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Charlotte Stein: Setting The Romance Bar

Charlotte Stein: Setting The Romance Bar

The thing I love most about Romance is how high it sets the bar for romance.

Take any Romance novel. Heck, take my Romcom, When Grumpy Met Sunshine! You’re never going to come across some dude who’s completely indifferent to the main character between those pages. Or at least you can guarantee, by page fifty-three, his indifference is going to look really ridiculous. We all know at that point that he’s helplessly in love, and just trying to hide it.

While back in reality, he suddenly ghosts you, and you never hear from him again. Or things drag on, with him barely caring, until finally you realise he’s cheating five years into a marriage he didn’t want. In Romance, the main male character always wants. There’s no need to worry.

We know where this is going.

Which is the beauty of Romance.

There’s a guarantee, a certainty, that nobody gets in real life about something like love. We get to swoon with impunity, have faith without any horrible fall down into nothing. Even in the worst Romance novels, love is the goal, the thing most valued, and the promise made.

Other books value the resolution of a mystery or the reveal of something that goes bump in the night. Romance values love—unapologetically, completely, and in ways that nothing else reaches.

But it’s more than that.

Because Romance gives us a glimpse of what should be. Your partner should respect you, they should want to be with you, they should actually like the idea of ending up with you. Sex should be fun for both (or more!) parties. Sincerity and passion are not dirty words.

In Romance, nobody settles for less.

There’s no sense that you should just accept a milquetoast sort of affection. The guy who recently went viral for giving his wife dirty dishes for a romantic surprise? He’d be the villain at the start. The one someone has to dump in order to go on their real journey, towards finding someone better.

And the someone better would never do anything like that.

They’re always the opposite. They might even prove they’re the opposite on the page, as the hero of my book, Alfie does. We get to see their loathing for anyone who would hurt their loved one, and their grand romantic gestures that reveal how things should be. And though some might say this is dangerous, that it gives a false and too great to hope for idea of what love should be, I don’t.

I think it gives us something to strive for. To aspire to. It gives us an example of what reality could be and should be like, and so every day we decide that what we can actually settle for is a little more. More affection, more passion, more sincerity, more love. Bit by bit, we hear the lessons of Romance and move towards a brighter, more loved filled future.

When Grumpy Met Sunshine by Charlotte Stein is published by Pan Macmillan on 15 February 2024

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