Romance Novels: Why I’m Reading Them

“All females are complicated, worse’n a riddle wrapped in a puzzle.”Alexander Dunwoody Jessup, Master, Confederate States Navy. Quoted in River Ruckus, Bloody Bay.

These words by one of my naval saga’s main characters explains, I think, why romance novels are difficult for us men to write. Of course, in a lady’s eyes, we men are probably riddles too.

After a quick perusal of my bookshelves, one won’t find romance novels. No, that person will find history books, historical novels, literary classics, Westerns (Louis L’Amour and Elmer Kelton, primarily), and numerous works of Christian non-fiction. But a romance novel in my house? I may have one or two, but not many.

Ah, things are changing now. I’m starting to branch out of my “literary comfort zone” by reading more of them. Not just reading, though. I’m studying them—how the stories are put together, character motivations (especially the female characters), plot twists, and so on.

Sure, I could purchase a book on how to write them, and I probably will at some point, but it’s also helpful to read outside of our genres every now and then. It gives us a “flavor” of the genre and the prose. My least favorite genre is fantasy and science fiction, yet I confess, I’ve read a few of those kinds of books, too.

Why branch out in our reading? It helps our writing. As for my current diet of romance novels, I’m counting on it to help me improve my development of female characters in my historical novels. Who knows? Maybe, one day, I can help Alexander solve those beautiful “riddles wrapped in a puzzle.”

Are you reading outside your preferred genre? What books are you reading this year?