On Reading Romance Fiction: You’re Not Stupid Or The Perpetual Cat Lady For Loving The Genre!

The romance fiction genre is for the women left behind by time loveless who take solace in their fifty or so cats, they say. They’re daydreamers who give in to the wishful thinking about unrealistic love, they add. Balderdash!

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This article tackles the benefits, and the myths (aside from the ones written above) brought about by reading romance fiction books.

I chanced upon my first romance book when I was in the fourth grade while staying with my aunt in the school where she was teaching. I only read the first three chapters because when she saw me curled up with the paperback, she immediately confiscated it and reprimanded me saying it wasn’t intended for kids. She, then, handed me a pile of books that included the whole set of the Chronicles Of Narnia which I promptly devoured in five days’ time.

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But as much as I loved all the books she sent my way, I never forgot that one early taste I had of the romance fiction genre. And when I hit 13, I was reading romance novels in secret, including the one my aunt forbade me to read three years back (And I didn’t get why she confiscated it as it was quite decent and not steamy)!

It was also at this early age that I learned the stereotyping thrown on romance fiction readers. They were too much that I was scared to be seen reading romances in fear of being called stupid. When my classmates brandished their massive Harry Potter hardcovers like gleaming swords, I hid my Lisa Kleypas novel among my school books.

However, I realized that people who could write tear-inducing and highly imaginative love stories couldn’t be stupid so why would their readers bear that name in shame, too? I set upon compiling advantageous reasons one gets from reading romance fiction as well as debunking commonly believed false ideas about the genre.

The Myths

  1. The Romance Fiction Genre Is The Easiest To Write About

I know of romance writers who still need to research connection with the novels they’re doing. Besides, it can be quite hard to keep a storyline as believable and as grounded in reality as possible, even those with paranormal and magical properties. Keith Oatley, Ph.D., director of the Cognitive Science Program at the University of Toronto explains that fiction “is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.” Plus, using your imagination to make up a fictional love story can be as taxing as creating Sci-Fi make-believe planets with their language and such.

  1. Readers Of The Genre Are Either Desperate Housewives Or Loveless Cat Ladies

Romance Writers of America divulged (through a survey conducted by Nielsen) that 84% of romance readers are women and the remaining 16% are men (up from last survey’s 9%). Additionally, buyers of books belonging to the genre have an average income of $55,000 indicating that they’re money-earning individuals.

Personally, there’s nothing wrong with being a housewife. I was fulltime one when I had my first two kids, and it wasn’t an easy job.

  1. Romance Authors And Readers Don’t Know Quality Writing

This impression is the same as saying that both writers and readers of love-inspired fiction are stupid. In all actuality, we’re not.

Yes, there, indeed, are novels in the genre that were better off without seeing the light of the day, and there are those that could use decent editing, but don’t judge the category just because you’ve read one “trashy” romance paperback.

Lastly, I know of romance authors who came from prestigious universities and even have PhDs just as I know of romance readers who are accomplished themselves.

The Benefits

  1. It’s Stress-Relieving

We don’t read romances to gather information; we read them for the story. And being immersed in an engrossing love story can be the shut of your brain needs after a day of hard work.

Scientifically, one study discovered that reading reduces stress by up to 68%, more than leisure walking and music listening do. It’s even shown to induce sleep (though a gripping storyline makes it hard to put down the novel until you’ve flipped the last page!).

  1. It’s Cathartic

Catharsis is the act of cleansing one’s self of heavy emotions usually through crying. It’s akin to wanting a “good cry” which I do through reading heavy romance or watching a tear-inducing movie. Indeed, psychiatrist Neel Burton, MD says, “I like to think that tears can have a psychological function too, serving as a mechanism for a person’s unconscious to tell his conscious that a particular problem or situation actually means a lot to him and that he needs to make the effort to address or at least to process it.” Crying, he wrote, serves “As the markers of strong emotion, tears signal moments of existential importance in our lives.”

Bestselling author Jenny Crusie described romance as about emotional catharsis.” The genre’s authors all have one goal in mind – to write a love story that deals with real-life problems, is optimistic and an affirmation of life with a most satisfying ending, happy or sad. At the end of every novel or series, readers feel content.

  1. It’s Empowering And Empathy Improving

Yes, the romance fiction genre might have gone through the “bodice-ripping” phase in the past (and a few now). But if you look closely at the themes love stories now revolve, you’ll mainly see empowerment – of strong heroines who can stand on their ground or of those who fell but didn’t stay fallen.

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Additionally, scientific research stated that reading literary fiction helps us to be more emphatic, more understanding of the workings of our relationship with others and more attuned to our emotions. “One possible reason is that when we devote our mental energy to stepping into an imaginary person’s inner world, we’re essentially honing our ability to do the very same thing with actual people,” Harvard University lecturer Holly Parker Ph.D. wrote. “Indeed, scientific evidence suggests that the same regions of the brain are at work when we’re thinking about other people and their points of view, regardless of whether those individuals happen to be real or fictional characters.” I haven’t read any fiction-themed book without a romantic or relational side story, and I believe this is because these kinds of layers in a book make it more exciting and the characters more human and interesting.

So, for romance readers out there, don’t mind the haters. Go on, curl up (preferably with a glass of wine) and immerse yourselves in love-themed books.