‘Romance books are sooo trashy!’
‘Romance books are anti-feminist.’
‘Rom-coms are mind-numbing rubbish!’
If you’re a romance reader, chances are you’ve heard one, if not all, of the above. It’s not uncommon for books, television series and films within the wide genre of romance to get a bad rap, and some people are even quick to label them as anti-feminist.
I think that the anti-feminist stance comes from the perception that romances are only stories in which women are portrayed as needing or relying on men to achieve happiness. And it’s true that in the past, some romance books did suggest that this was the only way for a woman to be respected, happy and fulfilled in life.
But I don’t think we should brush aside such a wonderful and commercially successful genre based on this narrow perspective. To be classified as a ‘romance’ the main love interests must get together at the end of a book, whether it’s a happy-ever-after, or just a happy-for-now. I don’t believe that enjoying a book where the main plotline follows the development of a relationship is in any way anti-feminist or problematic in itself.
What is problematic is when romance books portray their male protagonists as these jealous alpha-male types who go wild as soon as their love interest so much as glances at another man. Writing these types of characters isn’t bad—there’s nothing like a good villain written well—but when it’s done in a romance setting where the behaviours are used as a mechanism to portray love or passion for a woman, that’s when things are far from ideal.
As an author, my goal is to instead create male characters who are respectful and supportive of the women in their lives and encourage their independence. They make our heroines happy, and only contribute to their lives positively. Hopefully I achieved that with Ed Garcia, the male character in my upcoming book All’s Fair in Love and Tequila—despite the many misconceptions about him at the beginning—but that’s up to my readers to decide.
We read romance for entertainment, to relax, to escape reality and to lose ourselves in an easy read at the end of the day. We read romance for the assurance that we’re in for a positive, uplifting ending; and we read romance because who doesn’t love, love? Also, lots of modern romances are inclusive and tell delightful stories of love between couples of all genders and sexualities.
Australian author Genevieve Novak recently wrote about the way TikTok is reviving the romance genre. She also discussed how romance is the last true form of media created by, about and for women. ‘It’s where the female gaze reigns supreme and leading ladies are given space to think, feel, and grow on their own terms. They battle family issues, friendship bust-ups, career malaise, self-esteem and mental health crises, and so much more, and they do it all in a way that doesn’t degrade or dismiss them, nor minimise them for the sake of a (male) hero’s journey.’
Romance puts women on centre stage, and there’s nothing unsophisticated or anti-feminist about that. Let’s recognise the books that empower women and give them independence and the freedom to decide how they live their lives. And let’s celebrate choosing the genres we love to read without guilt or shame!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gabriella Margo
Gabriella Margo is a Sydney-based author who adores a good romance story with a happily ever after. She believes that love is love, no matter what that may look like.
Don’t miss Gabriella’s new book All’s Fair in Love and Tequila!
Salty air. Flowing margaritas. Beach sunsets … and one annoying holiday crasher.
Luisa Edmonds doesn’t have time for bad dates and guys who don’t take life seriously. And she certainly has no time for men like Ed Garcia, a womanising divorcé who parties too hard.
When Luisa is sent to a lavish, all-inclusive resort in Mexico on a marketing project, she’s ecstatic — until she finds out that Ed is the award-winning photographer who has been hand-picked to go with her.
But when she leaves the icy Melbourne winter behind, it’s not just her extremities that begin to thaw. Here, among the golden sands, tropical waters and salty air of Playa del Carmen, Luisa starts to get to know the real Ed — a sweet, animal-loving environmentalist who’s kept his crush on her a secret for years.
And in all honesty, he is damn sexy without a shirt on.
Unfortunately, their relationship would be bad news back in Australia, and Ed is a no-go for Luisa. But as his secrets are slowly uncovered, Luisa finds it harder and harder to ignore her feelings, and she is faced with an ultimatum. Will she jeopardise her future for a steamy, beach holiday fling?