Happy New Year and happy February! I’m in a crap mood, and it’s not because my least favorite holiday falls during my least favorite month of the year. Nope. It’s because of all the misconceptions and discourse floating around about Romance novels. ‘Tis the season for Romance haters to spew their distaste for the genre and post their not-so-hot-takes all over social media. So, today I’m going to address some of the discourse and give you my hot take about it. Buckle up buttercups, it’s about to get snarky in here.
Not All Rules are Meant to Be Broken
All genres have their own conventions. Mystery needs a solvable mystery. Science fiction needs science. Horror needs to have horror elements, and fantasy needs fantasy elements such as magic and more. Romance is no different. It has its own formula, and it’s simple: central love story + HEA or HFN (happily ever after or happy for now). That’s it. Pretty straightforward, right? And yet people lose their minds over the HEA part.
Haters Hate the HEA
People love to hate on the HEA. They just don’t understand why anyone would want to read a book where the ending is a given. Newsflash: readers like myself enjoy Romance because of the HEA, because we know how the story ends. We know that no matter how bumpy the road might get, that no matter how difficult or impossible the obstacles might seem, the couple will end up together. Happy and alive. Not broken up or dead. Happy together.
“But HEA’s are so unrealistic,” they’ll complain. Since when? You’re honestly going to tell me that no one has been happily married? That no one has lived a long, happy life with their spouse or partner? And before you start spouting off divorce rates and statistics, you’re still discounting the happily married couples out there. You can’t erase them out of existence just because their HEA doesn’t fit your narrative.
By the way, happily ever after does not mean perfectly ever after. People have this tendency to associate HEAs with perfection. They believe that just because the story ends with a happily ever after that everything in the couple’s life is now perfect. That they’re living their lives in the lap of luxury without a fucking care in the world. That all their problems and past traumas have been magically erased. That is not what happily ever after means.
It means that the couple has overcome the worst of the worst. Together. Now they get to reap the rewards, which is living out the rest of their lives, happy. Together. It doesn’t mean that they spend each day with a perma-grin fixated on their faces and never frown again. It doesn’t mean they never get exhausted or frustrated or sad again. It doesn’t mean that they won’t squabble about who forgot to put the cap back on the toothpaste or whatever the fuck. It just means they’re happy overall. And most of these pairs have earned that happiness and then some.
Cupid doesn’t just come along, shoot an arrow into their asses and then “poof” the couple is miraculously and happily in love. That’s not how it works.
Romance is about the journey. It’s about experiencing the characters’ emotional highs and lows. It’s about seeing them grow and evolve throughout the story as they fight for what they want, as they fight for each other. It’s about rooting for them as they battle external forces, while grappling with their inner demons and coming out better and stronger people in the end. That’s what makes that HEA so sweet and satisfying. It’s earned.
Love conquers all. That’s the point of Romance. But that doesn’t mean that love solves all problems and instantly heals all wounds. It doesn’t, but it helps. Having someone by your side who understands you, who shares your joy and your burdens, without judging you despite your faults, makes life more bearable and much more enjoyable. This doesn’t just apply to fiction, but to reality as well. So, tell me again how happily ever after is unrealistic.
And if you’re a writer who thinks you’re going to break genre conventions by writing a bittersweet or tragic ending, I have news for you: the only thing you’re going to break is readers’ trust. Romance readers are loyal to the genre for a reason. They expect the stories to end with a HEA or HFN. If you don’t meet those expectations and you labeled your book as a Romance, you’ll not only ruin your reputation, but you’ll also likely tank your career. The Romance community may be large, but word of mouth travels fast.
Cashing in on Love
If you don’t like Romance, then don’t read it and don’t write it. Many writers won’t read Romance, but they’ll write it because “it’s easy.” They have this false belief that all Romance is just kissing and sex with a few big emotions mixed in here and there. They believe that Romance is a one-size-fit-all genre. It’s not. It’s much more than just kissing, pining, and longing stares.
Romance is about the chemistry and connection between the couple. It’s about intimacy that transcends beyond the physical. It’s about finding that perfect balance, that sweet spot of deep and raw emotions without going over-the-top. It’s about believability and reality, despite the story being fiction. You need to ensure that it all feels genuine, from the flirty banter to the conflicting feelings, down to the steamy kisses.
You need to make your readers believe that the couple is meant to be together, and that they have genuine feelings for each other. You need to make readers believe that the pair share a deep and emotional bond. You need to make readers believe that they truly love each other. And that’s not always easy to achieve.
Think about all the times you’ve read a book where the main couple felt forced together. Where their relationship didn’t seem genuine and all the emotions fell flat, leaving you feeling disappointed.
Racing hearts and fluttering belly butterflies just don’t cut it anymore—not with long-time Romance readers. You need to go much deeper than just using those common phrases. Writers who don’t read Romance and who aren’t familiar with the genre are especially guilty of hitting readers with overused expressions and emotions. They’re so hungry for that Romance money that they don’t pour the time, the care, or the effort into their story. And it shows.
You need to stay true to your characters, you need to stay true to who they are as people and really dig in deep and connect with them. That takes time. Why do you think I spend so much time revising?
I’m not looking to achieve perfection—even though I’d love to—but that’s not my goal. My goal is to ensure that I write the best story possible. My goal is to make sure that I stay true to my characters and who they are as people. My goal is to make sure that I stay true to their feelings, to their emotions, and how they experience attraction, longing, lust, love, and so much more. My goal is to make sure that I stay true to them as a couple and their relationship. It takes time, but if you work with your fictional people to tell the story through their eyes, the effort will pay off.
Luke and Holly’s blogs have both been posted and updated. I made an oopsie and initially posted the wrong version of Luke’s blog, which I have since amended. If you caught my mistake and read the original post, then you got to see how I sketch out my scenes. They’re just me telling myself the story, and then I layer in the details during the revision process. Sorry about the mix up.
Anyway, Nick’s blog will be posted on Sunday, March 6th. My next writing life blog will be up on Friday, March 18th. The new Spring blog schedule will be posted by Friday, March 4th, and you’ll be able to find that under the Announcements tab.
I’ve also added a Life Bites section, which you can find under the Extras menu. Life Bites are just glimpses into my characters’ daily lives. They’re clips of events that happen outside of the story. As of now, I’ve posted a few text conversations between some of my fictional people. In the future, you can expect to see more text exchanges, along with small snippets of conversations and dialogue.
That’s all I have for you today. As always, stay safe and stay healthy. Happy Valentine’s Day to all those who celebrate.