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Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover

Why Romance Novels Are Smarter Than You Think

While we're guilty-as-charged chick-lit aficionados, we haven't dappled in romance novels much beyond the Twilight series. Yet, we were so enamored by this defense of the genre that we've added a few to our spring reading list. Check out the slideshow of Harlequin romances, left. You can buy them all at Amazon.com. —Glo

By Sarah Wendell for YourTango

Everything I know about romance, I learned from romance novels. I'm here to tell you that romance is easily summed up in one word: Fabio. The long, blond hair, the gleaming hunks of waxed man-cleavage peeking out from a shirt that's undone but still tucked in: These are the hallmarks of romance. I'm kidding, of course. That may be the stereotypical image of romance, and most certainly of romance novels, but that's not romance itself — not by a long shot.

Romance novels often are accused of generating false expectations among readers. Not so: Romance novels can and have pointed the way toward genuine expressions of affection for many readers, myself included. Reading romance helps me, for example, recognize truly elegant and heartfelt moments when I find them in the real world, outside the pages of fiction. Romance is neither the Fabio hair nor a grand, sweeping moment with a crescendo of music and flowers raining from the sky. Romance is a lifelong habit present in the way we treat those we love and choose to be with. Most importantly, romance is found in how we treat ourselves.

The simplest way to explain romance is to think of it as an action. If you're a grammarian, consider it a verb, though saying that someone "romanced" someone else sounds about as stilted and antiquated as hearing that someone went "a-wooing." Still, thinking about romance as a verb can help decode what romance is: Romance is an action taken, most likely because ardor (or man-cleavage) is present.

Some of the most romantic moments in fiction include big, sweeping gestures, like flying someone to the other side of the world on a whim, but most are tiny moments of private expression, such as holding onto the button from someone's coat, just because you can't stop thinking about him or her. These little moments keep romance readers returning for more, and are what keep a healthy relationship thriving.

Romance novels can teach you that romance itself is not merely a single gift or a gesture, and it sure isn't just knockin' boots. Romance doesn't even guarantee a happy ending—anyone who has been through a bad breakup can tell you that, myself included. It's not chocolate or hearts, diamonds or roses, yachts or airplanes. It's not the gesture itself that creates the romance. It's the motivation behind the gift or action, no matter what time of year it arrives.

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  • The Best is Yet to Come by Diana Palmer, 1991

    Courtesy of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd
  • Dangerous Love by Jane Beaufort, 1968

    Courtesy of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd
  • An Impossible Attraction by Brenda Joyce, 2010

    Courtesy of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd
  • Love Child by Janice Kaiser, 1986

    Courtesy of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd
  • No Nice Girl by Perry Lindsay, originally published in 1946

    Courtesy of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd
  • Nowhere to Run by Suzanne Brockmann, 2010

    Courtesy of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd
  • Nurse Molly by Marjorie Norrell, 1965

    Courtesy of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd
  • Sizzling by Susan Mallery, 2010

    Courtesy of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd
  • Too Bad to be True by Roberta Leigh, 1987

    Courtesy of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd
  • Virgin with Butterflies by Tom Powers, originally published in 1945

    Courtesy of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd
Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover
Why Romance Novels Are Smarter Than You Think
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