Content note: Contains brief discussion of sexual assault as a plot device.
What does it mean when people say romance novels are “just love stories”? Love is not “just” anything. It’s the best thing we’ve got on Earth. Acts done in love balance out the effects of greed and fear.
I think what people really mean when they disparage romance novels is that they’re about romantic love. And in our culture romantic love is almost always associated with women’s fantasies. Women want roses and chocolate; men want sex. That is, of course, baloney. Yet romance fiction carries a stigma, mostly rooted in misconceptions: romance novels are poorly written, they’re “mommy porn,” they reinscribe outdated notions of femininity that objectify women, and they’re unrealistic.