes to my pleasure reading, I want to know what I’m about to invest those precious hours in. I often try new writers, but nine times out of ten, I never get past a few chapters before I pick up a book by someone I know will tell me a story I want to submerge myself in for a few hours. We have a market flooded with every kind of story imaginable. A lot of them I’d never call romance, but that’s just my opinion, we all define creative art in our own terms.
What is it you, the reader, looks for and craves in a romance? Do you stay with the authors who write the stories you know you’ll love, or do you explore new talents all the time? And, what does define romance for you, I know it’s different for all of us, of course.
If you leave a comment, I’ll choose someone to award a romance themed prize to in about a week.