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The Language of Romance
 by Ken Pelham


Valentine’s Day has come and gone, its annual rites pointing us to the coming Spring, that glorious season when birds sing and bees hum, amorous glances are exchanged, and love and romance lilt delicately in the air.

Wait a second. Let’s think about the word “romance.” As analytical writers consumed with the meanings of words, why do we call things about love romantic?

Like most good stories, it’s an unusual, twisty tale.

The secret is in the root of the word. Romance is built upon Rome and all things Roman. All roads lead to Rome, don’t they?

As Rome organized and built its early sturdy institutions, it felt the need to expand beyond its little neighborhood in Italy. Soon the whole peninsula became part of the fledgling empire. And then much of the Western world. The empire stretched to the English Islands, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and into Asia Minor.

Empire, unfortunately, comes with a thousand ministerial headaches. Rome found itself trying to govern myriad cultures with wildly differing native languages. In typical imperial overreach, Rome told the peoples of these newly occupied lands, “We’re the bosses now. We make the rules. And we insist that Latin be the language of the society.”

But Latin defies an easy pickup, with its difficulties of grammar. Locals clung to their native languages while bringing in much of the vocabulary of Latin. What arose in some places were hybrid languages. These collectively came to be known as Vulgar Latin. Not because of crudity or naughty words, but because the Latin word vulgaris referred to the common people.

Today, five languages make up what we call the “Romance languages,” the ones most heavily steeped in Latin. Italian is the most obvious, but recall that Rome was just a small chunk of Italy when it first aspired to empire; other regions of Italy had their own distinct languages. The other Romance languages are French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian. The latter, Romanian, even announces its Roman roots with the very name.

Around the year 1300 or so, “romance” came to refer to tales of chivalrous knights errant, many of them involved with maidens fair, often with timeless love affairs sparking between them. Now we begin to see the connection to the modern definition of romance. Hearts aflutter, and all that.

With the Norman conquest of England in 1066, French, laced with Latin and blended with Norse—because they were Normans–merged with Anglo-Saxon to lay the foundation of modern English. In short order, it was all but unrecognizable from the Old English of Beowulf.

By the end of the 18th century, in a rebuke of the rational ideals of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, as an artistic and philosophical movement, became the thing, harkening back to the heightened emotions stirred by tales of the medieval era. The term and movement embraced emotion but didn’t directly have much to do love, although pioneers of romantic love stories, like Jane Austen, fell under the umbrella of Romanticism. Remarkably, although novels built on love stories have been with us for a couple of centuries, romance as a specific genre wasn’t really recognized until the 1950s.

Thus concludes our romantic history lesson. So buy the flowers and chocolates, brush up on sweet nothings to whisper, become a hopeless romantic, and do so in the confident knowledge of the etymology of “romance.” This does not excuse binge-watching Lifetime movies, though. Just sayin.’

 

 

From Foreplay to Positive Messages:

Why People Love Romance Novels

By Kara Skinner  

 

 

 

 

 

Growing up, romances were considered the worse books to read in my house. At least certain romances were. Chick lit and high school romances were acceptable to read on occasion and classics were always fine. But traditional romances with a man and a woman embracing on the cover? Those were trashy, poorly written, and only worth reading for the sex scenes which probably made up at least half of the book's contents.

After a certain age, I was allowed to read whatever book I wanted to, but romances were still looked down upon as the least valuable genre. However, by the time I hit middle school, romance novels were just too tempting.

Since they're available at every place ever that sells secondhand books, it wasn't hard for me to find romances and form my own opinions about romances. And it wasn't long before I really liked them, so much that I started my own blog to review just them. And millions of other readers love them just as much.

There are a lot of stereotypes involving avid romance readers, like desperate spinsters, lonely women, and curious teenage girls. But the truth is, the majority of romance readers are college educated women who are married and have fulfilling lives. So even though there is a level of escapism, there's a lot more to the appeal of romance than that.

Many women, myself included, like it for the positive messages in the books. The heroine almost always has insecurities about her body or her wits or personality and yet the hero is still completely enraptured by her. For instance, in Lord Braybrooke's Penniless Bride by Elizabeth Rolls, Christina Daventry is incredibly insecure about her financial means, looks, and heritage. As the bastard daughter of a nobleman, she is only one wrong move away from being on the streets. However, somehow she captures the heart of Lord Braybrooke without even really trying. While people could chalk it up to the fact that she's really beautiful without even knowing it, that's not true in all romances. In Morning Comes Softly by DebbieMacomber, Montana rancher Travis Thompson marries a woman he doesn't think it beautiful in the slightest. However, he ends up falling in love with her anyway. While not everyone thinks finding love is the ultimate goal in life, in romance books, it means happiness. Romance books say that everyone can find happiness without changing who they are.

While the positive message is attractive to readers of all ages, others, especially teenagers, have another reason to read romances.

"They help me study for SATs," a friend once told me, laughing. "It's strange, but where else am I going to read words like florid, staccato, and amorous outside of vocab exercises and classics?"

She had a point. Despite my family's thought that all romances are poorly written, I have noticed that I need to turn to the dictionary with them more than any other genre. It's not so much that they are trying to hard to be 'intellectual'. It's more that there is a lot of emotion in romance books, even more than other genre because the main storyline is an emotional connection. Sometimes, 'happy', 'sad', and 'angry' just doesn't cut it so the writer turns to bigger and less-used words to describe their characters and their settings. While this isn't really a reason to read romance books, it is a bonus for some people. I know I'm not the only one who thinks so. In the guidance counselor office at my school were some romance books with the SAT study material that had been picked out for their vocab usage.

And of course, plenty of people read romance for escapism. Many like the idea of a man completely devoted and focused on them, without the distractions of social media, sports, or work. Some compare reading romance novels to foreplay because in romance books, the women always have the men's full attention, which is also true for foreplay. For those in the teenage crowd, they like experiencing romance in the books because they are curious or their own love life is lack-luster from slim pickings at their school. But even those satisfied with their love lives love romance books for escapism because they don't just show an ideal relationship. They also show an ideal world, where there's always a happy ending, family reunions are fun without the stress, and bad hair days are once in a blue moon. Even dystopian worlds are considered ideal, because they are full of excitement and danger, unlike our usual, monotonous yet safe lives.

No matter what your reason is for loving romance, if you are as avid a reader as I am, you probably burn through the books easily. Sometimes I can read as many as four of them a month. Actually romance readers read more than readers of every other genre. Scribd actually had to remove the majority of their romances because the cost of the books the readers were reading exceeded the amount they were getting in subscriptions. However, it's often hit or miss on if the romance is good or not. Even the tight genres provided by Harlequin and Silhouette can have a few duds in a brand you normally like.

The best way to get good romance recommendations regularly is by following a blog, like mine, Lover's Quarrel, which can be found at https://loversquarrelreviews.wordpress.com/.Even though authors can request I review their books, I only write honest reviews on my site. And unlike other sites, I try to point out specifically what I didn't like in the book and why so you can make up a decision for if you would like the book or not. After all, not even the best romance book is right for everybody. If you would just like some quick recommendations, then you can also read my article "Romance Novels Worth Paying Retail Price For" where I recommend some of my favorite romance novels. http://karaskinner.hubpages.com/hub/Romance-Novels-Worth-Paying-Retail-Price-For

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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