I belong to a book club whose purpose is to expand our reading experience. We make a point of choosing books from various genres including historical, mystery, Canadiana, classic, and many, many more. As a result I’ve met some authors I never would have picked up on my own, learned some obscure facts, discovered some not-so-famous people, and generally had a good time between the covers of a book. I’ve also come across some authors I’ll never read again. The latest book was such a one.
In their statement of mission, many public broadcasters include variations on the theme, “to inform, enlighten, entertain, inspire and illumine.” Libraries have a version of the same, and I like to read with those goals in mind. Sadly, the latest book, which won many awards, failed me in all respects but maybe the last.
- Inform: I did not learn anything new from the book — no tidbit of information, to squirrel away in the trivia compartment of my brain.
- Enlighten: It did not add a deeper level to my understanding of a situation or condition.
- Entertain: Not me. I could not find one single, sympathetic character to identify with. There was a protagonist, but I found nothing heroic about her journey. Although the language and writing were powerful, the dysfunctional relationships were more tedious than entertaining.
- Inspire: I was not moved to emulate any of the characters in the story, or to work for a cause or change my opinion on politics, religion or culture. I could find no moral to the story. In fact, when I closed the book my first thought was a sour, “So what?”
- Illumine: Perhaps the book reflected a segment of modern society, a sad segment, with not even the hint of an optimistic future.
And that brings me to the point of why I chose to write romantic fiction. Everyone wants to fall in love, it’s a universal theme. The books are populated by heroic characters, (and a few villains but it is clear they are villains). The stories celebrate positive values like kindness, generosity, forgiveness and healing. Romances are are encouraging: despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the love relationship triumphs. And that, I think, is the most important point. A modern romance novel has an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. We close the book with a sigh, a little sorry we’ve come to the end, but content that the characters we’ve invested in, will succeed. They will live happily-ever-after.
Literary critics slam the romance genre for its rose-coloured glasses. Happily-ever-after is only for fairy tales, they say. Maybe so, but we have the news to keep us grounded in the real world. Our screens show a steady stream of mayhem, pain, disaster, sorrow — the “real” world. We could all drown in despair. I think we all need some optimism, hope for a better future, confirmation that lasting love exists. For the sake of my sanity and my spirit, I choose romance.