Romance Readers Don't Actually Love Jerks—and Other Misconceptions Debunked by Experts

Posted by Marie on February 11, 2019
Erin Galloway is the deputy director of publicity for Berkley and has spent the last 12 years publishing romance books. Together with Cindy Hwang, the editorial director at Berkley, they explore the genre's importance in readers' lives, break down its most common misconceptions, and share the book recommendations that defy them from across the entire romance industry.


One of the things we find most fascinating about the romance genre is how it reflects the time period in which it was written. You can see how women began to own their own sexuality throughout the past four-and-a-half decades of romance novels. While trends have come and gone, one thing remains constant: It's always about the relationship.

Ultimately, that search for connection mirrors the way we perceive ourselves in society. Romance novels can give readers the courage to begin a difficult conversation with a partner; to dream of the job, life, or partner(s) they truly deserve; and be the first medium where readers finally see their own stories reflected.

Anyone who says romance doesn't change lives doesn't recognize its power. That's why it's so important to correct the most common misconceptions about romance novels. There can be a lot of stigma associated with romance, and that stems from lack of knowledge.

We hope that by deconstructing the ones we've seen the most often from non-romance readers, we can inspire more people to read, write, and discuss romance—which helps the genre grow and evolve.


Misconception #1

Romance novels are just about sex.

At the end of the day, romance is about intimacy. In fact, there are plenty of books where the main couple never has sex on the page. Our recommendations below show that falling in love is about much more than just hopping into bed. It's about finding shared goals and values, and learning to trust another person with your vulnerabilities.


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Misconception #2

Bad boys in romance novels are adored for being jerks.

There have been many novels where the hero of a romance novel starts out a jerk, but that behavior isn't celebrated. It's part of his journey in growing into something more and better. It's incredibly satisfying to watch someone grow as a human being over the course of the novel to become capable of wholehearted love and commitment.

And character growth isn't limited to a hero—it's an important part of a heroine's development as well. The picks we included here celebrate the romance couple's emotional journey toward their happy ending.

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Misconception #3

Romance novels glorify abusive relationships.

Instead, romance spotlights two people learning together how to communicate and co-create a healthy relationship. The alpha male is common in romance, and some characters even inspired the term "alphahole" for the hero who could skirt or cross the line into controlling.

But romance is always evolving, and now you’re most likely to see equity in a relationship's power dynamics because these are two good people who want a healthy relationship built on trust.


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Misconception #4

The heroes in romance novels have all the power.

The hero always having the bigger career or the bigger bank account is another misconception we hear a lot about. To be clear, tropes featuring this dynamic where the hero "wears the pants" and "brings home the bacon" are still around. The billionaire hero was an omnipresent trend not that long ago, and the fantasy of being swept off your feet certainly does exist.

There's nothing wrong with those fantasies, of course. Especially as they aren't the only fantasies portrayed. Nowadays you can just as easily find romances where the hero and heroine are in equally high-powered jobs or where the heroine has a position of power over the hero—including the books below!

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Misconception #5

Romance isn't diverse.

One of the misconceptions that romance is working hard to overcome is not being diverse. Today you can find love stories featuring many ethnicities and cultures, including black, Asian, Hispanic, Polynesian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu.

Romances are also no longer defined as relationships solely between a man and a woman. We now have romances featuring gay, lesbian, bisexual, non-binary characters, and main characters with disabilities. Love is love, and everyone deserves to see their story reflected in a broader range of characters and experiences.

While the genre has come a long way in the last 50 years, many readers will note that it still has further to go. Books like the ones below not only reflect the world we live in, but offer a glimpse of the world we aspire to live in.

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Which books do you think defy the most common misconceptions of romance? Tell us in the comments!

Check out the complete coverage of Romance Week:
The Beginner's Guide to Reading Romance
Legendary Literary Couples Live on in Countless Retellings
26 of the Hottest Romances of 2019

Comments Showing 1-50 of 62 (62 new)


message 1: by Janice (new)

Janice Loved Christine Feehan's Dark Sentinel.


message 2: by Jyoti (new)

Jyoti The kiss quotient


message 3: by Anaya (new)

Anaya Hindi is neither a culture nor an ethnicity it is a language, you may be searching for Hindu which describes a follower of the religion Hinduism but I wouldn't exactly describe that as an ethnicity either though it may work as a culture. Please research beforehand because this is a common misconception and is a very unprofessional mistake.


message 4: by Katsuro (last edited Feb 11, 2019 05:06PM) (new)

Katsuro Hey, can I ask a question about point #2? Because I've only read a handful of romance novels, and those were the kind where the male love interest respects the heroine right away.

See, I get that part of the appeal of a love interest who's a jerk is that he turns out to have a nicer side, and ends up being a good guy in the end.
I get the appeal of a redemption story.

But the impression I always got from such stories is that the writer still intends for him to be attractive to the reader even when he's still in his jerk phase.
As in: the writer isn't trying to indicate that dating a jerk is a fine idea, but still does make sure to point out his good looks and have him act cocky right from the start, in the hopes that those qualities will make the reader find him attractive even when he behaves rudely.

In short, the impression I get is that he's not supposed to be attractive because he's a jerk, but he's also not supposed to be UNattractive because he's a jerk.

Is that correct, or am I completely off-base here?

(And just to be clear, I'm just curious and not judging anybody's interests here. Read what makes you happy.)


message 5: by AG (new)

AG Reads Katsuro wrote: "Hey, can I ask a question about point #2? Because I've only read a handful of romance novels, and those were the kind where the male love interest respects the heroine right away.

See, I get that ..."


As an avid romance reader, I think your final impression is correct, but here's why. A main romantic character needs to make the reader care about their story, about their journey to finding love, and to want that character to find an HEA. A hero in a novel might begin as a jerk, but he has to have some redeeming qualities to make me keep reading. If he all jerk, and all I can see in him is "jerk", I don't care enough about him to find out how he changes and gets his HEA. There is a bit of a line romance authors have to walk between making characters multidimensional, with both flaws and good qualities, leaving room for the character to grow. The more jerk-ish his behavior in the beginning, the harder an author needs to work to also make him appear redeemable. We need to understand why, because not many readers will stick around for an alphahole who is that way "just because."

I read an average of 350 to 400 books a year, the vast majority of them being romances. Make me care about the main characters from the beginning, even the jerks, because otherwise I'm moving on to the next book.


message 6: by Bethany (new)

Bethany I love how far romance has come in #5. I've been really into Alyssa Cole's Reluctant Royals series, especially her interracial romances. Can anyone recommend any other interracial m/f romances?


message 7: by Danielle (new)

Danielle Misconception #5

Romance isn't diverse.

Yet all your other list hardly have diverse titles on them....


message 8: by Danielle (new)

Danielle Bethany wrote: "I love how far romance has come in #5. I've been really into Alyssa Cole's Reluctant Royals series, especially her interracial romances. Can anyone recommend any other interracial m/f romances?"

Talia Hibbert, Aja Cole, Amarie Avant, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Alexa Martin, Xyla Turner, Sosie Frost, Jasmine Guillory


message 9: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Enjoyed the post, ladies! Thanks!


message 10: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer I’m not convinced that some of those are just misconceptions. Romance isn’t really all that diverse. It’s a lot easier to find books with predominantly white characters than it is to find romance books with non-white characters. And yes, there are plenty of popular romance novels that glorify abusive relationships and men treating women with little respect. I’ve read enough books with heroes that do things that would be considered abusives or at the very least creepy in real life.


message 11: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Katsuro wrote: "Hey, can I ask a question about point #2? Because I've only read a handful of romance novels, and those were the kind where the male love interest respects the heroine right away.

See, I get that ..."


I also find that authors don’t intend for readers to think of heroes that are rude, arrogant or aggressive as unattractive. In fact I’m pretty sure there are authors who think the readers should be attracted to the hero for that kind of behavior. And there seem to be a lot of readers who like heroes like that. I think it’s kind of weird but to each his own right?


message 12: by Monia (new)

Monia @bethany, I'm really loving Maureen Smith's Denver Rebels series. This series is probably my favorite interracial romance books. She just released the 3rd in the series. Enjoy!


message 13: by Albert (new)

Albert Misconception #1

Romance novels are just about sex.

Put like this, it is indeed a misconception. However, that does not mean that there is no problem with sex in romance novels.

I really like a good romance, and I have been a Goodreads member for just two months. I love reading on my iPad, but when I started buying romance novels I was flabbergasted, and completely unprepared, for the number of explicit sex scenes.

I am absolutely fine with hot explicit sex in romance novels, as long as it is not hiding behind the most innocent looking covers.

As far as I know now, there is only Young Adult, Clean Romance, and the “Fade to Black Sex” list as helpful indications of (absence of) sex.

I spend hours and hours struggling my way through reviews and lists and shelves, and then often still end up with completely unexpected repetitive and boring sex scenes that feel forced and make me give up on the book.

Just wondering, am I an exception?


message 14: by Angel (new)

Angel Martinez Thanks for mentioning the fact that we "now" have romances about queer characters? I guess? Though these have been around for decades?


message 15: by Katsuro (last edited Feb 12, 2019 10:33AM) (new)

Katsuro Jennifer wrote: "Romance isn’t really all that diverse. It’s a lot easier to find books with predominantly white characters than it is to find romance books with non-white characters. "
Yeah, the impression I get is that while there does exist romance novels that add to the diversity of ethnicity, sexuality and body type,
there's not as many of them as one would wish.

For instance, I don't think I've ever seen a romance novel where the male love interest was fat. (Like, genuinely fat, not "dad-bod".) It seems like fat men are the ultimate pariahs in romance.

Now, before anybody gets defensive--I want to be wrong about this. But it does seem to be the case that if you put together all the romance novels with non-binary or transgender characters, and all the ones with genuinely fat male love interests, and all the ones with disabled main characters, they'd still be outnumbered by the ones about, say, werewolves and/or other shifters. These minority groups seem to be considered even more of a niche interest than werewolves.


message 16: by Brook Obsessed (last edited Feb 12, 2019 01:36PM) (new)

Brook Obsessed Eleanor and Park is an unconventional type of romance and pretty much anything written by Rainbow Rowell, Katie Cutogno, and Becky Albertalli don't fit the "norm" or format of a typical romance novel.

All three authors use odd relationships, tough real life scenarios, and people who are not perfectly attractive.

There is a lot of unconventional romance out there. You just have to look for it. And I might add....all of them do not have sex.


message 17: by Erin (last edited Feb 12, 2019 12:16PM) (new)

Erin When I tend to read romance novels, I want to find something where if the guy starts off as a jerk, he at least has a few redeeming qualities. Examples of this is done well is "When Beauty Tamed the Beast" by Eloisa James When Beauty Tamed the Beastand "Day of the Duchess" by Sarah Maclean The Day of the Duchess. He starts off as a kind of Dr.House character and slowly evolves throughout the story (Beauty story). Where I get annoyed is when it feels like the guy's personality changes from one chapter to the next or he goes from being a complete a-hole to the nicest guy on the planet (talk about unrealistic). A bad example of that is Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James Fifty Shades of Grey


message 18: by Amber (last edited Feb 12, 2019 12:21PM) (new)

Amber Martingale Albert wrote: "Misconception #1

Romance novels are just about sex.

Put like this, it is indeed a misconception. However, that does not mean that there is no problem with sex in romance novels.

I really like a..."


Not a chance in the Underworld at being the only one to feel this way. I started reading this stuff when I was twelve and basically I've been laughing my ass off over how much sex there is in most mainstream romance novels ever since. I'm 41 now.

One of the few books I've read where the sex waits until nearly the end of the story is actually an anthology collection (one story is about a romance and marriage between a medieval English knight and a disinherited Cornish noble woman who's mother was half dragon, another is set in feudal era Nagasaki about a romance and eventual marriage between a woman of Dutch and English ancestry to a samurai who is a half dragon and then there's the story set in contemporary Santa Fe between a Midwestern widow and a Hispanic man who's mother is the protector of a secret involving Quetzalcoatl): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... Yep, two of them are stories of inter-species romance where you don't get slapped in the face with the fact that the shifters are shifters.

Angel: Yes, it has been around for decades. Underground, though. It's just being seen a lot more in the mainstream due to our changing attitudes towards that community.

Katsuro: I don't think you're wrong about that being even more niche than the so-called "supernatural" romances which I am completely sick of.


message 19: by Janice (new)

Janice I have no patience with "jerks".


message 20: by Sarah (new)

Sarah "Hindi" isn't a culture, it's a language - please edit!


message 21: by Kirsti (new)

Kirsti Nadia Lee’s books are diverse, with frequent interracial relationships.


message 22: by Ivan (last edited Feb 12, 2019 05:40PM) (new)

Ivan K Compression

oh man, this is a good list. But missing some queer and non-mainstream books!

I read E85 series and am excited for the third one to come out. It's a nice love story between two different couples. They have different love styles but end up in the same place. It's unconventional and LGBT.

There is seemingly a lot of sex in the early chapters of this book. It follows guys figuring out their sexuality with each other. The romance builds quietly and then you're hit with all kinds of feelings as you get half way through.


Brittany (Hiatus-On/Off) This is why I love romance in books! Thank you for this post.😘 ❤️🥰❤️😍


message 24: by Cris (new)

Cris Albert wrote: "Misconception #1

Romance novels are just about sex.

Put like this, it is indeed a misconception. However, that does not mean that there is no problem with sex in romance novels.

I really like a..."


Are you familiar with the website: www.allaboutromance.com? They include an evaluation of the sexuality level of all the books they review and explain what you can expect in each category. You can also search romances by sexual explicitness level.


message 25: by Me Like Reading (new)

Me Like Reading There’s a really cool (I think) 2014 CBC Radio Best of Q interview with the late Jackie Collins that’s worth a listen to. Just sayin’. 🙂


message 26: by Dawn (new)

Dawn The misconception that romance is about sex is actually in my eyes the main objective in a lot of more recent story's. There are a few authors i have liked but they seem to have drifted toward the same thing. If a book has a picture of a hot guy or girl on it i dont bother because its all about sex and pretty people the whole idea of a book is to imagine your characters this doesn't. I dont care about never judge a book by its cover. As long as these are around i will.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

AG Reads wrote: "As an avid romance reader, I think your final impression is correct, but here's why. A main romantic character needs to make the reader care about their story, about their journey to finding love, and to want that character to find an HEA."


I completely agree with this. But also, I think I'm more affected by the heroine then the hero when it comes to jerks in romance stories. If I got some reason don't like the female main character, I can't get through the story without critiquing her so I have to stop reading. Maybe I'm just more critical by that's just me. When the male main character is a jerk I can get over it, if he redeems himself.


message 28: by San (new)

San Dear Erin Galloway, the deputy director of publicity for Berkley and Cindy Hwang, the editorial director at Berkley - Hindi is a language and Hindu is the religion. Latter is the correct word to use in your intro to point #5 instead of former.


message 29: by Albert (last edited Feb 13, 2019 02:12AM) (new)

Albert Cris wrote: "Are you familiar with the website: www.allaboutromance.com? ..."

Thanks a lot Chris for your tip. I came across this site before, and I indeed love their “Sensuality Ratings” system. Really miss this on Goodreads. Perhaps I should give allaboutromance.com another try.

Part of the problem is also that, when searching for more or less clean romances, I find a lot of predictable happy family stuff, inequality (millionaire vs house wife), inspirational, or heroine first person with a sexy male. All of which, I am sorry to say, do not really appeal to me.

Amber: thanks for your reply, made me smile.


message 30: by Aparajita (new)

Aparajita Raychaudhury Like at least 3 others, I came here to complain that Hindi isn't an identity - its a language. But then I remembered one of our most famous patriotic song uses the word as a synonym for 'Indian' - so may be Hindi does count as a cultural/ethnic identity ...

(For the curious souls, a rendering of the song with English subtitles can be found at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=C6AdjX2... - the relevant lines are around the 3 minute mark)


message 31: by Lilybeth12 (new)

Lilybeth12 Suggestions for those who aren't into lots of sex. Marianna Zapata is the queen of the slow burn. The books are not "clean' but your main characters are not getting busy on page 5. Her characters are so multifaceted I love them.


message 32: by Lilybeth12 (new)

Lilybeth12 And for those who say that diverse romance is hard to find, you just aren't looking hard enough. If you are on Twitter, follow Beverly Jenkins and your cup will runneth over by the end of the month with new authors to try. I honestly can say that my 'diverse ' reads (ie look like real life) are topping the mainstream pubs at this point.


message 33: by San (new)

San Aparajita wrote: "Like at least 3 others, I came here to complain that Hindi isn't an identity - its a language. But then I remembered one of our most famous patriotic song uses the word as a synonym for 'Indian' - ..."
Actually the part you are referring to - the original Urdu word is "Hind" (meaning "we are from Hindostan").. Romanian translation and Spoken-Hindi has converted it to "Hindi"...
Same as in our National Anthem, instead of original word "Tarang" while singing we all say "Taranga" and same with "Bang" and "Banga"


message 34: by Maria (new)

Maria Catunda AG wrote: "Katsuro wrote: "Hey, can I ask a question about point #2? Because I've only read a handful of romance novels, and those were the kind where the male love interest respects the heroine right away.

..."


Sorry, may I ask how do you manage to read so many books in a year? Job related? (just curiosity really)


message 35: by Diana (new)

Diana Bell The Article wrote: "We now have romances featuring gay, lesbian, bisexual, non-binary characters, and main characters with disabilities. Love is love, and everyone deserves to see their story reflected in a broader range of characters and experiences. "

And yet you make this big deal about Romance Week and this is the only article you mention me in.


message 36: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale Albert wrote: "Cris wrote: "Are you familiar with the website: www.allaboutromance.com? ..."

Thanks a lot Chris for your tip. I came across this site before, and I indeed love their “Sensuality Ratings” system. ..."


You're welcome.


message 37: by AG (new)

AG Reads Maria wrote: "AG wrote: "Katsuro wrote: "Hey, can I ask a question about point #2? Because I've only read a handful of romance novels, and those were the kind where the male love interest respects the heroine ri..."

No, nothing to do with job or anything. I've always been an avid reader, and I read fast. I rarely watch television or movies or anything like that. Reading is my entertainment, and I always have my tablet or a paper book close at hand. I can read anywhere. I'm by no means unusual and know a lot of people who read as much or more than I do.


message 38: by Alice (new)

Alice Jennifer wrote: "I’m not convinced that some of those are just misconceptions. Romance isn’t really all that diverse. It’s a lot easier to find books with predominantly white characters than it is to find romance b..."
I completely agree, and would like to add that one of the biggest demographics missing from romance is disabled people. I can't think of many physically disabled characters in any genre that have love interests. In fact, I think the only one might be Gus, from The Fault In Our Stars.


message 39: by AG (new)

AG Reads Alice wrote: "Jennifer wrote: "I’m not convinced that some of those are just misconceptions. Romance isn’t really all that diverse. It’s a lot easier to find books with predominantly white characters than it is ..."

If you would like to read romances with physical disabilities, these are some that might interest you:
Lost and Found series by JM Madden
Dance in the Moonlight by RaeAnne Thayne
The Survivors Club by Mary Balogh
The Captive by Grace Burrowes
Rush by Emma Chase
Dear Agony by Georgia Cates
The Vixen and the Vet by Katy Regnery
Archer's Voice by Mia Sheridan
Annie's Song by Catherine Anderson

In truth, there are far more and varied romance books with disabed characters now, and in addition to physical are those including mental conditions. Those I have listed here are a small sample of all the ones I have read myself.


message 40: by Albert (last edited Feb 14, 2019 12:11AM) (new)

Albert Cris wrote: "Are you familiar with the website: www.allaboutromance.com? They include an evaluation of the sexuality level of all the books they review and explain what you can expect in each category. You can also search romances by sexual explicitness level."

I had another look at the website. They give all books a sensuality rating: Kisses, Subtle, Warm, Hot or Burning.

I did five power searches on reviews of Contemporary Romance, and came up with the following number of reviews for each of the five sensuality ratings:

Kisses: 80 reviews
Subtle: 181 reviews
Warm: 1377 reviews
Hot: 510 reviews
Burning: 12 reviews

“Kisses” are the only clean romances. “Subtle” is already truely about sex, only in terms of “feelings between the legs”, “lush wetness” etc, and the actual events are described in two sentences instead of two pages.

That leaves us with 80 clean romance reviews out of a total of 2160 reviews which equals 80/2160 = 3.7%.

This means, that if you take 27 arbitrary contemporary romance novel reviews on their site, you are likely to find exactly 1 clean romance among them. If anybody would have told me so two months ago, I would have thought it to be a joke.

I agree that Misconception #1: “Romance novels are just about sex” has been succesfully debunked.

It looks like we can instead safely say that “sex is an essential ingredient in contemporary adult romance novels”.


message 41: by E.E. (new)

E.E. Kellogg Well, I recently wrote and self-published a novel, romantic but perhaps not a "romance novel" per se. There are references to sex, and one scene which probably falls into the "subtle" category, though even less graphic than the textual examples listed by Albert, and it does take a little over two pages.

I was very much concerned to write a decent and human man as the hero. I've read too many black-haired, sapphire-eyed billionaires with the faces of fallen angels and bad reputations. My hero isn't at all rich, attractive rather than handsome, and behaves himself.

My heroine isn't a busty blonde, but a thin redhead. She has more money than the hero.

And the book is much more about relationships - five principal couples, including the heroine's first husband. Family ties, parent-child, siblings, friendships, some of centuries' duration, handed down.

"Full Circle" by E.E. Kellogg, at Amazon.


message 42: by Isobel (new)

Isobel I am pleased that the two female authors and professors from Berkeley can 'debunk' misconceptions that just so happen to be true - and based on the interviews and monthly 'Best Of' lists, it's safe to say these authors aren't convincing anyone but themselves.

Misconception 1 states that romance novels are just about sex. To disprove this, the authors list four books where intimacy and trust are stressed. This against the thousands published every month where sex /is/ the main selling point. The sex doesn't have to be on the front page, but let's be honest here: sex sells, and while women may be averse to watching pornography, they are not averse to reading, writing, and drawing it. Goodreads' 'Sexiest Male Models' on book covers is one proof that this 'misconception' is true.

Misconception 2 is about the Bad Boy trope. The authors do not exactly disprove this misconception, but in fact offer a reality that they will insist is a sexist trope: a woman, in all her power and misguided emotion, will try to sway a man who clearly does not have the best intentions, to the 'good' side. In effect, it is a reversal of 'The Taming of the Shrew', where Elizabeth Taylors tame rampaging Richard Burtons because they, and only they, see the 'good'.

Misconception 2 is related to Misconception 3, where abusive relationships are glorified. Sylvia Day's 'Crossfire' series, a best-seller and a fanfic of a fanfic of a fanfic, featured the bad boy billionaire nearly RAPING the heroine. Absolutely no one condemned this; in this era of #MeToo one would expect the book to be universally panned. Misconception 3 is disproved by the number of erotica stories where 'alpha' males who are clearly sociopathic and dominating are excused because of their wealth and attractiveness.

Misconception 4 is only a misconception depending on the setting. Since a majority of it is written by women or gay men, it universally features someone of a greater influence domineering the submissive, weaker individual. This is the case in BDSM stories (it is excused on the basis of it being a fetish), and it is the case in homoerotic stories. There really is no point in denying it.

Misconception 5 has to be the best one by far. Love is Love, say the authors, yet in the real world, when a Korean woman doesn't get attention on a dating app from a white Australian, she complains of racism. There are books catering to black folks, Jewish folks (big promoters, hey hey), every folk under the rainbow and even the folks who think they're beyond the binary of human evolution by wearing plaid and taking testosterone.

When it comes to romance books not being 'diverse', I really have to ask what authors these ladies are reading? Because they're out there. Gay pornographic writing has been a thing since the 19th century, and everyone gives gay writers a pass when interracial relationships get thrown into the mix (despite real world attitudes of gay men on racial preferences). Lesbian writing has been tolerated more than the former, and for the ones who think they are beyond the binary of human evolution yet still take testosterone, I think the love there is about respecting the personal pronouns, eh?

Love is Love, even when it's glorified abuse, bad sex, and a Ted Bundy scenario waiting to happen. But, so long as it's diverse, includes 'intimacy', and 'equality', we can excuse the misconceptions.

There is one way to see if these authors actually believe the things they write: swap the genders and have men talk about what they see in women's chick-lit or relationships in general. If Brooke Baldwin of 'CNN' is anything to go by, your answer is right there in the open.


message 43: by Melissa (new)

Melissa I loved Vision in White because the hero was such an adorable little dorky guy. Just fell in love with him.


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

Katsuro wrote: ...For instance, I don't think I've ever seen a romance novel where the male love interest was fat. (Like, genuinely fat, not "dad-bod".) It seems like fat men are the ultimate pariahs in romance."

Thank you for pointing this out. While the romance industry seems to be making some progress as far as featuring fat female characters, fat male characters are few and far between.

And even though fat female characters are more common, they're often fetishized to such a degree that it feels degrading.


message 45: by Albert (last edited Feb 17, 2019 12:05AM) (new)

Albert Isobel wrote: "I am pleased that the two female authors and professors from Berkeley can 'debunk' misconceptions that just so happen to be true ..."

Let me try to give some definitions:

Romance = Love + Sex + a HEA ending

Clean Romance = Love + HEA, but no sex

Young Adult Romance = Love + HEA, but no sex and under 18

So, by definition, if it is just about sex, it is not romance.


message 46: by Katie (new)

Katie Mettner Katsuro wrote: "Jennifer wrote: "Romance isn’t really all that diverse. It’s a lot easier to find books with predominantly white characters than it is to find romance books with non-white characters. "
Yeah, the i..."

As someone who has written almost 40 novels with disabled main characters, you're absolutely right. They're outnumbered to the point of being buried, on purpose. Publishers say they want own voices and disabled characters, they don't. They only want it if they can somehow twist it to the point of disrespect so they can sell it as inspirational porn. Heaven forbid disabled people have an actual love story with a HEA. After 8 years of publishing, I'm well aware the diversity in romance (LGBTQ, Disabled etc) will never be promoted in any Goodreads article, Bookbub Blog or any other mainstream arena like that. I write it because there are readers begging for it, they just have to find you.


message 47: by Charron (new)

Charron I would not call romance novels diverse at all. There’s still a long way to go. I find it sad in particular when I want to read an African American romance novel most of the books that appear in the search results are urban books where the characters are in a life of crime. And let’s not get started on other races. I think I’ve only read one romance novel that was about other races. Asian, Latino, Native American and others seem to be rare if at all existent.

Katsuro- I do agree that it’s rare you see a male hero who isn’t ripped with abs. These hero types are actually annoying. I’ve only read one book where the hero was overweight and the heroine was also, and it was probably one of the best novels I’ve read. I like characters to be flawed in some way because though we read to escape we still want some sense of reality or at least I do. You never see the characters with disabilities, overweight, or maybe scarred in some way. And God forbid if they even wear glasses, there’s bound to be a makeover in there somewhere.


message 48: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Charron wrote: "I would not call romance novels diverse at all. "

Yeah, I honestly feel that this is a huge issue. Now, of course there are SOME novels about disabled people, or interracial couples where none of them is white, or other minorities, but they're still vastly underrepresented.

Actually, this article as a whole reflects a thing I've seen a lot in the romance community--people say "that's not true, it's just an old misconception" when the fact is that it IS true, but it's more nuanced than some people think.

Do romance novels glorify abusive relationships? Well, some do, sure. Not all of them, but yes, those novels definitely exist.

Are boys in romance novels admired for being jerks? Once again, yes, such novels definitely exist. (And are way more numerous than the ones about disabled guys.)

The problem is, I feel that since the romance genre gets treated so rudely and dismissively a lot of the time, some romance fans are reluctant to admit when there are genuine issues with the genre as it currently stands.


message 49: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale This is why I don't read this genre as much as I used to. Or unless I just feel like reading something in it.


message 50: by Laura (new)

Laura Sihm Albert wrote: "Misconception #1

Romance novels are just about sex.

Put like this, it is indeed a misconception. However, that does not mean that there is no problem with sex in romance novels.

I really like a..."


I actually think it depends on the author and the genre. I love Paranormal romance the most, especially about shifters and such, and I have certain authors I know can deliver the saucy sexy scenes without being explicit, but I have spent the better part of 8 years to navigate the waters :) I do think that YA (young adult) or coming of age romance is the best way to go if you want to avoid the more explicit sex scenes.


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