31 August 2012

Better than a Romance Novel

I’ve heard, and read, many warnings on the dangers of reading romance novels, both for women who aren’t yet married as well as for married women. The general consensus seems to be that the romance portrayed in such novels is so wonderful as to be unrealistic, and sets expectations too high for women who are still waiting for their man, and inspires married ladies to become dissatisfied with their husband after seeing that he doesn’t compare to the men in the books they read. 

What I hear is that real guys don’t act the way that the heroes of romance novels do, and that it’s unhealthy for women to get too invested in such an unrealistic picture of mankind.

I have a totally different view. I’ve read some 'inspirational' romance novels in my time, mostly when I was in the mood for light (very light) reading between college semesters or just because I was bored. I’m not a big fan, for the most part. I’m sure there are some well-written ones out there, however, in my opinion, the recent crop of inspirational, Christian romance novels are largely of little literary quality.

So, yes, the awkward dialogues, unlikely situations, and unnecessarily repeated words make me want to grab my red pen to mark up the copy and send it back to the author (maybe I’m just evil, but I think editing would be the coolest job in the world). But the less-than-stellar writing isn’t the only reason I don’t like them.

To me, the cheap, paperback romance novels aren’t nearly as good as real life.

 I don't believe that romance novels are dangerous to our relational health because they portray unrealistically wonderful relationships. To me, the relationship stories in most of these books simply aren’t as interesting as the stories I hear in real life. For argument’s sake, this is the synopsis of a typical Christian romance novel: The hero is tall, with wavy hair, piercing blue eyes, and muscles. The heroine is an independent woman, either living in the old west, or, if the novel is set in modern day, saving up money to quit her job and become an entrepreneur, opening the business she’s always dreamed of. At first, the hero and heroine are at odds with each other over something, but they are secretly and undeniably attracted to one another. They manage to see beyond their differences of opinion and come to love one another. In the end, all important characters get saved and the couple gets either engaged or both engaged and married.

Now, I probably missed a few bits, but doesn’t that sound like the pretty standard storyline, to you? 

My problem with inspirational romance is that sometimes your hero is short, Mexican, and has a smile so big that it scares small children.

Sometimes you wake up on your 20th birthday, decide that it’s about time you got married, and promptly find yourself a bride before the year is out (my Grandpa’s story).

 48 years later!

Sometimes this guy you met at college comes over to your house uninvited and makes Christmas cookies with your family until you get home from a date with your boyfriend, and you end up marrying him instead of the boyfriend (Mom and Dad’s story).

 The reason they look somewhat young but not super young is because this was after they already had approximately 4 kids. Give or take one.

I don't know about you, but I've heard some incredibly awesome love stories in my time, from friends and family. I'm talking about stories involving shipwrecks in the Caribbean, jail, car accidents, lifelong love, and broken hearts. In real life, the people you pray for don't always get saved, and they don't always get healed. Husbands might not perform grand romantic gestures every day of the week, or even once or twice a year. And wives sometimes don't get around to doing their hair, or cleaning the bathroom, and even more often, they don't start and maintain highly successful and profitable small businesses. Life isn't fair. Life is messy, sometimes tragic, and sometimes full of inexplicable joy. Real life or real romance might not be as 'picture-perfect' as the romance in the latest Love Inspired novel, but its quite a bit more interesting, and I'll take my flawed marriage and my too-short hero over anything a romance novel has to offer.
The Dainty Dolls House said...

I don't think books or movies or tv give a correct view of marriage and many end because they get too caught up in the fairytale aspect of it, but when you can endure it all through the ups and downs...that's the real fairytale :)) My husband is my best friend and he's picked me up more times than anyone...I couldn't be without him. He drives me crazy and I do the same to him, but we understand each other, so it's ok!! Those bonds are stronger really!! Beautiful photos xx

Halie Renee said...

This was a great post! I agree though that romance books and movies are sometimes too unrealistic. Standards are both too high, and too strange, and just doesn't make sense sometimes. What is romantic though, is real life relationships, and a boyfriend who shows up to your office on a Friday morning, just for a quick kiss because he's so happy. :) Romance does exist in real life, it's just usually in a more simple form. And I'm completely contempt with that kind of romance!

Anonymous said...

I heard that there are some guidelines to writing a christian romance novel. All the Disney romantic comedy movies are great! I like watching them because their short funny, clean, and so not true. If I had to say which one was my favorite non-christian romantic romance novel/movie it would be.....ummm.....Back to the Future when the Doc falls in love with the teacher in part three (western style).

Mehak said...

I just loooveddd your post! andyou are absolutely correct... novels can't always capture the real essence of love... Real life stories always have so much more to offer.. I love your smiley pic... So cute!!

Thank you so much for the lovely comment on my blog..

would you like to follow each other??


Ashley said...

Hahhh!!! I love his smile...and love that you said it scares most children. So funny.

So what are some of your favorite romance novels?

Kristina said...

That is a wide smile. I agree many romance novels are of poor writing quality.

Erin James said...

Girl, I agree with you 100%!!!
So so true.
Real life is so much better and yet different than romance novels.
And I totally agree with what you said about Christian romance novels often being poorly written - I can only get through the older ones from years ago...the newer ones are just so corny, I'm sorry to say! :/
Here's to real life romance - God written romance that is so much better than fiction!

You're wise, girl :)

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more! I could definitely see you as an editor for Christian romance novels. That seems like it would be right up your alley.

Rachael said...

I love this post! You have captured something so wise here Rachel, and it's a real encouragement to me. :) I know I'd be more interested in reading your family's stories than another boy-meets-girl-fall-in-love predictable formula romance. :)

healthy_ash said...

I just love this entire post.

Anonymous said...

This post is perfect! Love it! I am a single girl who spent countless bad experiences because of fiction romances, only to find out they are nothing like it. I am still single but I have put it all in God's hands. He knows who my one will be. In the meantime, I love hearing the experiences of you ladies.

Dalayna Dillon said...

Hey there, visiting and reading from the Sisters Sunday link up. This is my first time linking up, but I am looking forward to meeting other believers through this linky! I love Jesus, you love Jesus, we already have so much in common. :) Talk to ya soon.

Ms George said...

That is so cute about your grandpa- and the photo of them now is so sweet!

Michelle said...

This is an amazing post! I love it. What a great perspective.

I so agree...editing is my dream job.

Jess said...

Great post! I was laughing bc your storyline was spot on to pretty much all the christian romances I've read/ funny...I just now noticed your post on my blog ( and finally made it over...sorry for the delay! your newest follower :)

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely fantastic. I've never thought about it like this, but you're right! :) I'm so happy to have stumbled upon this post. It's just what I needed after our Twilight marathon over the past few days!

Larissa T. said...

I've been having a hard time finishing up my senior year and the way I'm coping is by finding time to read said light (super light) novels...

This: "So, yes, the awkward dialogues, unlikely situations, and unnecessarily repeated words make me want to grab my red pen to mark up the copy and send it back to the author (maybe I’m just evil, but I think editing would be the coolest job in the world). " Describes me to a "T"!!

Loved this post and I think it's beyond true.. (:

Bekah Loves Blog said...

Oh my goodness! Your family love stories make yours even better!