When I was in university, years before I ever started writing, I was still an avid romance reader. I had a friend, however, who commented on my romance novel habit every chance she got—and her comments were not positive. One that is still seared into my memory is the night that she came over, found me reading my newest Nora Roberts on the couch (I think it was Key of Valor!) and said “romance novels aren’t good for you—they’re only written to make women feel badly about themselves.” Turned out she didn’t like reading about female characters who, in a nutshell, were confident and had their shit together, because it made her feel less than.
If I’d been older and wiser then, I might have understood that this was her problem, not the problem of every woman out there. I did realize that that wasn’t how romance novels made ME feel. When I started writing myself, I looked back at this conversation and wondered which of us was right.
After nearly ten years of publication, I’ve come to this simple conclusion about that long-past conversation: not everyone is a romance reader. Those of us who are—the massive, alpha-loving herd of us? Romance novels don’t make us feel bad, because we start to read each one wanting to feel good. We want our heroines to be strong, because then we can see ourselves in them. We want our heroes even stronger, so that they can be the man our heroines need. Attractive, successful characters don’t make us feel small—they let us be whoever we want to be while we’re in between the pages of our books.