Why do readers read romance?
I love reading romance books because they release chemicals in the brain that give me warm and fuzzies. I don’t drink or smoke, so reading is a great way to destress and feel good. Reading about super sweet love interests reminds me to appreciate mine like the heroines in the books appreciate their leading men. My husband is a big fan of me reading romance. It puts me in a lovey dovey mood where I want to spend time with him.
Get your head out of the gutter!
It’s just that when you’ve been married for over a decade, that person really is your other half. There’s this complete since of being wholly loved and accepted. But those chemical reactions you got when dating, tend to fade away. The thrill of the newness of the relationship and discovering each other dies a quick death. There’s no longer a question of if the relationship will last, so the thrill factor goes away. Or maybe that’s just me. Thing is, no one tells you this before you get married, and I was 19 when I did.
Luckily, I was a very smart teenager because I love my husband without needing chemical reactions. Love is commitment and understanding, not wanting to jump each other’s bones—though that’s a huge bonus!
Anyway, what I’m getting at here is that I’m probably not the only one like this, and romance books trigger me to think of my husband as the man I fell in love with and not an extension of myself that I can ignore.
Quick, fluffy romances fill that need and keep my marriage strong.
For all the single people out there, I’m sure it gives them hope that they can have a love that will last a lifetime.
If fluffy romances do the trick, what’s the point of traumatic romances. I’m not saying that the love is traumatic. Let me explain with a definition.
Traumatic romances – love stories where the characters current situation or past trauma must be overcome to find their happily ever after.
What type of romance do readers identify with more?
A lot of readers can identify with the characters of fluffy romance. They may have had a privileged background of wealth, prep schools, and excellent grades to get them into Ivy league colleges. They may have been the standard of ideal beauty with strong friendships and popularity. They may have dated all the hot guys.
But let’s face it, that’s not the case for most of us, so I choose not to write stories about those people. Call me prejudice, but those stories come off as wish fulfillment to me. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. They are entertaining. Their love stories are also meaningful. But I can’t relate as well as I can with characters who aren’t popular, gorgeous, or wealthy. And even bringing characters to that level isn’t enough to be relatable for people who’ve not had those things and have also had to struggle immensely.
Are traumatic romances realistic or even romances?
I write romances for the people who never seem to have their stories told. I’ve had people straight up say, if the character is being sexually harassed, recovering from alcoholism, trying to figure out what their sexuality is, dealing with racial prejudice, living near the poverty line, having panic attacks, working through the guilt of being the reason their parent is now an amputee, and being bullied at school, it can’t be a romance. Not only that, but it’s unrealistic and there’s no way to show all that in one book.
Bull hockey! That description is all for one character (Ralph Santos) in my book Twelve Steps to You.
I didn’t know any of that when I birthed the idea. I just saw two seniors in high school sitting on the roof talking, and the guy had come up their because he didn’t want to drink. So, I had to ask myself why, which brought me to his mom getting in a wreck on the way to see him at the hospital where he was getting his stomach pumped. Then I had to figure out why he drank so much, which led me to the basketball camp the summer before freshman year when his friend gave him an unwanted hand job. And now that they were on the team again and his parents knew he’d been harassed, why hadn’t he told them who it was so he wouldn’t have to deal with him?
It’s 1999 when being gay was the worst possible thing you could be. There was a game called smear the queer that was played during recess even in the 2000s. So if you’ve never reacted to anyone in a sexual way and all of a sudden you do and you’ve had zero sexual education to teach you that a body will react to sexual stimulus regardless of if it’s wanted, you might start questioning your sexuality. And if you’re questioning it, everyone will. After all, the culprit is convinced you’re just scared of being gay and getting bullied for it or condemned to hell.
That’s a heck of a lot to deal with individually, let alone all together. Unfortunately, that’s the reality for some teens. I have 3 written books with characters dealing with current or past sexual abuse. It might sound like overkill, but statistically, for every book there would be multiple characters who have been sexually abused in one way or another. Just the reported cases are one in four for girls and one in six for boys. And then there’s all those who abuse. Sometimes victims become perpetrators, and there are no books to show them how they are twisting reality to suit their desires and need to get help, so I wrote one for the victim and the victim who is also the abuser.
I have women and men abusers, teens and adults, gay and straight. No one is exempt. Abusers and the abused come in every form.
Are traumatic romances more important than fluffy romances?
But back to the main topic. Traumatic vs Fluffy Romances. I rarely set out to write a traumatic romance, but the characters reveal themselves, and I run with it. I do enjoy writing their stories. They are harder and can drain me because I have to put myself in their shoes (villains and heroes), but they are more rewarding to me once I finish. I haven’t been through all the things my characters have, but I have had readers who have and said the characters felt authentic and they understood their journey. That’s better than any amount of money I could make. I want to write meaningful stories that resonate with those of similar backgrounds and give them hope that they too can find happiness. I want it to make those who have had picture perfect lives aware of these struggles on a deeper level to where they can sympathize and perhaps help someone dealing with a similar struggle.
So when it comes to traumatic vs fluffy romances, I like both, but I think there’s an unmet need for the former, and I hope other authors will stretch themselves to provide them and readers will branch out to these stories that have rough starts but equally satisfying, if not more, endings.
So, I leave the question to you…which do you prefer to read/write and why? There are no wrong answers, so please leave a comment, and we can all discuss this important topic.