The positive messages of romance novels

Another month of the year has gone by, and a terrible month it’s been, both for the world, and for me personally. So I’m especially glad this month to welcome the topic of our authors’ Round Robin, set by author Rhobin Lee Courtright.

helena fairfax, freelance editor, fiction editor
What messages do your books hold for your readers?

I write – and love to read – romance novels, a genre despised in some quarters, even though romance is the bestselling genre in the world.

One of the criticisms I’ve heard levelled at romance novels is that they’re not realistic. I could argue that the story of a man on Mars growing potatoes in his own poop isn’t terribly realistic! (Bestselling novel The Martian – a book I loved when it came out.) But no one ever seems to level the same type of criticism at any other genre the way they do at romance.

helena fairfax, romance novels, romance editor

Just like any other type of novel, romance novels are fiction. They deal with a made-up world that’s come out of the author’s head. But one of the most important messages romance novels hold for me is this: This is how the world could be if we were all just better people. In this present world, which can seem so full of violence, greed, selfishness and intolerance, the message of romance novels is that selflessness, compassion, tolerance of others and plain, ordinary thoughtfulness are qualities that foster happiness in others and in the hero and heroine.

I recently gave a course for the Romantic Novelists’ Association on ‘What Makes a Page-turning Romance?’ Many people – the people who don’t actually read romance novels – think they’re all stuffed with wealthy, controlling heroes. In fact, the heroes of romance novels come from all walks of life. In my own novels, the heroes have jobs like an accountant (Penny’s Antique Shop of Memories and Treasures), a diving instructor (Felicity at the Cross Hotel), a security guard (In the Mouth of the Wolf).

So what makes a romantic hero? He may make mistakes, but he not only always tries to do the right thing, he gets off his arse and goes out of his way to do what’s right. It sounds simple, but there’s the perfect word to describe it in the OED: ‘noble’ – and a hero can be noble whether he’s a lord or the man next door. Another criticism levelled at romance novels is that women are seeking an ideal in men that doesn’t exist. Who wouldn’t want to be with a partner who goes out of his way to do the right thing?

As for the heroine, in how many other genres is a female character consistently at the centre of the story? In my own novels, I like to make my heroines hard-working, sensible, thoughtful and compassionate women. They aren’t paragons of virtue – they have faults, same as anyone else – but they’re the sort of women you’d love to have as a friend. They’re also self-reliant. They aren’t desperate to find love, but when love strikes they are loyal and passionate.

Romance novels bring hope
helena fairfax, romance novels, romance editor

I find something really uplifting in the way ordinary good qualities are represented in romance novels, and how they show us about compromise and selflessness, love and loyalty. One of the best things about romance novels is that they can transport readers out of whatever personal stressful situation they may be in and leave them with that feeling of being uplifted. We can enjoy the delicious anticipation that everything is going to turn out just as it ought – the girl will get the boy and the bad guys will get whatever’s coming to them.  People’s lives – my own included – are full of personal tragedy.  (And during the pandemic sales of romantic fiction saw a particular boom.)

Romance novels create an optimistic world for others. Above all, for me, they give a message of hope in what can often seem a hopeless world.


Do you read – or write – romantic fiction? If so, what draws you to it? If you have any thoughts on this topic, I’d love to hear from you.

And if you’d like to hear what the other authors in our Round Robin on the messages of their own novels, please click on the links below...

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/

Dr. Bob Rich  https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2A9 

Robin https://www.rhobincourtright.com/

23 thoughts on “The positive messages of romance novels

  1. My stars and garter, Helena. This post is awesomely wonderful. So inspiring to authors and readers alike. You nailed the complainers with your arguments. Yea, you!
    I’m sorry to hear you’ve had personal bad times. I agree totally, reading a romance novel can help. When my mom was ill a lot of years ago is when I went back to reading romance. It was so comforting. I knew I’d get an HEA. I’ve share and if I can figure how to reblog this I will. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marsha, thanks so much for your lovely comment. There’s something so comforting and uplifting about reading towards a HEA in times of trouble (and even in happy times!)
      Thanks very much for dropping in, and for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it x


  2. Romance does bring hope – something we all need as much as the air we breathe to thrive and blossom. Thanks for pointing that out. My love of reading began with Heidi but as a young adult moved to romance. I still read romance, but I shy away from anything that even has a hint of “billionaire.” If wealth is a turn-off for someone who likes romance, I can see why it turns off others who haven’t tried it. But I do love romances whose heroes are those men from all walks of life you mention: cowboys, soldiers, auto repairmen, the guy next door. Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to love the Heidi books as a child, too. Skye. I can still remember my copies. Even the covers felt uplifting. Thanks very much for your comment, and for dropping in. I really enjoy our Round Robins :)


  3. I love romance. I write it and other genres, but my favorite genre to read is romance. It’s because I know there will be a happy ending, and, in a world where the news is always focused on the negative, I want that happy ending. So, we are in agreement here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Marci, there is something about a happy ending that lifts the spirits. There are some occasions when I really can’t deal with bad stuff in books as well as in real life! Thanks very much for dropping in. I really enjoy our Round Robins.


  4. Each to their own. I don’t read romance, but do agree with you that one important role for fiction is to give a holiday from the horror that passes for reality. The thread I extract from your post is the basic decency of humanity, and there we have full agreement.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I read romance. I believe we all need to know that love exists, and for those whose particular pairing didn’t last, it still brought many benefits while it did. Yes the parting might have been painful and even damaging, but where would anyone be without a glimmer of love in their life?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so true, Rhobin. Love and romance features in so many different types of fiction, in some way or another. Thanks for setting us another interesting topic. I really enjoy our Round Robins :)


  6. As you would say in England, what a “brilliant” post about romance stories. I know they all have an HEA, but the stories can be in so many genres–paranormal, sci-fi, mystery, etc so they have their twists as well as romance. I find them entertaining and necessary for uplifting one’s spirits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your brilliant comment, JQ! :D I agree about the whole variety of romance novels. Romance writers are such a creative bunch! Thank you so much for dropping in, and for your entertaining comment xx


  7. Hi Helena!

    Well, I like romance novels as well. However when I actually wrote one, I’m afraid it came out a bit differently…


    “Wherefore art thou, thou complete wassock!”

    I was unbound from my bodice, standing four or fivesquare (whatever the hell that meant) in the middle of the Manor’s red chip courtyard. Judith, still so like a serene Buddha, stayed steadfast in attendance. The Toby Jug, however, had seemed to glare disapprovingly at me all night long. I’d picked up a pail, slunk through the central hall feeling like a hellspawn slut from Hades, knowing that time was ticking down towards our tendentiously embarrassing date with destiny, and only then seen there was neither sight nor sound of Jack anywhere in the joint.

    Even the Cresta looked perplexed.

    I could bloody KILL him.

    “Looking for your Sir Lancelot?” Judith asked, predatory as a cat.

    I scowled like a particularly vicious breed of Schnauzer, but thankfully my proverbial thankless retort never hit the airwaves for then, from the edge of the forest in ragged white shirt and torn breeches, my Jack did appear.

    His hair was mussed, his glasses were gone, his eyes were glazed over and I think his flies were open. He also looked somewhat drunk, and not on dandelion and burdock mead either. He tottered and swayed towards me, and I smiled.

    Then I picked up the pail and dumped it over his head.

    It wasn’t full of manure, faeces or slops. Just cold and shocking water which hit him as hard as a dive into a wintry Highland loch.

    I think he actually went blue but somehow just stayed standing there, soaked. So for good measure I hit him with the pail, too.

    I really was getting into all this violence stuff. Still, I’d had a good teacher.

    He slipped the blow a bit, but his head still whipped back like a cannonball had cracked it and he did finally fall to his knees.

    Love between two people, there’s just nothing like it.

    At last, Jill, I thought evilly, things are as they’re supposed to be.

    I felt scarcely one shred of mercy. I guess he’d taught me that as well.

    I walked over, feeling like a Gestapo interrogator from an old film.

    “Vell Jack, ve must be vith zer Lord um zehn hours oder else, so if you’re not scrubbed, brushed and dressed by zen, you are vor ze high jump!”

    I’ve never heard anything so silly in my life, but I must admit I actually said it.

    Seemed to work, too, for without further ado (let me skip the exposition here) we soon found ourselves robed and bewigged, all ready for our semi-papal audience with the Lord F***, our king and master.’

    Believe it or not, this warped monstrosity nearly got published… In light of current events, I might even see if I can rework it and try again!

    Couldn’t believe my publisher (now retiring) actually liked it. I thought she’d want to have me sectioned…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! I love the pail-dumping, James :D Romance novels are all about romantic conflict, and there was plenty of conflict in the scene! I can see why your publisher liked it. Will someone take over after she’s retired, and keep the publishing house going? Perhaps you should get the manuscript out again. I hope it has a happy ending!


      1. I don’t know what will become of Chaplin Books (which could probably be defined as semi-retired right now – oddly enough, just like me) and there’s been no hint of anyone else getting entrepreneurial with it (pity); but I have considered rewriting F***INGTON ON THE WOLD as part of it closely adhered to current affairs and I did get two call backs from literary agents the first time…

        My publisher reminded me this was miraculous, but no one actually said “yes,” although the story did have a happy ending…

        After the obligatory bloodbath!

        Hopefully Chaplin and I will also have a happy ending. Preferably without a bloodbath.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s brilliant about the two agents, James! Definitely worth another shot, I’d say – that is, if you can face it. And I do hope you and Chaplin do have a happy ending. It was through them I first came across you and your books.


  8. Need to know… (water often on my mind)
    Capacity of this pail ? If a 2 gallon average, dumped over his head, a wonderfully strong woman, Any aspiring hero should know he’s met his match, snap her up at once, or snap her up at once Especially if said pail is galvanised, not plastic.
    March 2022 Never needed romance more, and all other happy ever after. Missed your posts Helena, sorry to hear of tough times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Essentially a very strong woman, and my hero was meeting his match. But I’d done the epic biography and the Great Scottish Novel so this clunker was just an assemblage of all the creative rubbish I’d left lying around in the basement (and/or windmills) of my mind.

      I might rewrite it a bit (and possibly dump a few pails of water over innocent peoples’ heads) in the interests of research, accuracy and meanness…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Your comment made me laugh, Esther :D I agree – definitely a strong woman…and tall! :D James’s hero has certainly met his match.
      Thanks for your cheerful and kind comment. Just what I needed as this worst of months draws to a close. Wishing you a joyful spring!


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