Romance Is Not Enough

My web banner says I write love beautiful stories; it does not say I write beautiful romances. Why is that?

In part because love is a shorter word and I thought it looked better, but also because I’m not sure how a book would read when for 400 pages somebody is only in the grip of a powerful romance. I equate romance with a highly hormonal, infatuated, lusty and not very realistic stage of a relationship between adults, though my parents, married for more than sixty years, still have an element of romance in their relationship.

One can also be passionately entangled with a job, a pursuit, an identity, as in, “I adore my job,” or “I was born to serve on the town council.”

Love in a romance novel is a different beasty. Love as one preacher told me, “has wheels under it. It moves, it does things.” His observation applies often in child welfare proceedings. Never in twenty years of participating in child abuse and neglect cases have I come across a parent or care provider who did not profess to love their children.

I question their word choice, though. If you love your kid, love them the way a hero or heroine has learned how to love at the end of a good book, then you show up to visits with that kid, you attend your drug treatment sessions, you give up the nasty relationships that lead you away from what it takes to parent the child you love. You walk the talk.

I am not judging here. After five generations of crappy parenting, mental illness, addictions, poverty, and social and institutional prejudice, any family that can turn itself around in less than a generation is pulling off a miracle. I am, however, pointing out that love has to be more than just a yearning in the breast, more than a sentiment if it’s going find its way into a book worth reading. Children need to know that sentiment is there, but they need its application to life as well.

The amazing, remarkable, wonderful thing is that I see that kind of love too, and I see it, of all places, in a courtroom. I see parents who disappeared into the bottle ten years ago claw their way back out. I see women who’ve dated more Bad Choices than you can imagine stop that pattern. I see guys learn to fight fair who’ve been busting on people with their fists since they were in grade school.

They transform themselves not because jail is the alternative—most parents in child welfare court are not facing criminal charges (moreover, punishment as a deterrent only works when it’s immediate and certain, and our legal system ensures it’s neither). They do this because they love their children, and it’s the kind of love that motivates startling, unbelievable change, much of the time.

Love is serious business. It transforms, it heals, it compels honesty and compassion when dissembling and indifference would be more convenient. Romance is all well and good—much fun and big pyrotechnics—but if I’m going to write an entire book about the progress of two people in a relationship, they had better be in it for the love.

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5 comments on “Romance Is Not Enough

  1. So true. There is a song with words something like “Love isn’t something that we feel, it’s something that we DO.”

  2. Your recent post reminds me of an email I wrote to a friend June 2011 recommending your books after she asked about them. “Grace Burrowes writes under the romance genre, but she really writes loves stories. Grace has published only two so far, the first is “Heir,” the beginning of a series about a family of legitimate and illegitimate children who were all raised within a loving family. She includes humor as well as sex, but it is sex that includes deep feelings. I think she enjoys exploring love in all its forms.”