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Why Romance Matters

I was invited by the moderator of National Read-a-Romance Month to post today about why romance matters.

I will be honest and say, first, that this isn’t something I ask myself very often. I take it as a given that if something is important enough to hold a giant swath of my attention over a span of years, it probably matters. After all, matter. As a person, as a human, as a thinking, breathing being, I have value. My interests have value. And if you multiply me times all the other beings who enjoy reading and writing and thinking about romance — and there are an awful lot of us — then of course we matter. Why wouldn’t we matter? Who would be stupid enough to argue that we don’t, or that our interests are unimportant, trivial, worthy of ridicule?

Oh. Right.

So then I remember, yes, we live in a world where romance novels are trivialized, romance itself is trivialized, women and women’s interests are routinely, thoroughly, oppressively trivialized. Yes. There is that. And given that — given that being a romance writer and a romance reader can in fact be an embattled position, what do I have to say in its defense?

Romance novels matter because they take love seriously, and love is serious business. It binds us together. It makes marriage, family, and intergenerational networks of emotional and financial support all possible. Without love, there is no glue that can hold a society together over the long term. We need love. The Beatles have suggested that all we need is love, and while I wouldn’t go that far, I do think love is pretty darn important.

Romance novels matter because they take women seriously, and they do so in the midst of a culture that often looks down on women’s accomplishments, women’s thoughts and feelings, women’s passion, women’s sexuality. Romance novels aren’t necessarily vehicles for self-transformation, but they can be. Romance novels have helped women decide to leave abusive spouses, to demand more from their relationships, to claim their sexuality, to go after what they want in life and not settle for less than they deserve. All fiction has the power to do this. Romance novels have the power to do this. They matter.

And, finally, romance novels matter because we write them, and we read them, and we matter. Whoever we are. Whatever it is we want to say. Diverse women and men, diverse perspectives, diverse stories to tell. They all matter.

So. That’s my defense.

I’m also supposed to answer these questions, so here goes…

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

I have a Hummel figurine of a girl reading a book. It sits on a shelf in my office. I’m not a figurine person at all, and if I were, I wouldn’t be a Hummel figurine person, but my grandma picked it out for me to have when I was young, and I always knew that when I grew up it would belong to me. Now it does. I like to have it there to remind me of her.

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

How To Be Good. I would be played by Claire Danes. Or possibly Natalie Portman. It would be an extremely boring movie.

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?

Last year, when I went to the RWA meeting in Anaheim, California, my husband stayed at home with our son and repainted and rearranged my office for me, just to be nice. It was very sweet of him.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

Hmm. I’d suggest that a first-time reader of my books might want to begin with the meet scene between Tom and Lexie on the beach in Ride with Me. Because if you’re down with Tom and Lexie, you’re probably down with Ruthie Knox, generally.

As for a first-time reader of romance overall? Oh, gosh. So many good books to pick from. I think I might recommend the infamous lamp-throwing scene in Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome To Temptation. It’s so much that is sexy and awkward and great in romance writing. Plus, it’s a little bit kinky, and if you can hang with the kinky, you’re probably already part of our crowd.

Be sure to check out the posts at Read-a-Romance Month to see what’s going on this month!

12 thoughts on “Why Romance Matters

  1. There has been a Ruthie-shaped void in my life lately. I’ve missed your posts and general on-the-webness. So, yay for this!

    “A culture that often looks down on womens accomplishments, womens thoughts and feelings, womens passion, womens sexuality.” And so many of us women don’t even recognize that we are being looked down upon because we’ve never been able to experience an alternative…until we read a good romance and realize that there is something Better out there. And then, if we’re lucky, we get up and go get it. Yeah, Romance!

  2. I’m so glad there’s a Why Romance Matters month! I so agree with all that you said above. Thanks for writing- I love your books!!

  3. I have been talking romance and sex with my lit students all semester. When we discussed whether or not The Hunger Games was a love story, the answer from them was most that it’s a survival story. Then I said, “why survive?” and dozen light bulbs lit up over their heads.

  4. Yay for mattering. I love what you said about giant swaths of attention (I’m picturing gazillions of little attention locusts swarming over the land to eat up time). How cool that you have a job that holds your attention so well and entertains you and MATTERS:-)

  5. I have a big white fuzzy teddy bear, probably 2 feet tall. She is wearing a purple feather boa and a big floppy red hat. When you squeeze her hand, she sings “Girls just wanna have fun.” and she sways as she sings. A wonderful lovely friend of mine got her for me. And my granddaughter will squeeze teddys hand every time she walks by and dance too. haha I love it. It is not ugly but certainly crazy! haha

  6. Forgot to add, wonderful post, Ruthie. We do matter. And love is what makes the world go round. At least that what my mom used to say.

  7. Thanks again, Ruthie! The first three R-A-R M site posts go live in the early hours tomorrow, and this will link off of it – a couple times over the month, actually. xoxo

  8. It feels so good to read something like this after that infamous opinion piece we all read yesterday. Thanks for the wonderful thoughts.

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