As with any genre of fiction, romance and romantic fiction has its own tropes and conventions. They may not be strictly ‘realistic’—just as the aliens in science fiction may not be realistic, or the detectives in crime fiction may not be realistic, or the monsters in horror fiction may not be realistic.

Genre fiction serves the needs and desires of its readers: not the needs and desires of reality.

If you’re not familiar with the tropes and conventions of a genre, then your criticism of those tropes and conventions might come across as naïve at best, and hostile at worst. Especially as you were presumably a male-presenting person in a largely female-presenting professional space, your naïve and curious question could have been understood as criticism or antagonism.

Writers of romantic fiction are often unfairly targeted for writing fiction rather than fact, and we are overwhelmingly targeted because of misogyny and/or ignorance of the genre. We have all been dealing with it, for a very long time. There are articles in the freaking New York Times about it. We deal with casual denigration of our work on a near-daily basis. So it’s probably not surprising that your question was poorly received, even if you did not mean it that way.

Women, like all people, deserve and enjoy purely escapist fiction. Many women (including women who have been sexually assaulted or who have experienced unhappy relationships) read romance because they LIKE the ‘unrealistic’ depictions of straight cis men. It’s such a refreshing escape from real life.

And writers of escapist fiction know that they’re not writing realist fiction. They know what their readers want, and as accomplished professionals, they provide it.

I hope this helps you decipher your experience.

Written by

I’m a Sunday Times bestselling novelist and creative writing consultant. My latest novel is SPIRITED. Twitter: @julie_cohen

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