HomeCultureBooksEditor’s Picks

Why we love romance novels (according to an author)

BY T L Swan

5th Apr 2024 Editor’s Picks

4 min read

Why we love romance novels (according to an author)
Bestselling romance author T L Swan shares why she loves love, and puts forth a defence of the romance genre
“You’re an author, how amazing! What do you write?”
Her face falls and I watch it turn from interested to smug, “Oh, like Fifty Shades. You write porn.”
No Cheryl, I don’t write porn…but what I will be writing next is a thousand ways to murder a Cheryl!
I fake a smile, pretend her comment didn’t sting and change the subject.
This interaction is nothing new, it’s something every romance author deals with on the daily, but it does raise some questions. How did we arrive here? Why does society feel that it’s cool to hate romance

A change in public opinion

When I read Pride and Prejudice in my teens, I was swept away by the romantic love story and taken on the ride of my life. I remember reading, and for the first time in my life, I felt so connected to the story, it was as if the book had been written just for me.
Jane Austen was a pioneer, an acutely intelligent and hopeless romantic who wrote about strong women and flawed men. There was wit and humour, beautiful scenery, and villains all bundled together in a perfect story—my romance addiction had been ignited. But something changed when Austen stopped writing, a shift in the industry that bled into society. Subtle at first, then snowballing into something more…
Romance became a dirty word.
"In the vast landscape of literature, few genres evoke as much emotion, passion, and devotion as romantic fiction"
Women who loved romance books felt judged if they indulged, and sadly many gave them up or started reading in secret. Romance authors started getting labelled as porn writers. Publishers didn’t want to know us and bookstores stopped stocking our work because we weren’t “mainstream.” 
What? I’m confused…Love is the most mainstream emotion on earth. 
In the vast landscape of literature, few genres evoke as much emotion, passion, and devotion as romantic fiction. From swoon-worthy stories of true love to steamy passion, or heart-pounding adventures, romantic fiction has continued to capture the hearts of readers across the globe for centuries. But what is it about this genre that keeps us coming back for more? 

Why do we still love romance books?

At its core, reading a romance book is about hope. An insight into the life and heart of another person. It’s about being brave and strong and overcoming adversity, falling in love again and again. Exotic locations and empowering friendships.
Romance transports us to worlds where love conquers all, and where happily-ever-afters are not just a possibility but a promise. In a world filled with so much chaos and uncertainty, romantic fiction is a beautiful escape from reality and I’m sorry, a few scattered love scenes throughout a story does not make it porn, despite the naysayers.
To me, one of the most defining characteristics of romantic fiction is its ability to evoke powerful emotions. Whether it's the exhilaration of a first kiss, the anguish of heartbreak, or the joy of reunion, these stories resonate with readers on a deeply personal level. But it does pose the question, what sets romantic fiction apart from other genres?
Woman reading
While it’s true that genres like crime, fantasy, and science fiction offer their own unique thrills and adventures, romantic fiction holds a special place in the literary world for its focus on relationships and intimacy. Unlike other genres where the plot may take centre stage, romantic fiction places the emphasis on the emotional journey of its characters—their hopes, fears, and deepest desires. It is the essence of everything that makes us human.
Let’s face it, romantic fiction has the power to challenge stereotypes and redefine traditional notions of love and romance. From diverse characters to unconventional plotlines, these stories offer a refreshing perspective free from rigid norms—one that celebrates individuality and authenticity.
"Romantic fiction places the emphasis on the emotional journey of its characters"
I am constantly in awe of romance readers, my fellow authors and the publishers who are finally turning the tables and recognising our worth. Romance authors are not a flash-in-the-pan trend, they are intelligent and talented authors who have the courage to delve into sensitive topics of the heart. To enjoy and love romance books is something that should be celebrated, not judged, or sneered at by closed-minded people.
We live in a world where cynicism reigns and pessimism prevails. Romance books stand as a beacon of hope—a reminder that love is not just a fleeting emotion but a force that can transcend time, space, and circumstance. 
Ultimately, the reason I love romance more than any other genre is because to love, love…is to be brave. If we romance readers and writers owe anything to our beloved Jane Austen it’s to demand the respect in the industry that we deserve and to never succumb to society’s prejudice. Why should others dictate what we enjoy?
We are who we are, and damn it, we like us.
T L Swan is the Wall Street Journal, BookTok, and #1 Amazon bestselling author of The Miles High Club Series, whose latest book The Bonus will be released in August.
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter