• Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

Defending Romance Novels: Ignore Their BookTok Reputation

ByRhona Bowie

Mar 10, 2023
An image of the brightly coloured front covers of romance novels

According to Self-Publishing Advice, romance books generated $1.44 billion last year and maintained the streak of being the highest-selling book genre worldwide. Yet it continues to face backlash online.  It is branded as ‘cringe’ and often not seen as ‘real’ literature. I believe romance books are as genuine as any other literature and can contribute to millions of people’s happiness. 

As someone who is not only frequently on BookTok but also creates content for it, it is no secret to me that there is elitism in many aspects of it. One such example is the preconception that reading a certain genre shows more valid taste and can even demonstrate someone’s intelligence. Those who read classic books are often portrayed as more competent, ‘better’ readers. In fact, reading is not a competition and should never be viewed as one. 

However, because BookTok has had such a significant impact on book sales – for example, Young Adult book sales increased by 70% in the USA in one year – some readers have taken it upon themselves to separate their pages from those who enjoy and promote romance books. Many will poke fun at the silliness and absurdity of the plotlines, characters, and overall atmosphere that so many romance books have. This may be true – romance books are not known for being realistic representations of romance in real life. But I believe that this is what makes them so popular.

For many people, the world is overwhelming and day-to-day life filled with uncertainty. Reading can provide a sanctuary, whether in learning new information, being taken away to a fantastical world, or falling in love with characters and their story. Romance stories are reliable: two characters, a slow burn build-up, the get-together, an inevitable breakup or miscommunication and finally, the make-up and happily ever after. In a world that is constantly shifting, being able to escape into stories that almost always follow the same script and end happily should not be underestimated. They are a safe space filled with adventure and love.

It is not always about what is ‘good’ literature, but sometimes what can make you feel happy. Is it not a sign of ‘good’ literature if you have an emotional reaction, finish with a smile, and imagine the characters’ lives after the book is over? Reading has so much power over how we feel; understandably, people put that power in the hands of those who can bring some joy into their lives. 

Most of these books are purchased and read by women aged 18-54. Many argue that older women may be unhappy and unfulfilled in their marriages, and while this may be the case in some instances, it is a generalisation.  I would suggest that these women simply enjoy reading about nice things. Reading can be there for many reasons, one of the main ones being a form of escapism. Unhappy marriage or otherwise, it means reading a fun, whimsical and, above all, romantic narrative. So, while romance books may not change lives and leave a major lasting impact on many people, they are there in times of uncertainty and stress and can help you to get lost in a story for just a few hours.

Remember, if reading a book about two characters that hate each other in a completely unreasonable fashion only to fall in love, or a book about childhood friends turned lovers makes you happy, then never let anyone with out-of-date and, frankly, unwanted opinions take away that enjoyment. 

Image Credit: Vintage Romance Novels” by Stewf is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.