Why Are Romance Novels So Satisfying?

By Toni Jones, author of No Secrets In Spandex

No Secrets in SpandexI read a lot, and I read all kinds of books. But nothing satisfies me quite like a romance novel. Yes, the happy endings are a major factor. Romance novels are explicit about the effects they try to produce, and those effects are all positive. The writers aren’t trying to depress you or horrify you, although they might use horror tropes, in para-normals for example, to heighten tension along the way. But in romance novels, the greater the tension, the sweeter the relief. There’s a simple pleasure to be taken in that.

But for me the thrill isn’t just in the stories themselves; it’s in the way that they’re told. It might be hard to imagine getting excited about something as abstract sounding as “point of view,” but I find that skillfully handled POV in romance novels is the key to readerly bliss. Most romance novels are written in the close third-person perspective. More and more frequently, this perspective alternates between heroine and hero. And I love it! We readers are invited to feel what the heroine is feeling (experiencing her doubts, her longings), but we also get to see her through the admiring male gaze. We get to see her from the outside, as beautiful and powerful, in a way she can’t see herself. That double-take is so gratifying!

We endure some sexy rake’s vile conduct alongside a penniless but spirited young bluestocking, then we get access to the same scene through the hero’s eyes, and we discover (gasp) that his indifference was a ruse! His jeers were a desperate attempt to push the heroine away before she could 1) discover his secret (e.g. noble/ignoble parentage, illiteracy, evil twin, first marriage, piratical past 2) penetrate his defenses and make him love her, a terrifying thought 3) become embroiled in some dangerous situation he wants to protect her from 4) etc, etc.

The romance writers I admire do such an amazing job balancing perspectives. Sometimes the reader is put in the position of the heroine–uncertain as to the hero’s motives–and sometimes the reader gets to hear the hero’s thoughts, gets to see him exposed before the heroine does, and the reader’s knowledge builds anticipation, heightens the agony attendant on the misunderstandings that keep the characters apart, because the reader knows the sweet truth. Romance novels give the reader this intimate knowledge. This intimate knowledge drives me wild. A romance novels fulfills the desires it ignites. But each romance novel I read makes me want to read another, to satisfy my desires all over again!

What do you love most about romance novels? Tell us in the comments!