Realism in Romance?

Thank you, Errin for hosting me on your blog today. My topic is inspired by comments from one of my editors as well as some reader feedback to my Moonlight Romance series. I hope my essay will inspire thought and even some comments!

How Realistic Should Romances Be?

I’m not talking about what happens in the bedroom or merely the aspects of a relationship here. I’m talking about books in every sub-genre of romance. Do readers expect some level of fantasy? Reading is escapism so is the genre supposed to be a Hollywood version of life? All readers have their own thoughts on this issue. Here are mine.

Let’s start small and work to bigger issues, shall we? Living with or dating another person is never always rosy. Do we want to know that the hero has bad morning breath? Do we want to know that the heroine hates folding laundry and has clothes piled up on her floor? I think many readers can relate to such small flaws. No one is perfect. What I hate most about a book is when a character is practically perfect. A few flaws will make them more human, more real.

Okay, let’s go a little deeper. Do we want to know that hero blames himself for his younger brother’s death? That could be the foundation to a multi-faceted character. I can picture a woman coming into his life and helping him heal, perhaps helping him to see the truth. He was only eight. He wasn’t old enough to watch his little brother in the pool. What if he did know better? What if he picked his little brother up from football practice and they got into an accident because he was driving drunk? Is that too much reality? Would you prefer his little brother only had some scars?

We’ve all done stupid things in life and hopefully we learned from them. Our characters need to learn, too. An author’s own level of reality tolerance should guide their writing. While some flaws or necessary the writer gets to pick which flaw and how deep the flaw runs. Do not try to guess what the audience will want. It is impossible to please all your readers. The best you can do is to write a story you are proud of and that pleases you. Even classics such as Shakespeare have 1-star reviews.

There are even darker issues that appear in some romances: bullying, blackmail, physical abuse, rape, racism, etc. I’ve touched on some of these darker issues myself. Why do I choose to bring a gritty realism to my romances? I feel readers should learn and reflect on what they read. I’m not one of those fluffy feel good authors. If you are, I have nothing against you. Feel good books have their place, and when I’m depressed I reach for one of those and a carton of ice cream. Some romances seem like pure fantasy, and I don’t mean just fantasy and sci-fi romance. The dashing alpha males and sexy billionaires can make my heart race, but little about them feels realistic. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t met any billionaires. Those are my thoughts on the subject. Now it is your turn to weigh in.

How realistic do you think romances should be?

Haley is an author of historical romance set in the Civil War era. Many of her titles are interracial or African-American. In her free time Haley enjoys hiking, antiquing, and being a slave to her cat. If you want to read more about her, drop in at for updates and release information. Her re-release Midnight Caller is on sale for 99 cents through the end of August. for updates and release information. Her re-release Midnight Caller is on sale for 99 cents through the end of August.

One thought on “Realism in Romance?

  1. I agree with you, Haley, I like a strong element of realism in the romances I read (and write). I think that love succeeding in spite of real adversity (poverty, prejudice, class, etc) is much more romantic than love that comes too easily with the too-perfect-to-be-true billionaire. I’ve often found that romances that are too much of a happy-go-lucky fantasy leave me feeling worse by the end of them because I’m all the more aware that life isn’t really like that. Complex characters with real problems are much easier to relate to (and root for). Good luck with your re-release! 🙂

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