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Why read Romance?; Realism Vs Fiction
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Missy4u



Joined: 19 May 2008
Posts: 23

PostPosted: Sat Jun 14, 2008 3:57 pm    Post subject: Why read Romance?; Realism Vs Fiction Reply with quote

I have heard (read) people saying that they would like more "realistic" ends in romance novels. Others have further added that they like endings with twist and that the happily ever after ending is not a reflection of reality.

I started reading romantic fiction when I was very young about 13/14. By the time I was 20 I was getting tired of them and branched off into other fiction. Over the past two years I have returned to romance. Romance novels remain a firm favourite however at the moment I feel a "I am sick and tired of them " wave coming a long. These phases usually last anywhere from 8 months to 1.5 years.

As the years have gone by (i am now 31) I find that I read romance for entertainment and escapism. I have to have the happy ever after ending (HEA)
My argument is that I live in the real world everyday and I am fully aware of what reality is.. why then should romance FICTION mirror real life.
On the same token, I do agree that the plot has to be realistic otherwise I get bored. If the character is TSTL Very Happy (I learned that one the other day!) and the plot is plain old dumb... the novel becomes stupid. I guess it all boils down to balance.

I want to add that with age I have become more discerning and selective of the romance novels I will read hence the hiatuses from romance fiction. I also find that there is only a handful of readers I will read and that list keeps getting shrinking. The plot lines are being recycled so it is hard to find new exciting GOOD books. I kinda envy the newer read who has just discovered romance fiction.. oh the joys of finding the classics that are out there

So what's your take. why do you read romance novels and do you prefer your romance novels to be more realistic in terms that the ending should reflect real life or HEA.
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LeeB.



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1280
Location: Seattle, WA

PostPosted: Sat Jun 14, 2008 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Missy4yu: I definitely read romance for escapism. As you say, we are all fully aware of reality -- if not on tv or in the newspapers, it's all over the internet. I need the happy endings in romance books.
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Vellorine



Joined: 12 Oct 2007
Posts: 106

PostPosted: Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read them as compelling stories, rather than a representation of reality. While I expect to see a certain degree of probability in the development of a romantic relationship (on the contrary, I just couldn't buy the love in first sight romance in Julia Quinn's Everything and the Moon), I am not really a firm believer of eternal HEA. Real relationship takes up so much effort and could fall apart so easily. Once I thought I had an almost perfect long term relationship and the man I still love left me out of blue because he just stopped having feelings for me. Reality bites...although I might want to fulfill my fantasy by reading reunion romances despite of knowing that it won't happen to me Smile
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Yulie



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 1:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't buy into the argument that romance novels and the HEA are unrealistic because "real life doesn't have a happy ending". Real life often does have a "happy ending" in terms of relationships/marriage, or we wouldn't see so many people in long-term fulfilling relationships - or in whatever else suits their needs and personalities. I would argue that the more correct way to look at it is:
1. Real life doesn't necessarily have a happy ending, and
2. Real life, even with a happy ending, is not perfect, so
3. Real life relationships require a lot of work and compromise to stay good and fulfilling for both partners.
What I need for the HEA to work is to believe that the h/h are committed to each other and have a strong enough relationship that it can survive whatever life throws at them. Numerous babies, puppies and sunsets are not required Very Happy . Now, I won't argue that some romances don't work and are not believable in the way the relationship is developed and therefore in the HEA itself; but this does not mean that all HEAs are not believable, just that those romances are not well-written.

Is the abundance of misery and dysfunctional relationships prevalent in some forms of fiction more reflective of human experience? To me, it's not. There's a broad spectrum of what people go through in their life in general and in relationships and family life in particular, and if romance reflects only part of that spectrum, that doesn't make it any more or less realistic than those genres that choose to explore other elements of human experience. As a reader, I want a variety of representations and stories available to me to choose from. Likewise, what we see on the news is a facet (or some facets) of what happens in the real life, and should not be viewed as a complete, 100% accurate representation of our world.

Vellorine - a note on reunion romances: one of my best friends broke up with her boyfriend of two years when she was twenty. They got back together nearly a decade later and from what I understand, they intend to get married sometime in the next couple of years. So maybe reunions are not common as they appear in romance, but they can happen.
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RichMissTallant



Joined: 06 Jun 2008
Posts: 148
Location: Washington, DC

PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 5:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read romance novels for the simple reason that I enjoy stories about people falling in love. It started when I was a young girl: in all the novels I read, I realised my favourite part was any sort of relationship between two characters (e.g. Kit/Nat in The Witch of Blackbird Pond). When I got a bit older, I discovered romance novels. I used to have to sneak my mom's old Harlequin paperbacks before my grandmother introduced me to the world of Georgette Heyer and Patricia Veryan. Now, about 10 years after I started reading romances, I too go through phases where I get tired of them and frustrated with TSTL heroines, recycled plots, etc. I've become pickier - there are things I used to be able to tolerate in romance novels that I won't put up with anymore since it's not to my liking. At the end of the day, the journey to love is what makes it worth it. The HEA ending for me is, as others have said, believing that the H/H can make it work no matter what. Sometimes I tire of the epilogue where they're shown with a first child or something to that effect; I don't always find it necessary, and as a woman who doesn't want children for myself, I'd love to see more Nina/Alex couples (from Crusie's Anyone But You) who settle down without the white picket fence and 4 kids (although they do have the dog). Is it escapism? Absolutely. It doesn't have to be 100% "realistic" but it has to convince me - hence the reason why I almost always loathe 'love'-at-first-sight plots, since I don't ever buy into it as anything but lust.
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Elaine S



Joined: 02 Apr 2007
Posts: 667
Location: Rural England

PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 8:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I recently saw a wonderful essay by Eloisa James in the Sunday Telegraph magazine here in the UK about why she writes romance and it was a good rebuttal to those who sneer at those who read it. She said:

“In truth, romance readers are not looking for erotic excitement as much as for a strong story. They read with interest, intelligence and passionate engagement.

….. intellectuals never seem to believe that a strong story and in interest in relationships could explain the popularity of romance.”


I read romance for escape, solace and entertainment. I like a good story, well crafted and believeable hence my personal animosity to shape shifting, time travel, vampires, etc. I read for heroines I would like to lunch with and heroes I would like to love – not necessarily have sex with. In the contemporary field, I admire Judith Duncan (despite her occasional histrionics), Rachel Lee (Conard County books), Paula Detmer Riggs (wonderful heroes) and Robyn Carr because they all write about real people, living real lives, working in real occupations. Because these authors are so adept at creating living, meaningful relationships, their work is deeply satisfying. When I read Regencies or other historicals, I also look for a real sense of time and place, preferring characters to live in the time described, not to be running around with 21st century attitudes, dressed in a crinoline or Brigit Jones experiencing a season on the Ton. So, the peerless Georgette Heyer and her best successor, Mary Balogh, are my favourites in the Regency genre.

Also I feel the HEA is important but a little pain in achieving it is absolutely necessary.

I think romance readers are much denigrated as Eloisa James writes. Personally, I am educated to MA level, have a hectic, professionally busy life and read widely in political history (the MA), biography and social history as well as reading a wide selection of newspapers and international periodicals. Therefore, I read romantic fiction for pure entertainment and that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from being cosseted by a writer who hits all the right buttons.


Last edited by Elaine S on Sun Jun 15, 2008 11:18 am; edited 2 times in total
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4225
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elaine S wrote:
Therefore, I read romantic fiction for pure entertainment and that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from being cosseted by a writer who hits all the right buttons.

I like how you said this, Elaine. I'm beginning to totally turn off to the word "escape" when used as a rationale for reading romance. The word implies to me a permanent option. I think I'll use the word "distract" instead for myself. Because that's what most of us are really doing. We can't escape our lives or conditions (well, unless we run away in the true sense of the word--but then in those famous words someone once said, "Wherever I go, there I am"). We merely distract ourselves with things and stuff temporarily. We do that when we go to the movies, watch television, go out with friends, etc. And when we read, it's not only romance readers that want to be redirected for a while; it's anyone who reads any genre, fiction or non-fiction.

The only difference appears to be that the romance reader prefers and expects an HEA, whereas another kind of reader doesn't mind being surprised. No big thing. We're all being pleasantly diverted in our focuses for a while when reading.
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Niftybergin



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 1092

PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 10:06 am    Post subject: Re: Why read Romance?; Realism Vs Fiction Reply with quote

Missy4u wrote:
So what's your take. why do you read romance novels and do you prefer your romance novels to be more realistic in terms that the ending should reflect real life or HEA.


I like the HEA. I don't need them to be married and popping out babies, but I want my romance novels to end with the H/H together and in love and committed to one another, their relationship, and their future. To me, this is NOT unrealistic. I see "together and happy" couples every day in my life, so why shouldn't I see them in romance novels as well? And why is that HEA an invitation for disaparagement by the non-romance-reading contingent? I don't get that.

In reading about how they get to that HEA, I'm more of an "anything goes" kind of reader. As long as the author writes it in a way that it makes sense, I can accept a lot and be VERY tolerant of subject matter that can be an automatic turn-off for a lot of romance readers. In fact, sometimes that makes it even better for me when the couple DOES arrive at their HEA. I like knowing that they worked hard for it and for their relationship. I like knowing that they overcame obstacles and come out on the other side stronger, both as individuals and as a unit. (This is one of the reasons why I like Nora Roberts' novels so much, I think, as her characters and their behaviors often strike me as pyschologically sound. So I like watching them get knocked around a little by circumstances, and yet pull themselves up by the bootstraps and triumph in the end. Awesome.)
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Frankly, I read any fiction as entertainment alone, and that includes romance. I'm not the type of person who looks for an escape anyway. If I've got a problem, I like to deal with it. However, I've been reading for entertainment my whole life. I grew up in a very small town, with little to do, so I read and read and read. Discovering romance novels in recent years has satisfied the romantic in me, but I was finding it in general fiction too. I like to count on the HEA, I suppose. I know it's there and I don't have to wonder about the ending...too much.
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MarianneM



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
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Location: Houston, Texas

PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 10:44 am    Post subject: Romance and Realism, can they co-exist? Reply with quote

The sometimes fevered accusation by "self-designated realists" that romance novels are fantasy is made partly to make themselves feel superior to us "unrealistic" folks. I like Yulie's post here and she says pretty much what I think. Suppose, for the sake of discussion, that we accept the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce. That means that 50% of marriages don't end in divorce, doesn't it?

To continue, let's suppose that some "happy" marriages have periods of stress and unhappiness [most of them in real life do]. The statistic which states this also implies that when the relationships aren't under stress, they are happy and fulfilling for the participants. This isn't fantasy -- it's reality. That's the way it works for most of us. No one is happy all the time except that "Me, worry?" guy. Military families are sometimes separated for months and years by the husband's [or wife's] service. Navy wives have interruptions of married bliss when their husbands go to sea.

These separations and stresses are an inherent part of life. They don't mean that, on balance, the relationship is unhappy. And if you admit this is reasonable, then you have to admit that romance novels aren't about fantasy. What they are is a different point of view from so-called "serious" fiction, where everything is viewed from a point of view of loss and bad endings. In the end, that's no more realistic than a book in which there are no stresses, no difficulties, no alienations.

So-called literary, or serious fiction just about has to be written with a grim ending, if the author hopes to get some sort of literary prize ... because life is real, life is earnest, and it always ends badly, they contend.

The ending part gets closer and closer as you age [I had my 80th birthday yesterday] and as some pundit said, we're all on our final voyage. But we can find happiness along the way. And that's what romance novels tell you. And you can take my word for it.

MarianneM
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Kass



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
we accept the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce.

As I understand it, this stat is somewhat misleading because it's certain people who keep getting married and divorced, so they're skewing the curve. Just an FYI. Smile
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Yulie



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MarianneM wrote:
The ending part gets closer and closer as you age [I had my 80th birthday yesterday] and as some pundit said, we're all on our final voyage. But we can find happiness along the way. And that's what romance novels tell you. And you can take my word for it.

Happy birthday, Marianne! I like how you summed up your post.
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RichMissTallant



Joined: 06 Jun 2008
Posts: 148
Location: Washington, DC

PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 11:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Suppose, for the sake of discussion, that we accept the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce. That means that 50% of marriages don't end in divorce, doesn't it?

Not to mention all the happy couples who never get married. It doesn't make sense to a lot of people, but in my life I've personally seen long-lasting relationships that weren't sealed by a marriage certificate. I've seen just as many divorces in my life, so I like to think I've seen both sides and don't have to justify my love of romance novels to the cynics. Boo to them!

I think the critics only see one side of romance - the kitschy bodice-ripper covers, etc. But we know there's so much more out there to love - it's our gain, their loss.

Also, me loving romance doesn't preclude my love of other types of literature. It's another common criticism I see. I go through phases where I read mostly romance, and then I go through phases where I hardly read any. I only have time to read for classes during the fall and spring semesters, so during the summer I look forward to the "escapism" that romance offers.
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Elaine S



Joined: 02 Apr 2007
Posts: 667
Location: Rural England

PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MarianneM said:

So-called literary, or serious fiction just about has to be written with a grim ending, if the author hopes to get some sort of literary prize ... because life is real, life is earnest, and it always ends badly, they contend.

The ending part gets closer and closer as you age [I had my 80th birthday yesterday] and as some pundit said, we're all on our final voyage. But we can find happiness along the way. And that's what romance novels tell you. And you can take my word for it.


and that just about sums it all up!

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and my congrats also on your 80th birthday!
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Yulie



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It took me a few hours to remember who said it (apparently it was Richard Curtis, who wrote Love Actually, Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral, among other things), but I think this is relevant - and kind of funny, too:

"If you write a story about a soldier going AWOL and kidnapping a pregnant woman and finally shooting her in the head, it's called searingly realistic, even though it's never happened in the history of mankind. Whereas if you write about two people falling in love, which happens about a million times a day all over the world, for some reason or another, you're accused of writing something unrealistic and sentimental" (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0193485/bio)
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