Ah, romance, it’s everywhere. It shows up in ancient plays and troubadour tales, in great literature and grand opera, in thrillers and suspense stories, in westerns, sci-fi adventures, paranormal epics and even hard-boiled mysteries. It is an important element in thousands upon thousands of movies, giving light to the darkest of dramas and sanity to the zaniest of comedies. If romance lurks in nearly every story, is it any wonder novels dedicated to the subject are wildly popular, and have been for more than 40 years?
And yet, what is the appeal? It’s not about love scenes alone, though romances have been labeled “soft porn for women” and so-called erotic romances novels sell particularly well as ebooks. Unfortunately, those making this claim can’t see the eternal theme of romance novels for concentrating on the emotions which drive them.
The purpose of love and its accompanying desire is to forge a strong pair bond which will lead to successful procreation. The eternal question, the one which animates romance novels, is whether any particular pair bond will prove strong enough, permanent enough, to insure the wellbeing of the children born of it. Romance novels, then, are about the human relationships which allow survival of our species. Is it any wonder that women, the gender most intimately concerned with childbearing and rearing the next generation, should be enthralled by stories which help point the way to this essential happy ending?