Why do we read romance novels? For most, it is the desire to experience again that rush of first love — the euphoria, the hope, and the passion. Writers who can tap into that moment meet the expectations of the genre and attract readers by the hundreds of thousands. 

And why not? Can anything be better than falling in love? 

I’ll betray my age, when I say yes, there is something better. There is living and loving throughout life, sharing all the ups and downs, the heartaches and the joys, with a beloved partner. Living the “for better, for worse” part brings a deep contentment that may not be thought of in the excitement of a wedding.

How many twenty-somethings really imagine living together in old age when they blithely promise “in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, so long as we both shall live?” Youth is blessed with a sense of immortality. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the young believe that “it won’t happen to us.” We’ll never need a cane, we’ll never lose our figure, our skin will never wrinkle, our strength will never wane. In this case, denial is a good thing. It makes us take risks, it makes us hope, it keeps the human race trying to make a better world. It keeps the human race alive. 

There is a subset in the romance genre called “seasoned romance,” that features older characters as the love interest. Some of these books consider thirty to be “seasoned” but I think they miss the mark. It takes a lot of living to be well and truly seasoned. But what a joy when one reaches that stage of life when the bloom of youth is gone, some dreams have been set aside, some ambitions unrealized,  to find that even then, you are cherished by a loving spouse. Someone still sees you as beautiful, someone still thinks an hour in your company better than a week at the carnival, someone will still kiss your hurts and make them better.

I love that word – cherish. It means so much more than love. To cherish to to act, to decide, to care for and to support. Love, as an emotion, is fickle, fleeting and unreliable. Cherish is steadfast.

There is a song, “I”ll Walk Beside You,”  that sums up this idea. I can’t listen to it without a tear in my eye. I’ve provided a link to a recording by Kenneth McKeller. Bet you can’t listen to the end without a clutch of your heartstrings.

I’ll Walk Beside You

I’ll walk beside you through the world today
While dreams and songs and flowers bless your way
I’ll look into your eyes and hold your hand
I’ll walk beside you through the golden land

I’ll walk beside you through the world tonight
Beneath the starry skies ablaze with light
Within your soul love’s tender words I’ll hide
I’ll walk beside you through the eventide

I’ll walk beside you through the passing years
Through days of cloud and sunshine, joys and tears
And when the great call comes, the sunset gleams
I’ll walk beside you to the land of dreams.

— Edward Lockton and Alan Murray

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