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Romance Novels - Breaking the Stigma

Have you ever found yourself perusing the romance section at your local bookstore or even online and felt like you were doing something wrong? Why is that?

For years, romance novels have been viewed as substandard writing, with little to no plot, and read by those who are looking to escape the realities of life, or just to read about sex. Okay, some of that may be true, especially in the days before the internet, but let's be honest, times have changed.

Traditionally, romance novels have been written for women, by women, and have cast women in submissive roles (damsel in distress searching for Prince Charming). Lonely housewives, those looking for something more from their unfulfilling relationship, or those seeking to secretly live out a fantasy on the pages have been the intended audience, but what if it's something more that drives readers to romance novels and what if it's not just about a tall, strapping man carrying a helpless, swooning woman off into the sunset?

When I'm asked about writing romance, the first thing I tell people is I don't like the word romance. Don't get me wrong, I like romance, just not the connotation that follows it in the writing world. The stigma attached to romance is so powerful there aren't enough words in the English dictionary to change it. That said, I like to say what I write is not so much romance as it is life. It's more about what we all desire at our core - to love and be loved - in many different ways (some of which are socially acceptable, while others might be a bit more risque).

And guess what? This isn't 1940. A strong man coming to the rescue of a helpless woman? Let's face it, we live in a different world - a world that is becoming more inclusive and equal by the second. Yes, this is a good thing. Now, we can write characters (both men and women) who are strong, independent, and fully capable of surviving on their own. I've been blessed to have grown up around some very strong women. My grandmothers, mother, and my wife are all strong women, fully capable of standing on their own two feet, equal in every way to the men they love, and in some cases stronger and more capable. It is for this reason I try to make my characters equals rather than one coming to the rescue of the other, because I believe it tells a more authentic and genuine story. And, let's be honest, when it comes to love, are we not constantly rescuing each other? After all, isn't that the most beautiful part of love?

I am a male write of romance (or something like it) and proud of it. I'm not afraid or ashamed to admit I like the idea of loving and being loved in return, of being strong when I need to be, but vulnerable at the same time, and not always assuming I have to be in control.

What are your thoughts?

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