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Debra Mullins | Why Do Women Read Romance Novels?

June 23, 2010


Ever since romance novels first hit the market decades ago, they have always been the Rodney Dangerfield of fiction…as in “No respect.” Why is that, do you think? The same people who dismiss romance novels as ‘porn for women’ are the same people who will go to the movies to see films like Pretty Woman, a classic romance novel if ever there was one. And they don’t see the similarity between the movie they are raving about and the books they disparage.

Well, I feel sorry for those people, because they are missing out on something wonderful.

Some speculate that the reason romance is looked down upon by so many is because it is genre written by women for women. But I believe this is the very reason why it is so popular. Aside from those naysayers who would pooh-pooh our beloved genre, there is no denying that romance novels are a billion dollar business. And who does the bulk of purchasing in our country? Women.

What do women want to read? Spy thrillers? Grisley murder mysteries or true crime? Maybe. Women tend to have varied tastes. I know I can curl up with a romantic Susan Meier Harlequin Romance in the afternoon and then watch Forensic Files at night and be equally engrossed by both. But this is why there are so many flavors of romance novels. Different types of women enjoy different types of romances, whether they are reading sweet Debbie Macomber stories or sizzling J.R. Ward. Maybe they like contemporary settings in exotic locales like Harlequin Presents. Or maybe they enjoy romantic suspense like Allison Brennan. Maybe they want the paranormal of Jayne Anne Krentz or historicals like mine. In the world of romance novels, there are an infinite variety of flavors, but they all have three things in common that make them romance novels: an appealing hero, a happy ending and the experience of falling in love.

As a woman, you can’t argue with an appealing hero. And a happy ending? Who doesn’t want that? But I believe the real reason women read romance novels is to experience that feeling of falling in love. There is nothing like it–that rush of realizing you have found something very special. It’s addicting. However, that initial rush, that excitement, that sense of discovery and connection, does tend to fade once a woman has settled into a permanent relationship. There may be moments when he does something wonderful that melts your heart and makes you remember why you fell in love with him in the first place. We all treasure those moments. But for the most part, love becomes something different, something treasured, something that keeps us going in the worst of times and makes us celebrate in the best of times.

Would any of us trade that for the exciting, breathless, scary feeling of falling in love? Probably not. But we do love that rush, don’t we? And we have romance novels to turn to when we want to remember that delicious feeling and escape for a while. Agree? Disagree?

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