I heard someone refer to romance as "fluff" again this week. Actually, it's been a loooong time since I've heard that term. Maybe I've been talking to a different sort of people in the last several years. Or maybe I've merely chosen to ignore what is right in front of my face.

Either way, it surprised me to hear it. Especially from someone who reads it

So the question is, what makes it fluff? Is it really the happy ending? Does the fact that the story ends with a satisfying, emotional conclusion make the story airy? soft? How about the sex? Is it the sex that makes it fluffy? I'm a little confused. Let's look at these aspects of romance that make the romance romance. Right? These are two characteristics of a book that set it apart from other genres.

Happily Ever After [HEA]
...the American Dream. Pursuit of happiness. Love that lasts a lifetime.

There's a chance--and I'm going out on a limb here--that this is what all people are looking for, whether they do it by taking up extreme sports or by dating off and on through their twenties. The goal in life is happiness, completion, purpose. Sooo clue me in, what's fluffy about reaching a dream, succeeding in a goal?

The fact that a romance novel portrays that journey to HEA is proof that it is NOT fluff.
Fluff would be..what? Making a goal and getting there without effort. Fluff would be... no conflict. Two people meet, fall in love, get married, have kids...and gah, gah, gah til death did they part. BORING.

I haven't read a romance novel like that. Honest to goodness, if a romance novel doesn't have conflict, it isn't going to sell! A publisher is NOT going to buy it.

Maybe this misconception by fluff-claiming readers is that the story ends at The End. Maybe they read to that satisfying ending and think... "that would never happen." or "Sure, like that couple is just going to live together forever and be happy for the rest of their lives." But what the romance novel shows is that Love conquers the bad. That they've made it through the worst--or something really awful--and survived. They'll do it again the next time, too. Suzanne Brockmann does a great job of showing this. Through her series, you see the HEA couple from book a previous book hit bumps in the road again. And I think that's what's so appealing about her books. The story doesn't stop.

The books I read hit on all the hot topics we find in life every day--divorce, sickness, career choices, sibling rivalry, death, morals and ethics, self-esteem... The people are just like people I know. Do we like the HEA? Yes. Do we get to the end of the story and go, "Awww." Probably. Do these reaction indicate an empty, airy, meaningless experience? I don't think so. More, it's a sign that we've come through something trying and won. That's the meat of the story. The story would be nothing without the trials, conflicts, and characterizations.

Fluff? I think not...
Wow, I just went on and on and on. For the record. I am not offended that people don't read romance. There are gobs of readers reading all sorts of books. Some like Fanstasy and sci-fi, some DIY, some memoirs and auto-biographies...some like historical or msyteries. There is so much to read these days!! We should all read whatever makes us happy. Just, don't go calling romance Fluff because it makes you feel happy and "destresses" you. Happy--no matter how you define it, i.e. getting to heaven or finding mr. right or making a million dollars--is the ultimate goal!! Would you define your own journey and goal as Fluff? I can't speak for everyone, but somehow, I doubt it.

Next week, I'll speak on that oh-so-hush-hush topic in romance, Sex. But I wonder if that's even necessary, because it's one of the most powerful aspects of humanity...so, not really fluff, eh? I mean it's so important...we're told to wait for 'the one', we have to do it for marriage to be official, it speaks for men, can be used by women, and without a doubt can change the course of a person's life. There's hardly anything fluffy about sex. It's important, sacred, powerful, and, over-all, not fluffy. There. Nevermind about next week. :D

Have a great week.
With Love,

Why Romance?

I still think about this question every now and again. It's the self-reflection that comes up over time. Just recently, I've been seeing all the hype about the Fifty Shades of Grey movie releasing soon.

I never read the book. I won't see the movie, either. 

I don't even know that I'd call it romance. Erotic and Romance have distinct differences when you get to the nitty-gritty of story-telling. A happily-ever-after is not a given in erotic fiction. Like with women's Lit--for example, The Help. Truthfully, I don't pick up women's lit for the life of me. It's unsatisfying to read about women who may...or may not find a happily ever after.

But the hype of Fifty Shades brings about the controversy of romance, in general. Sex! In Books! Because for the first time in a long time, this erotic tale [notice I didn't say romance] is front and center of commercial fiction. This is a sexual journey... as people see, or like to see, or believe that sex has become--some kind of freedom, and that the freedom of sex will bring some kind of resolution. To me, that's the element that separates romance from erotic fiction. In romance, sex might bring change or create conflict or even bond two characters. As in real life--whether we believe sex is good before or after marriage--sex does these things. But it's not about the sex. It's the emotion behind making love that forces a person to look deeper into themselves and find a truth. What is love? How will it change a person? Is this a change the character can allow?

Recently, a facebook friend posted something. Sex before marriage is a lie. 

Now, I was raised conservatively enough to understand where this person is coming from. True love waits..and all that, yet at the same time, the statement feels wrong, it feels judgemental... a blanket statement that doesn't truly encompass everything good about humanity, including our faults. And without faults, we would have no need for this Love that we claim--forgiveness, mercy, and grace. 

So I commented.

Sex before marriage is human.

Is it part of your story? Does love exist in a vacuum of faultlessness? Or do we show our characters in real life? Is sex something to hide just because it's sacred or special or meant for that one person? Or is it time to have an open discussion about it? Do we not already talk about sex...woman to woman? Mother to daughter? Husband to wife?

Romance is inspiration and encouragement to maintain the vows we made [or want to make]. Reading romance is a small blip in a life full of DIY books, how-to manuals, conferences, retreats, workshops, and therapy sessions--all telling us how to live better, love more, and be happy.

So, why not read a romance? write a romance?....

Now, I have to get back to my latest book in which Mr. Perfection completely fails by falling for the most imperfect, flawed woman he's ever met...and bugger him, he wants her like he's never wanted anyone else, including the very nice, mother-approved woman he's been dating for a year and has every intention of marrying!! Will he be able to control his suddenly over-active libido and maintain his self-appointed heading to the perfect life, or will the road bring him to a point where conflict and discovery make him stronger and lead him to true love?

Gee, I know what I'm wishing for even if it does mean sex before marriage. <3 Way more satisfying to overcome the conflict, the idea that this perfect life is just going to land in our lap. To overcome the idea that we know what's right for ourselves!

Have a great weekend, friends.
With Love,