Last May, I read Mr. and Mrs. Witch by Gwenda Bond, and it made me so happy that I decided to try exclusively reading romance for a while. From May to October, I read 16 romance novels. In October I took a break to read some gothic but quickly came back to romance, finishing out the year having read 22 romance novels and one romance anthology. This year, I continued the pattern. So far, I’ve read 17 romance novels this year. I talk about romance and think about romance a lot of the time. So why?

First, social factors:

Last June, The Good Trade published an article called What Romance Novels Taught Me About Taking Pleasure More Seriously and then in December a follow-up, How to Get Started Reading Romance Novels. This led me to the podcast Fated Mates and I joined their Patreon and Discord because I needed people to talk to about romance besides two of my friends and W.

But that was after I’d already started to read romance more heavily. So why? Why romance?

The obvious reason is that it’s an optimistic genre. Even in dark romance, the author or publisher has, by virtue of calling the book or story romance, promised that the characters who fall in love will end the book either living happily ever after or happy for now. Any problems on the horizon at the end are problems you know they will solve together. (And if you read something that the author or publisher has called romance that doesn’t have this feature, please let everyone know, so they won’t pick that book up expecting a HEA or HFN.) The world is big and scary and full of bad, and it can be comforting to know that you are going into a story where the people will end up with someone(s) who will support them.

Another reason is that romance contains an immense variety of subgenres, which means if you’re a mood reader that you can probably find something you’re in the mood for. You’ve got contemporary, paranormal, historical (with its own subsubgenres based on period and geography), dark romance, fantasy romance, sci-fi romance, romantic suspense, romantic mystery, and many more. Likewise, romance is full of tropes that give books a flavor that make it easy to know if you’re likely to find it interesting: friends-to-lovers, enemies-to-lovers, billionaire, forced proximity, sibling’s best friend or best friend’s sibling, second chance, fated mates, fake dating, and again, many more.

It’s also because, like sci-fi and fantasy, romance lets you tackle difficult topics in a way where you know that characters will be supported in working through these. Here is an incomplete list of difficult topics the romance I’ve read since last year has touched on:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • gang conflict
  • family illness
  • chronic illness
  • homophobia
  • truly awful parenting
  • arranged marriage
  • transphobia
  • top surgery (difficult because of medical processes described in detail)
  • war
  • anti-Muslim harassment
  • well-meaning people being casually super prejudiced
  • the cost of a bad reputation

And I tend to read stuff on the lighter side.

And then there are things that are unique about romance: its focus on interiority and emotion, on women’s and non-binary people’s pleasure, the way it places relationships at the heart of stories.

I’m sure there are more reasons, too. Do you read romance? Why?