(This is a reposting of one of my most popluar posts on Goodreads.)
When my mother was 80 years old, she got married. The groom was 82. They shared 8 years of active companionship together and died within months of each other. Now that's romantic.
In a highly abridged version of the tale, my husband once commandeered an idle road department front-loader, drove it through a fence and up a hillside in order to get me to safety when I was suffering an attack of heat exhaustion while out hiking. Was that romantic? Heck yeah! My knight in yellow armor came to rescue his damsel in distress and let no amount of criminal activity get in his way.
So just what does constitute romance? Webster's describes it as: 1) a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural. 2) a prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usu. heroic, adventurous or mysterious. 3) a love story. 4) an emotional attraction or aura belonging to an esp. heroic era, adventure or activity.
Wow! That definition certainly broadens the scope when it comes to genre. Going by Webster, it would seem that a vast swath of literature could be classified as Romance. Yet the publishing industry has so narrowed the parameters of the Romance genre as to reduce it to a lackluster, repetitive monotony, differentiated only by the amount of sex thrown in. (My apologies to the Romance writers--I in no way mean to degrade your abilities.) Often, even basic love stories that don't follow the prescribed litany of the Romance genre are pooh-poohed and fail to qualify. Since when is a love story not romance? According to Webster it is. But then again, if it were up to Webster, too many men would be stuck reading such romantic nonsense as "The Game of Thrones," or "The Lord of the Rings," and we wouldn't want that, would we? So we sever all ties to romance, give them the more masculine categories of Heroic Adventure, or Fantasy Adventure, and blithely allow the industry to keep our conception of Romance as something usually sappy, mundane, and relatively shallow.
I believe in expanding my horizons. As an author, I do not like being shackled by genre, and as a reader, do not understand why the publishing industry keeps manipulating the public by congesting the arena with ever-new, ever-narrower genre classifications. Not only is it confusing, it restricts the reader from discovery, for if the gates were left open a bit wider, one might accidently stumble upon a wonderful new reading experience. I know I have probably rejected reading a number of great novels simply because of my own genre biases, yet had they been listed in a wider arena, might have caught my eye.
To me, a panoramic view is much more exciting than a snapshot, yet by restricting ourselves to narrow genre, we accept the snapshots, never to know what lies beyond the edges, just out of sight.