Step aside Romeo and Juliet, I’m not talking about you. That tragedy has been masquerading as a love story for far too long. When I say romance, I mean a story steeped in relatively real-life emotional scenarios despite the sub-genre of the text. Whether it’s a contemporary romance where the protagonists are faking a wedding to bring a grandfather’s dreams to life like Lauren Landish’s My Big Fat Fake Wedding, or a high fantasy where the heroine may have to kill her lover’s father like that of Sue Lynn Tan’s Daughter of the Moon Goddess, just give me a relationship that embodies a realistic love story despite the fantasy of the plot.
So what does this have to do with male readers not brushing off a romantic plot as chick-lit? EVERYTHING! The term ‘chick-lit’ implies that the story is aimed at women specifically for their benefit and growth. However, romance is a two-way street, so why wouldn’t it be made for everyone to read?
Gain some insight and empathy while reading romance.
What better way to gain empathy and knowledge about the male/female psyche than by reading about it? Men and women are only complicated if you refuse to learn more about what makes them tick. The novel you’re reading might be fiction, but the scenarios the couples find themselves in tend to be more realistic than you might think. There’s the angsty beginning where both parties try to figure out the other, make the first move, and start a bond.
By a Thread, an enemies-to-lovers office romance written by Lucy Score, demonstrates the apprehension of two people who are attracted to one another without the least bit of knowledge on navigating their work and personal relationships. They both have baggage; one is entitled, and the other is perhaps too independent to concede when help is offered. Read their story to discover how remembering the details and paying attention can create a strong emotional bond through friendship. I promise you’ll get some amazing laughs in along the way.
Romance teaches you how to navigate disagreements.
Healthy relationships have disagreements. Words are said in the heat of the moment that does not truly express how one partner feels about the other, but they’re hurtful nonetheless. Making up after isn’t just about sexy time– though it doesn’t hurt–it’s about reassurance and building trust. Those arguments, the walk away, usually ends in an epiphany that one might not infer without the helpful guidance of a romance novelist. There are some deep insights to chew over, like this quote from In Five Years.
“You mistake love. You think it has to have a future in order to matter, but it doesn’t. It’s the only thing that does not need to become at all. It matters only insofar as it exists. Here. Now. Love doesn’t require a future.”Rebecca Serle – In Five Years
Relationships are really about the little things.
The idea that relationships are hinged on major events like expensive dates, anniversaries, weddings, etc… is a false narrative. Obviously, those things are romantic and important, but they’re not the glue that holds people together. If romance books teach you nothing else, the best takeaway is that the couples involved find more meaning in the small things than grand gestures.
Cuddles on the couch like Bryce and Hunt in Sarah J. Maas’ Crescent City: House of Sky and Breath progress the intimacy of a relationship. Listening to each other’s baggage and subtly changing habits to make the other more comfortable shows how much you care about the other’s mental health. Gabriel takes Charlotte’s fear of intimacy and relationship seriously due to her abusive ex in Rock Hard by Nalini Singh. This novel helps the reader understand how to approach someone who might have the same problems.
Learn some new spicy moves for the bedroom.
Sometimes the reasons to pick up a romance book come down to the spicy scenes. Detailed intimate encounters within romance novels’ pages are certainly not a line item on a “chick-lit” checklist. Those scenes align with educational opportunities for male readers and fantasy women have dreamed about but on paper. Maybe a new position, a kink or two, or just a way of showing how you feel through physical acts rather than words; either way, there’s something for everyone to learn. So when you’re partner screenshots you a scene, or says, “read Chapter 55,” read it. You might be surprised by what they’re telling you.
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
The Modern Gentleman by Meghan Quinn
Knot a Chance by Sinclair Kelly
The Stopover by T.L. Swan
A Ruin of Roses by K.F. Breene
Twisted Love by Ana Huang
Romance novels and romance as a plot point within other genres are about the connections between people. It’s as much a learning experience as an enjoyable escapist one. If they’re limited to the idea that only women should read them, then we are denying that men, too, can partake in the understanding and empathy exposed within their pages.
Want to read more romance? Click here to learn about Dark Romances.