Why Romance Novels Are Smarter Than You Think

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Romance isn't about sex, sweeping gestures or man cleavage.

Everything I know about romance, I learned from romance novels; I am, after all, the editor of a romance novel blog. So it stands to reason that I should know a fair amount about romance itself, considering the amount of time I spend reading, reviewing, discussing and celebrating all these novels that recount courtship and happy endingsRecession Entertainment: Romance Novels

I'm here to tell you that romance is easily summed up in one word: Fabio. The long, blond hair, the gleaming hunks of waxed man-cleavage peeking out from a shirt that's undone but still tucked in: these are the hallmarks of romance. I'm kidding, of course. That may be the stereotypical image of romance, and most certainly of romance novels, but that's not romance itself—not by a long shot.

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Romance novels often are accused of generating false expectations among readers. Not so: romance novels can and have pointed the way toward genuine expressions of affection for many readers, myself included. Reading romance helps me, for example, recognize truly elegant and heartfelt moments when I find them in the real world, outside the pages of fiction. Romance is neither the Fabio hair nor a grand, sweeping moment with a crescendo of music and flowers raining from the sky. Romance is a lifelong habit present in the way we treat those we love and choose to be with. Most importantly, romance is found in how we treat ourselves. What Is Romance?

The simplest way to explain romance is to think of it as an action. If you're a grammarian, consider it a verb, though saying that someone "romanced" someone else sounds about as stilted and antiquated as hearing that someone went "a-wooing." Still, thinking about romance as a verb can help decode what romance is: romance is an action taken, most likely because ardor (or man-cleavage) is present.

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