With strong, female protagonists and plot lines centered on acquiring true love through whatever means possible, regardless of the conflicts or obstacles in the way, romance novels are predictably popular . At their core, romance novels almost always involve a protagonist overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds and ending up with the love of her life.
When it comes to the types of people who read romances, a notable 82% are women. While the fact that women make up the largest percentage of romance readers is probably unsurprising, many people wonder why these novels as so appealing when they almost always follow the same narrative arc? We know that every romance novel ends with a happily-ever-after. With such consistent and predictable ending, what’s the appeal? Why read the novel when you know the ending. Let’s dig into the elements of the romance genre.
Here are a few reasons why readers find the romance genre so appealing:
Almost all romance novels feature a female lead who has to stay strong in the face of challenges and demands, use her intelligence and courage to overcome obstacles in a relationship, and fight for love. While many other genres have female characters, they are not always strong and they often rely on men to rescue them or help them find fulfillment. Romance novels show multi-faceted women who are willing to take charge and pursue their goals. With such powerful heroines in romance novels, why wouldn’t women (and men) be drawn to this genre?
Many people who read romance novels are in it just for the entertainment, but some find themselves inspired by the women who have to be brave and make difficult choices to create their own happiness. Whether a heroine has to go against her family’s wishes, help solve a conflict with her intellect, or use her gentleness to tame and soften an arrogant love interest, the women in romance novels are brilliant and strong and courageous.
Novels within the romance genre always feature a riveting, once-in-a-lifetime love story. Usually the protagonist and her love interest must overcome some obstacle that is standing in the way of their love. However, once these characters realize that the love they have for one another is not commonplace and often unattainable, they decide it is worth fighting for regardless of any negative circumstances.
These love stories are engaging and suspenseful and they give readers hope (or fantasies) that one day, they too can experience such a rare love that defies all odds. Even people who have already found their one true love can connect with these stories because they are reminded of how special love can be and why some relationships are worth preserving.
In addition to fighting for love, the heroine in romance novels also has to fight against common struggles and situations which many women in particular find relatable. In contemporary romance novels, the protagonist might have to balance having a relationship with taking care of her children or managing her career and professional life.
In romance novels from the Victorian era to the present, the main character often has to deal with high expectations or demands from the family about who they should and should not marry or date. At the core of these storylines are issues which tend to be deeply familiar with women. For a deeper psychological look at how romance novels reflect women’s concerns and desires see this article in Psychology Today.
Romance novels are full of scenarios that build tension and suspense. From the build up to the first kiss to steamy love scenes, romance novels feature a wide range of situations that readers may not often find themselves experiencing in real life. Doesn’t everyone want suspense escapism now and then?
Regardless of the obstacles or events that threaten to ruin her love, the protagonist always get her man and the book ends on with a “happily ever after” (HEA). The HEA ending is the fantasy that we all want for our own lives, right? And if we can’t get it, at least we can indulge the protagonist while she gets it. Then we can dream a little more about our own.