Type this question into Google and a plethora of results crop up. The ever-cliched Wikipedia definition, which now replaces Merriam-Webster at the top of the search results page (to my eternal horror - but that's for a later post), links to sites that promise to teach "how to write a romance novel," the blessedly reliable link to Romance Writers of America, and many others. But the problem remains: no one seems to be able to put their fingers on exactly what a romance writer is.
My definition is probably far too simple to encompass the true variety of authors who write in this genre, but I'll give it a shot anyway. To me a romance writer is an eternal optimist. No matter what is thrown at the hero or heroine, no matter how many struggles are faced - be it alien scourges, rabid vampires, missing children, kidnappings, struggling marriages, soul-shattering betrayals, or changes that alter one's destiny - romance writers always find ways to provide a happily ever after. They fight, bleed, and weep alongside their characters to provide that ending, the emotional (and sometimes physical) satisfaction that keeps their characters and readers going during hard times.
Yet this somehow doesn't ever get translated to be "literature." At least, not "great" literature.
Funny, considering how many fairy tales we love and adore, most of which have a happily ever after. Or that Disney is still one of the most iconic and recognizable brands out there, despite the fact that their animated films always have a HEA. (Granted, their stories are often sanitized and the HEA added, but I've got admit that I don't want my nieces or nephews seeing the real ending of The Hunchback of Notre Dame when they're young.)
It seems that our culture has determined that "great" things (literature, film, art) must somehow revolve around suffering, pain, and realism.
I feel it's time to bring back the Romantics, the oft-called "naive" leaders of hopes and dreams. I want the stories of successful Hollywood couples over the drama of Chris Brown/Rhianna or Kim Kardashian/whomever-the-flavor-of-the-month-is.
I want to see mothers pass down their wedding dresses to their daughters, watch golden anniversary celebrations, and smile every time I see an old couple holding hands in the grocery store. I want love - the real kind that makes us remember we're human and on this Earth for a damn good reason and not the barrage of misery and failure that inundates our lives.