Throbbing body parts. Obscene gestures. Vivid foreplay and sexy, thrusting bodies.
Do I have your attention yet?
In our “sex sells” society, these seem to be the hallmarks of the romance genre. In fact, when I tell someone I write romance, I’m usually faced with two types of people.
I certainly understand the allure. I’m no stranger to appreciating a sexy body or a nicely written, sexy scene. In my teens, I was an avid romance reader. At the time, the suave scenes, the perfect moments under the twinkling stars, and the sexy exchanges seemed not the things of fantasies, but the things of possibility. They inspired my vision of love.
Fast-forward to my early twenties when I started getting serious about writing. By that time, I was no stranger to the fact that the fantasies in romance novels are usually just that: Fantasies.
By that time, I’d traded the lingerie of my romance novels for flannel pajamas that weren’t inspiring any sort of lust. I’d realized that love wasn’t always candlelight dinners in gorgeous, skintight dresses and stilettos while we made eyes at each other across the perfectly set table. Instead, love became eating fast food on a Tuesday while we complained about work and cleaned up cat vomit from the carpet. Love became falling asleep on the sofa beside him because I was exhausted from getting up so early instead of staying up all night and looking at the stars. The scenes from my romance novels faded away as real life took hold.
But, as I started thinking about writing in the romance genre, I realized something: Love is so much more than some of the fantasy worlds we see in romance novels. Not that there is anything wrong with that! We need escapism. I love a rock-hard body as much as anyone. And, that’s not to say these books are only about unrealistic expectations.
However, I realized something about my beloved romance genre: something was missing. That something was that as a twentysomething whose views of love had changed, I wanted to see myself in romance. Maybe it was selfish on my part. Maybe we could psychoanalyze and say it was simply to justify to myself why my relationship had gone a bit stale, had been overrun by real life.
Maybe that’s all true.
Regardless, I knew when I put my fingers on that keyboard and started writing, I wanted to see real-life romance. I didn’t want female characters who had it all figured out. I didn’t just want rock-hard abs and passionate looks.
I wanted turmoil and confusion. I wanted characters who, like me, didn’t have it all figured out in their twenties or even thirties. I wanted characters who got lost in the world at times, who got lost in love, and who had their doubts. I wanted to see characters who fought about dishes, about in-laws, about the car, and about careers. I wanted characters who pushed each other away and pulled each other back in.
I wanted emotion, depth, and complexity. And I didn’t want all of that to only take place in the bedroom.
It’s not that I’m naïve or a proponent of chaste living. Sex is certainly a part of the equation, and hopefully we all find a way to keep romance alive in our relationships. Hopefully we all get to live the fantasy a little bit now and then.
But I don’t think for most of us that the fantasy and hot sex are the focuses of our relationship. Because, hopefully, most of us have a level of reality facing us. We have a level of depth. We would all live inside that sexy world forever if we could… but many of us can’t. Life is hard, and love is harder.
I wanted novels that reflected that. I wanted novels that didn’t just help us escape, but helped us come to terms with the realities of life and love. I hoped to write novels that showcased how love is not perfect or easy… but it can still be powerful and beautiful.
Love doesn’t have to be perfect to be worthwhile, and it certainly isn’t always neatly packaged.
Messy. Hard. Complex. Emotional. These are the things I wanted to see in my novels because these are the things I’ve experienced.
So for me, I’ve come to believe the romance genre isn’t just about sex, about fantasy, or about guy+girl=love. For me, it’s about showcasing real-life love, the kind that isn’t always perfect but is just as magical in its own way.
Join me on my journey to showcase real romance. Join my tribe and celebrate the fact that perfectly imperfect romances are stories worth telling.
Lindsay Detwiler is the author of 8 sweet romance novels and a high school English teacher. Check out all of her works on Amazon or wherever books are sold.