Inspiration: Why do you write romance? by Rose Lerner

 by Rose Lerner

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, was last week.  Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, starts tonight at sundown.  This is the time of year during which a Jewish person is supposed to look back at the previous year, apologize and make amends to anyone we’ve wronged, and start the new year off fresh, resolving to be better.

Most years, I don’t do it.  Oh, I think about it desultorily, but then I’m “too busy” to really sit down and take stock of my life, or I don’t think hard enough to really come up with anyone I should apologize to.  Or I do think of someone I should apologize to, but then I don’t do it, because it would be awkward or embarrassing, or because I don’t want to talk to them or because I’m hoping they didn’t notice what a jerk I was and I don’t want to be the one to point it out to them, or because, in the end, I’m not really sorry.  Some years I make resolutions, then forget what they were three months later.

 Personal growth is hard.

My father never read romances before I started writing them.  Now he’s addicted.  The last time I was home, he told me, “I love how people really talk to each other and listen to each other in romances.  I love how they process what they hear from the other person and really try to make changes.  I hardly ever see that.”

And then I realized that all of that advice I’ve heard at writers’ conferences—“At the end of the book, the protagonist should make the choice they couldn’t have made at the beginning of the book,” and “Make sure your character arc mirrors your plot arc,” and “What is your character’s greatest fear?  Make sure that happens to them,”—all of those characterization worksheets where you figure out the basic flaws in the way your character sees the world and their relationship to other people, and what in their childhood or their past made them feel that way, so that you can write them realizing over the course of the book how they’ve been limiting themselves and acting out of fear, and make that leap to love openly and trust freely and believe in themselves and have the confidence and courage to live the life they’ve always wanted, or the life they never knew they wanted—all of the times I’ve heard a reader say about a book, “It wasn’t satisfying because the hero/heroine didn’t learn anything”—all of that boils down to one thing:

Romance is a genre built on personal growth.  More than any other genre I’ve read, our stories are fundamentally structured around our characters becoming better, fuller people, and healing their relationships not just with their hero or heroine, but with everyone in their lives.  A romance where love doesn’t help a character grow and change is an unsatisfying romance.

Romance isn’t just about the fantasy of finding a guy who’s just right for you or having mind-blowing sex (although it is about those things!).  It’s about the fantasy of finally learning how to talk to your estranged sibling, or finding the strength to stand up to your mother without crying or losing your temper, or taking the leap of faith to let go of a crappy job you hate and start your own business, or figuring out that you really, truly didn’t deserve the way your ex-husband treated you.  It’s about the fantasy of letting go of actions based on fear.  It’s about the fantasy of finding a balance between your own need’s and everyone else’s.  It’s about the fantasy of learning to believe in your own worth and respecting other people’s.  It’s about the fantasy of realizing that just because you’ve been hurt over and over again doesn’t mean you don’t still have all the love in the world left to give, and receive. 

Those are wonderful, amazing fantasies to have.  Those are wonderful, amazing, important things to long for.  In real life, we’ll probably never quite get there.  We’ll always hurt people we love and do self-sabotaging things because it’s what our parents taught us.  But by reading stories that say, Change is possible.  It’s valuable.  You can do it, I think we can be inspired to get closer, baby step by baby step.  It’s just one more reason I’m proud to be a romance writer and reader.

Tell me a reason you’re proud to read or write romance!  I’ll be giving away a copy of A Lily Among Thorns, in which (spoiler!) my hero and heroine learn some valuable lessons about themselves and grow as people, to a random commenter. 

Happy new year!



It was him. Serena couldn’t breathe. She’d been looking for him for
years—the man who’d lifted her out of the dregs of London’s
underworld. She remembered that he’d looked like an angel. But either
she’d embellished or he’d grown up. Because he didn’t look like an
angel now. He looked like a man, solid and broad, and taller than
she’d thought. And now he needed her help.


Solomon recognized her as soon as they were alone in the dark. He’d
not forgotten that night five years ago either. But Serena had
changed. She was stronger, fiercely independent and, though it hardly
seemed possible, even more beautiful. She was also neck-deep in
trouble. Yet he’d help cook a feast for the Prince Regent, take on a
ring of spies, love her well into the night—anything to convince her
that this time he was here to stay.

20 Responses to Inspiration: Why do you write romance? by Rose Lerner

  1. Carly Carson says:

    I like your way of looking at romances. Personal growth. I have never understood why people are so down on the romance genre. Nor can I understand why romance sales are so high when “no one” reads them. Good luck with your book.


  2. jbrayweber says:

    Wow. Beautifully written, Rose. Romances really is a cog in overcoming fears and allowing for personal growth. That’s what true love will do to you. Make you a better person.

    I love to write romance because I the tug o’ war, bantering, and the frustrations of bringing two people together appeals to me.

    Thanks for stopping by MuseTracks!



  3. ClaudiaGC says:

    Love your post! I’ve never really thought about why I’m reading romance books or why I’m not ashamed of it. They just make me happy, I guess. I love to see how two people fall in love no matter where they’re coming from or how many obstacles they have in their path.
    Shana Tova!


  4. Rose Lerner says:

    Carly–Yeah, it’s weird. And what’s extra weird is that it has such a long history! I read contemporaries complaining about Byron’s fans or Gothic romances and it’s sometimes almost word for word things I hear today. I guess when reading itself was no longer enough to separate the elite from the masses, they had to come up with a bunch more stupid dichotomies to feel special. It’s sad that it’s lasted so long…

    Jenn–Thanks! Yes to your comment! Banter is possibly the greatest thing ever invented? And so much fun to write!

    Claudia–I know, right? There’s nothing like finishing a really good romance and just feeling bubbly, a huge smile on your face without even realizing it…<3 L'Shana Tova!


  5. Rosie says:

    I’ve always looked for books where there is a focus on charater, character development, and lots of interactions between characters. I think romance is one of the genres that really excels at this, so I read romance.


  6. Angie says:

    I love that your dad reads romances now! And what an insightful thing to notice. I am fairly new to the genre and am still finding my sea legs, so to speak. But I’ve fallen in love with yours, and I love the thought and research you obviously put behind your plots and characters–especially their personal growth. 🙂


  7. Rose Lerner says:

    Aw, thanks, Angie! Yep, he’s a total convert. Loretta Chase and Jenny Crusie are his favorites.


  8. Rose Lerner says:

    Rosie–makes sense! Now that you say it, I think that’s part of what I like about it too. 🙂


  9. Rose, I love the wisdom in your post. Even though I’ve heard the same points mentioned at conference workshops, I never tied them up in such a perfect little package. Now I’ve copied your ” ” on a sticky note on my computer screen. I even given you credit, including your name. 🙂 You’ve been quoted!


  10. should be “I’ve even…” Hate noticing typos after pressing send… in major revision mode. 🙂


  11. Rose Lerner says:

    Nancy–thank you! Wow, I don’t think anyone’s ever copied anything I said onto a sticky note on their computer before. I’ve arrived! (And I mean that COMPLETELY non-ironically. I know how important computer stickies are.) Good luck with revisions!


  12. Yvonne B. says:

    I think that your way is a rather good way to look at it.

    For me, reading romances is also about hope (which keeps me from being more of a pessimist than I already am). Hope about the way things can be (i.e., all the ways described above :)) rather than they, generally speaking, are.


  13. Rose Lerner says:

    Yvonne–Ooh, I like that. Especially since I sometimes tend towards the pessimist myself!


  14. Dee Feagin says:

    Thank you for saying so eloquently why I am a romance reader and making it so clear. It is about growth. Without it, the story has no depth and upon finishing one like that (if I do indeed stick it out to the -ho, hum-end), I cannot recall the characters or setting or plot beyond 24 hours. The other element as already mentioned is hope. I want to believe in a HEA if you only try hard enough.

    I have your In For a Penny on my Keeper shelf and I’m looking forward to your next one with high expectations….no pressure!


  15. Rose Lerner says:

    Dee–thanks! Hopefully it will live up to expectations. 🙂

    Have you read Sarah Wendell’s “Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance” yet? I just sped through it yesterday and it made me so proud to be part of this awesome community. It talks a lot more about the whole personal growth and confidence and working towards your own happy ending aspect of romance.


  16. Rose Lerner says:

    Nancy, you’ve won the copy of LILY! Congratulations! Email me at lerner dot rose at gmail dot com with your address and whether/how you’d like me to personalize the book.


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  19. […] Tom Hiddleston, Storage Wars, and how you should be able to imagine every character eating toast. Personal growth as a fundamental element of romance novels at MuseTracks. “A romance where love doesn’t help a character grow and change is an […]


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