My Journey With the Romance Genre

This year my top two most read genres are contemporary and romance, to no one’s surprise. But as much as I read romance and gush about my favorites in tags, wrap ups, and occasionally reviews, I haven’t really written a discussion post about my relationship with the genre in my two years of blogging. So today I wanted to take the time to break down my relationship with the romance genre, and talk about how reading romance has impacted me!

romance GIF

A summation of my thoughts on the romance genre

So let’s first start with how I got introduced to the romance genre. I was 12 years old, and I had received a Kindle for my birthday. Having no money to buy e-books with, and not yet aware of e-book libraries, I was searching through the free Kindle books, and I discovered my first adult romance. But since I was just scrolling randomly through free books, I couldn’t really hone in on the tropes I liked, and I eventually abandoned the genre for a while. But about six or seven years ago, I returned to the genre and started figuring out what I liked. Of course, this required lots of trial and error, but I didn’t mind.

See for me, I came back to the genre as a mindless way to relax. I wasn’t thinking much about the plot or the characterization or the writing. As long as there was a romance with a happily ever after and some steamy scenes thrown in for good measure, I was happy. So I didn’t mind that most of the books I read were 3 star reads, a rating that for me means neither here nor there. Three stars was the perfect rating for the purpose I was reading. I wanted something light and easy to process when I was having a bad day. The book didn’t need to be memorable or unique or in any way special to achieve that goal. But then two things happened: I became a more critical reader, and I started learning which tropes worked for me and which certainly did not!

Read Saturday Night GIF by HULU

Live footage of me snuggling up with a romance

One of the most important things I learned was that I dislike drama. While I don’t mind conflict in books, miscommunication, or betrayals, or any sort of other plot device inserted just for the drama gets an absolute no from me. On the other hand, I learned that I loved fake dating, since it gives the romance a chance to develop in a very natural way! Plus fake dating tends to get steamy faster than most other tropes. It can also include the “only one bed” trope since the two of them are pretending to date. Basically, fake dating is a trope that works for me on many levels. (I could write a whole post on that topic alone, but I’ll leave that for another time.)

But more importantly I learned that some romance tropes are problematic. I learned how to recognize when possessive behavior becomes abusive, how to look for consent and whether that’s something that’s even mentioned, how to see when tragic backstories are used as plot twists and with no respect for the people that may have gone through whatever trauma the author chose to include. There are many books that I read in the past, that looking back I would hate to read today, and that goes for any genre really. But I think I started recognizing these problems the most in romance because of how glaring these issues can be.

Seth Meyers Lol GIF by Late Night with Seth Meyers

As for why I haven’t really talked about my journey with romance, and how it made me become a more critical reader, the answer is simple but sad. There is a major stigma around romance and for a long time I bought into it. I was ashamed to read books with shirtless men on the cover, I was embarrassed to let people know that I liked books with smutty scenes. But after gaining so much from the genre, both in terms of enjoyment and as a critical reader, I’m no longer ashamed. I’m a romance reader and I’m proud of it! The genre has a lot to offer people, and I’m glad that more readers are starting to take note!

I’ve mentioned this before in my post about judging books by their covers, but I think that the rise in illustrated covers has done wonders for the romance genre. People are picking up books like Red, White, & Royal Blue or The Kiss Quotient, and learning that they might like the romance genre after all! My hope is that these new romance readers will end up having the same wonderful experience that I’ve had with the genre, and that the stigma surrounding romance only continues to dwindle!

Do you read romance? What are your favorite genres? What genre made you a more critical reader?

38 thoughts on “My Journey With the Romance Genre

  1. Loved this post and how you tell about your journey, Malka! I am not a romance reader (or should I say; at least not yet?) but I plan on reading romance books in the future. For me, romance was always a side genre in other books or ya-contemporary novels. I want to try and read stuff outside my comfort zone so I think that your post is really inspiring. ❤

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    1. Thank you so much! 💕 If you ever want any romance recommendations, I’d be happy to help or to lead you to someone who might have some good suggestions! I tend to mainly read historical romance or contemporary romance, so if you’re interested in other genres I don’t know how useful I could be. But I’d be more than happy to try!

      I think trying to read outside your comfort zone is awesome! That’s something that I actually want to get better at myself! And I’m so glad that you found this post inspiring! I’ve been wanting to talk about my love of romance more on this blog for a while now, and I’m so happy that this post might have made you more interested in this wonderful genre!

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  2. Great post! I don’t read much romance, but that’s mostly because it seems like such a huge genre, I never really know where to start.
    And for a long time the covers did really put me off! I have this weird thing where I really hate covers with photographs of people on them, so make that a photograph of a shirtless guy, and I’d dislike it even more. I much prefer the illustrated covers that seem to be more of a thing now, and I definitely want to try out some more romance books in the future. I’ve been reading a lot more contemporary YA recently which usually has romance, and I’ve been loving that, so I might try some more romance soon 🙂

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    1. Thank you! I feel like starting in any new genre is always super difficult and overwhelming! I think that’s part of the reason why people tend to stick with the genres they know and love! But if you’re ever interested in checking out a romance and want some recommendations, feel free to reach out!

      And I totally get that! At this point I’m reading for the story alone, so even if I think a cover is ugly, I ignore that in favor of the synopsis. But especially if you hate covers with photographs of people on them, I can see why you would stay away from the romance genre! Most romance covers that I’ve seen have people on the cover!

      I definitely prefer illustrated covers as well, and I’m so happy that those kinds of covers are making people more open to reading romance books! I started out with contemporary YA as my main genre as well, but now that’s taken a back seat to the full on romance books that I read! But as long as a book has some form of romance in it, there’s a good chance it’s on my radar!

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  3. Oh! I think this might be my own struggle with the romance genre: I couldn’t really hone in on the tropes I liked, and I eventually abandoned the genre for a while.” I recently started with Tessa Dare and found that I really enjoy historical romance!

    I have to admit thought that I really love the older romance illustrated covers! They are always so dramatic and, frankly, quite fun to collect!

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    1. Yes! It’s really difficult to try out a new genre because there’s so much you don’t know about what you like and dislike in those kinds of books! And to make things even more difficult, you don’t know which authors you might like! I’m so glad that you discovered Tessa Dare and historical romance! Historical romance is one of the two romance sub-genres that I read most often, with contemporary being the other!

      Also, I know exactly which kind of covers you’re referring to, and although I don’t quite have a collection of my own (yet), I can definitely see why you’d want to collect all those dramatic covers with such beautiful dresses on them! I think that some historical romance covers have really grown on me, but a lot of contemporary romance covers still make me cringe, even if I do pick them up!

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  4. Bare chested rippling muscles and women only half wearing a dress or one with enough material to make curtains for a small village are one of the reasons why I can’t read romance. However, I’m afraid the comic book drawings turn me off almost as much. Oh well..

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  5. I don’t tend to read the romance genre specifically but I love to read contemporaries with romance! I just love that it tends to be a happy ending and it’s so much more relaxing to read than a fantasy for example with high stakes and tense missions etc.
    I also don’t like the covers with people on haha – much prefer illustrated covers!

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    1. Contemporaries with romance is my second most read genre! It used to be my most read genre, but I find that the romance genre itself is much more likely to give me that happy ending that I’m looking for, so I’ve started reaching for those more!

      But that’s exactly why I reach for contemporaries and romance! I much prefer relaxing happy reads to reads that have high stakes and will make me stressed out and anxious! Over the past few years I’ve gone from mostly reading fantasy, to barely reading any fantasy at all, just because I realized how much stress the genre was causing me!

      And I definitely prefer illustrated covers as well, although some of the historical romance covers with pretty dresses on the covers have started to grow on me!

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  6. I hate miscommunication with every inch of my existence and I realized it when I read manga instead of book actually (of course it’s romance). It frustrated me all the time. I can’t help but roll my eyes vigorously whenever there’s a miscommunication trope in the story.

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    1. Miscommunication is the absolute worst! I totally agree with you about that! It just seems like such lazy writing to me when miscommunication is the only conflict in a book! At that point I just want to scream at the characters to just talk with one another already! I try avoiding books with that trope as much as possible since I dislike it so much!

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  7. I loved this post so much! I just started experimenting with reading romance last year when I read The Kiss Quotient on a whim and I’ve enjoyed a couple more since then. I think I just never considered reading it before because of the stigma around it like you mentioned, but I’m so glad I gave the genre a chance and started challenging my own perceptions of it.

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    1. Thank you! 💕 The Kiss Quotient is one of my favorite books, and I think it’s one of the romance books that introduced a lot of people to the genre! I think the fact that it has an illustrated cover helped people look past their pre-conceived notions and just form an opinion based on their reading experience alone. I’m so glad to hear that you gave the genre a chance, and I hope you continue to enjoy all the romance books you pick up in the future!

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  8. I loved this discussion so much! I was one of those readers who was also ashamed of admitting that liked romance in the past. I remember I asked for my ebook one Christmas speifically so that I could buy romance ebooks so that no one could see I was reading them. I’m so proud of my journey and of the journey the entire genre is going through right now. Romance is awesome!

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    1. Thank you so much! I’m glad to hear that I’m not alone in my romance journey! I don’t think I would ever have gotten into the romance genre if not for my Kindle! The fact that no one knew what I was reading definitely helped me until I became more comfortable with my love for the genre and occasionally began getting physical copies from the library.

      But it took me some time to get to that place, and in the interim I’m so glad I had my Kindle to read romance! I’m so happy that more people are discovering and loving the genre, because I totally agree that romance is super awesome at it’s about time more people recognized that!

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  9. I’m not the biggest romance reader because a lot of the more popular romance tropes make me a little uncomfortable and I also don’t like drama in books, but I don’t really look around for any romance books that I think I would enjoy. Obviously I have to change that!

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    1. I totally understand that! I don’t tend to read fantasy because the tropes there don’t work for me, so it’s easiest to avoid the genre completely. I also really hate drama in books, so I’ve become pretty good at finding romances with the least amount of drama! If you’re ever looking to try a romance, I’d be happy to help you try to find a book that sounds like something you’d enjoy!

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  10. A different post than what I’m used to seeing on book blogs, and I loved reading it. Such an interesting read about your journey with the genre!

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  11. “I came back to the genre as a mindless way to relax” accurate summary of my relationship w/ the romance genre. i kind of consider it my “take a break” genre, where i can just not think too much and relax and enjoy the FEELS,,, basically taking a break from life AND other genres as well 👀

    i am once again agreeing on all of your thoughts about how if the conflict is external, it’s fine but it’s way more,,, worrying (?) to read about betrayals and misunderstands, 10/10.

    consent is SEXY and you will hear me shout about this 24/7 i don’t make the rules. so ik you haven’t read ‘all for the games’ and prolly won’t b/c there’s some intense (however, external) drama but can i just say the way the issue of consent is handled in those books is the best?? it made me cry. andrew and neil have a whole system of “yes or no” before they make a move on the other and in this one scene, when neil wasn’t very verbally clear (even tho he didn’t exactly mind), andrew pulls back and says, “i won’t be like them, i won’t let you let me be” and MALKA I STRAIGHT UP SILENTLY SCREAMED

    i knew i would love this post and i was absolutely right, you were so eloquent and deserve all the rights for that

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    1. But it’s true though! Even now, I read mostly romance before bed, just because of how much it relaxes me! And since I usually read multiple books at once, at least one of those books is a romance, and if I don’t have one on hand to read, I get very sad.

      I’m so glad to hear you’re in agreement! I think that some people think that all drama and conflict are created equal and they really are not! When problems can be shared with someone else they immediately become less stressful, so I only can enjoy a conflict where both love interests see the conflict from the same point of view, and either fight it together, or one fights it while the other one is there offering support and snuggles.

      Consent is so freaking important! It’s something I’ve only started looking for more recently, but it has increased my enjoyment of the romance genre so much each time I see that an author handles consent well! (I actually have read the first two books in the All For the Game series, and for all you’re screaming about the good consent, there were way too many times where consent was decidedly not given * cough * book two * cough * so I could not stomach finishing the series.)

      I’m so glad you loved this post! That makes me so happy to hear! And for you to say that my rambling mess is eloquent as well is just too kind of you! 💕

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  12. Malka, this is such an amazing post! I really loved reading this.❤️ I have only started reading romance novels in recent years, and most of the romance I do read is YA (I’ve only read two or three adult romance novels I think?), but I still agree with so much of what you said here. Knowing what tropes you like to read about is for sure such a great way to enhance the reading experience!!

    I found it so interesting what you said about the rise of illustrated covers, because I’m definitely so guilty of thinking “oh I can’t read this look at the cover” which is such a bad reading attitude to have but I’m 100% guilty?? I do find myself more likely to read a romance novel if the cover is illustrated, so at least this is opening me up to more genres of books that I was too quick to dismiss before!

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    1. Thank you so much, Olivia! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed! 💕

      I used to read mostly YA romance as well, with some adult romance every so often, but in recent years that combination seems to have flipped! I think it’s because I now always have a romance in e-book form that I read before bed, but I only read physical books, which tend to be primarily YA romances with some other genres thrown in every one in a while, over the weekend. So it really has a lot to do with timing and my schedule!

      I definitely agree with you about knowing what tropes you like. As you saw on your amazing post ranking romance tropes, I have some very strong and well-thought out opinions on practically every romance trope out there!

      Illustrated covers have done wonders for the genre! I understand not wanting to read books when you don’t appreciate the cover, since I’m judgmental of covers in all genres. But I think that since a lot of people are embarrassed of the standard shirtless man and swooning woman on romance covers, the romance genre has suffered more than other genres when it comes to people ignoring great books because of the covers. But I’m so happy to hear that illustrated covers are helping to fix that problem and make you more interested in the genre!

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  13. i love everything you said in this post, but i love what you said at the end the most!! i don’t think i’ve ever had anything against romance, but i’m really embarrassed to read books with shirtless men and other explicit things on the covers LMAO. i love that the genre has seen a rise in illustrated covers. i especially love covers like you deserve each other, because the cover is fit for the romance genre, but the couple isn’t doing explicit stuff, and no one is naked or anything. (i hope that makes sense, haha. i just hate when people judge what i read 🥺)

    i don’t think romance is gonna be my favorite genre any time soon because i don’t really like books without fantastical elements, haha. (and ugh, the third act breakup kinda sucks.) but i do want to read more romance books, because i feel like it’s such an inclusive genre that’s populated by marginalized authors like talia hibbert, who write great rep and themes in their books. reading romance is also such a nice way of getting some serotonin!! so i’m very excited to read more and find out what i prefer when it comes to romance!

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    1. Thank you! I totally understand why you’d stay away from romance just because of the covers! I started off reading romance books purely on my Kindle, because it took a few years until I was confident enough to take out books from the library that had all sorts of scandalous covers! At this point I even enjoy some of the historical romance covers, but that took a lot of time too!

      But I’m really loving this rise in illustrated covers! I don’t know if I would have started buying romance books, even the ones I loved, had they not been blessed with illustrated covers! (I don’t think this is judging what people read. I think it’s a discomfort with the level of exposure on some non-illustrated romance covers, which makes total sense!)

      You raise a really great point! I’ve read quite a few diverse romances, as well as many that feature characters with disabilities and it’s wonderful to see so many different kinds of couples get a guaranteed happy ending! (Although the fact that there is a 3rd act break-up so many times definitely is irritating! I hate that trope with a passion!) So even if romance never becomes your favorite genre, I really hope you end up finding some books you love! (And get that serotonin!)

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    1. Yes! Miscommunication is the absolute worst! I hate it with a passion! Some of my most recent favorite romances had little to no miscommunication, and that’s definitely a large part of how they became favorites!

      The fake dating trope is just so amazing! I love how real connections form between the characters as they fake their relationship, which helps to eventually turn their romance from fiction to reality!

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  14. I love romance, and I loved reading your journey through the genre! 😀 I discovered romance when I was a pre-teen, and I flew through many-many books. I loved the guaranteed happy ending and that I didn’t need to wait for the sequels because most of them were standalones, and the ones that weren’t (e.g. paranormal romance series) tended to have a happy, conclusive ending in each novel. That was nice, because at the same time I was reading YA novels, most of which belonged to longer series, with some of the novels ending on a cliffhanger.

    When I discovered New Adult novels I read loads and loads from the same few authors, all of which were pretty mediocre and, even worse, repetitive. It made me write off the whole genre after a while, and I only came back to romance around three or four years ago. I agree with you – romance can help you become a critical reader. Seeing all the hate for the romance genre made me think about why I love it so much, and that involved critical thinking and analyzation, and being confident enough in my own “skills” to decide that romance IS a valuable genre.

    One of my favorite things about it is that there’s such a strong focus on the characters, to the extent where many romances feel like character studies. They also can involve great family dynamics and friendships. Oh, and with genres like paranormal romance or historical romance, the research that goes into writing these books is so apparent.

    Great post, Malka! 😀

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    1. Awww, thank you! It’s so interesting to see what a similar experience we had! One of the reasons that I’m drawn to romance to this day is because of the happily ever afters. There’s just something so nice about knowing that a story will end happily, even if there’s conflict or angst in the middle of the book. It’s definitely very different than most other genres, where the pain and suffering is maximized!

      And now that you mention it, I do prefer standalones to series, to the point where I only pick up one of two books that are in a series each year. One of my favorite thing about most romance series is that they tend to be companion series, so there’s no pressure to read them in order, or even to read all of them at all, if you don’t want to. And since I’m super character and synopsis based, many times I’ll just read the 2nd or 4th in a romance series, and not bother to pick up the rest of the books in the series, even if I enjoyed the author’s writing. So that’s definitely a wonderful thing about the romance genre!

      Oooph, yeah. I had a similar experience with New Adult books. There were also a whole bunch of contemporary novels, that looking back, were really poorly executed that made me wary of the genre. I think that’s why I was more cautious when I returned to the genre, and why I reach for historical romance more than contemporary romance. I just feel as though the historical genre is safe from a lot of the toxic tropes that many contemporary romances rely on!

      And romance can definitely make you a critical reader! There are so many tropes to dissect, and so much character growth to analyze! The fact that there are shirtless men on some of the covers doesn’t make the genre any less valuable, despite what some people may think!

      I totally agree with you! I happen to prefer character driven stories, so it’s really no surprise that I love the romance genre so much! Every romance novel usually follows the same pattern of helping a character heal, or learn to value emotions and open their heart, and all of that requires a lot of character growth. And there usually is at least one friend or family member that’s woven into the story as well, who tends to go on their own journey in the following book!

      And there’s so much research that goes into writing a historical romance! (Since I don’t read paranormal romance, I can’t really speak for those). Just figuring out the aristocracy must take hours, but then there are all the little details of which dresses were in style, and what topics were discussed during that time, and just SO much research goes into those books!

      Thank you! 💕

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    1. There’s so much stigma around romance, and it makes me so sad, because it’s such a wonderful genre! But thankfully, I think the stigma is slowly lessening. Because you’re totally right, every genre has its problems but somehow it seems that only romance gets ignored because of its issues, even though there are so many fantastic things that you can find in a romance!

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