Hey, what do you have against happy endings?

Is that why you won’t read romance? Or, are you one of those people who automatically dismiss the notion of reading a romance novel because you think they’re trashy or ill written? Think again.

To categorically dismiss the popular genre on such prejudice is not only nearsighted but also kind of…well, to be honest…snobbish. As someone who writes in that genre, I take offense to that. Granted, most romance reads aren’t going to compare to great scholarly works, but come on, we don’t read them to increase our word power or to expand our knowledge. They are first and foremost for sheer entertainment, a fun distraction and escape from whatever crap in our lives we don’t want to be thinking about in the moment.

Yes, there are some poorly written romance books, but this is true of every genre across the board. I’ve seen bloated highbrow works, self-absorbed memoirs that are snooze-worthy, and with a market saturated with indulgent self-pub’s, you can’t blame all the hackneyed writing on romance.

How does reading romance differ from watching popular TV shows like Downton Abby or Scandal, both of which have strong romance storyline threads? Why would you watch these but not pick up a romance novel? Is it the cover art? The truth is, most people who shun the romance novel based on the provocative cover, or graphic blurb, have never actually read one. Now that’s a pity.

Romance books are not just bodice ripping mommy-porn! Yes, there is sometimes sex in our books, sometimes lots of it. But that, too, is life. A book filled with intimate love scenes instead of the weighty words of fine literature can define an emotional experience that genre fans live for and can establish a connection to them personally. Let’s face it, those sexy bits are exciting! They’ll get you through the lonely times, put a spark back in your marriage, and even teach you a thing or two—so they’re educational, as well (wink).

I think most people would be surprised to know that romance writers, just like those of other genres, are committed to producing a quality product. We want to capture the flaws and stumbling blocks our characters face, drawing from real life and all its complexities. We are observers of human nature, and strong writers in our own right and hopefully we make our readers laugh, cry, and feel a sense of triumph in the end. We relate to those characters. We watch them screw up their lives, wallow in total chaos and then crawl out of the manure heap smelling, once again, like a rose.

A good romance will proclaim that women deserve love, respect and pleasure. Whether it’s an affirmation of self or a promise of love, the romance novel delivers a satisfying ending. In fact, it’s a requirement by publishing standards.

Today, with sub-genres of suspense, historical, fantasy, paranormal, YA, and crime, ménage, there’s something for everyone. This billion-dollar industry screams (or should I say, pants and gasps) success as the largely female managed business of authors, bloggers, and readers are fueling new and exciting versions of romance.

Those are financial facts you can’t argue against. That same writer community is filled with smart women (and men) from all walks of life, professionals with impressive educational pedigrees who are penning great reads, some as they hold down a full-time day job and raise a family.

So if it’s been awhile, or if you’ve never picked up a romance novel…give it a try. Who knows, you might just get hooked.

Why do I give my characters baggage?

As a reader, what grabs your attention in those first few pages that keeps you going?

When we pick up a book, a couple of things need to happen in order for us to continue reading it. One, something needs to catch our interest—a hook. This can be a mystery that needs solving, the promise of romance, or suspense that leaves us turning pages to find out where the story is going. Second, we need to connect with the characters in the story.

Yes, characters that are quirky and unique can be stimulating, but readers need more than that, we need a reason to care about them, reason enough to draw us in and chase them along the pages of an entire book.

Who wants to read about flawless individuals with perfect lives? Boring!

Characters are at their most interesting when they show up with baggage. The rare person leads a charmed life. Everyone has problems. We can relate to those troubled characters because they seem human, like real people, with real issues. We understand them.

For the most part, we are an empathetic society. We root for the underdog, pray that the downtrodden stay resilient, and that the oppressed can someday become heroes. We want them to become stronger people because this is what we want for ourselves. It is a reflection of real life.

Moreover, as much as we love to be surprised at the end of a novel, we like closure. Whether the protagonist lives happily ever after or dies…at least let them have changed, to experience some level of personal growth. For a reader there is nothing more satisfying than to follow a troubled character and hope that even in the smallest measure, they are triumphant in the end.