Thursday, February 20, 2014

“Sweet Romance Novels”, and the Smart Men Who Learn to Appreciate Them by Christine Bush

 When we think of Sweet Romance novels, we usually think of our readers as the feminine gender.  Women and romance stories go together.  Basically this is true.  The demographics of our readers show a much higher percentage of female readers than male.  Of course, there are a few writers of books who   crossover genre lines (mostly in romantic suspense, a few paranormal) and have garnered a nice percentage of readers from both genders.  

But among our sweet romance readers, we do find some males who are buying and enjoying our books. I consider them very smart guys.

One of the hats I wear in life, when I am not writing, is working as a Marriage and Family Therapist.  In this role, I hear a lot of stories of what works and what doesn’t work in today’s relationships. I hear how things can fall apart, but have witnessed the joy of healing, growth and new understanding and respect in couplehood in many instances. In my role as a therapist, I use many different  therapies and approaches when working with people.

One of the things that can break down a relationship is simple misunderstanding, or miscommunication. This seems to be sometimes fueled by  the differences in how men and woman approach love and relationship.  I’ve heard so many frustrated men exclaim, “I just don’t understand how she thinks. I can’t understand what she wants!”  

There are two suggestions I have dared to make in these cases.  One is to read Chapman’s book called “The Five Love Languages”, which is the most clear and insightful explanation of how we can each express and/or have differing measures of love.  Powerful.

The second idea is a bit more unusual. I have occasionally suggested reading a particular romance novel.  Often it’s a favorite of his wife/girlfriend.  This works because if she has a favorite hero type, it’s easy to see. But more importantly, a well crafted romance today is a direct line into the workings of a modern day woman’s brain and heart. Think about it. These books that steal our hearts, also explain our hearts. And  a fictional novel can do this in non confrontational way, if the man dares to do his homework and read.   This may not make sense to someone who has not explored the character deep/ real life conflict nature of a well written book.  But it works.

I focus on sweet stories, because those stories focus on feelings.  I’m not talking about the purely sexual side of a relationship.  That’s another issue. I’m talking about the expectations, the emotional needs, the communication side of a relationship. Our books emphasize those issues.

But sometimes (imagine this!) she hasn’t read romance novels in the past.  So reading one, like it or not, can be a great conversation starter for both parties.  It’s amazing how successful it can be to get couple’s communicating. Talking openly about love and needs and conflict and frustration and sensuality after reading one together can be as empowering as a weekend getaway. Romance is fun.

Sometimes men are threatened that they can’t “compete” with these alpha heroes on the page. When they read one who shows the hero as human, learning as he goes, if often turns out to be a good thing.  For a man who is clueless how to romance his wife, it can be a great example of how to relate to the ‘romance needs’  and imagination of their real life woman.

Though I don’t think that men will ever be our main readers, the ones who dare to open the cover can find a lot of insight into how we think.  Have a favorite and powerful romance story?  Read it with your guy. And tell him why.

Christine Bush is the award winning author of many books and novellas of sweet romance and light mystery. When she isn’t writing, she can be found working with clients as a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice, or teaching Psychology at a local college.  She lives with her family and two crazy cats in northeastern Pennsylvania, and loves to hear from readers and aspiring writers.


  1. What a great post Christine! And neat suggestion to have your clients read romance novels. Love it! So far, I've only gotten my husband to read one. And it was the one based on our beginning relationship, so he had a vested Another great nonfiction book on male/female communication styles is You Just Don't Understand by Deborah Tannen. Very insightful as well.

  2. That is really thought provoking. My husband would rather see a romantic movie than read a romance novel, but I can see how the same principle might apply. Thanks for such an interesting post!

  3. I agree with Mel ... movies can a quicker way to a guy's heart. My husband hasn't picked up anyone else's romance novel yet, but we have curled up in front of movies like "Return to Me" on numerous occasions. And he does read my books before I send them out to the publisher. He makes some really valuable suggestions!

  4. Wonderful post, Christine! Except for prison mail (just got another letter today) I don't hear from many male readers. I would love it if my dh wanted to be a helpful reader like Sierra's husband!

  5. I never thought about husbands reading the romances along with their wives, but I can see how enlightening it might be for them. (And I'm now wondering if I should judge me level of success on when I start receiving prison mail, hahaha!)

  6. What a wonderful idea, Christine. I bet you get some surprised reactions when you make this suggestion to couples you council! My husband reads romance novels. In fact he reads anything and everything, romance and women's fiction among his choices. I've read that in India, the largest audience for romance is among men. I wonder what that says about those romantic Indians.