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Are Romance Novels setting unrealistic expectations for readers?

Expectations can be either what you look for in a partner in terms of their physical appearance or what you want in terms of emotional stability and companionship. And in most cases, it will be both. 


Talking about the physical aspect of it, recently I stumbled upon a reel showcasing the heights of a few of the popular ‘book boyfriends’ where the reader was comparing their heights to her. The reel was harmless because it’s about preference. But what got me thinking was all these characters are above 6’. Some of them even 6 '4’’, 6 '5”, cut to, I went back to some of my recent romance reads and every single one of them fell in the same category. Of course, there are books with all sorts of representations but it will take you a lot of Google searches, maybe going through a few Goodreads lists and some specific book bloggers to find those, you might not find it at the #tiktoksensation table or best-selling shelf, and I feel that is where the problem lies. One of my favorite romance novels is Book Lovers by Emily Henry and Charlie, the MMC is shorter than Nora. They work in publishing and they have the cutest love story and the main character doesn’t need to be some tall hunk. Toned guys with six or eight-pack abs isn’t something abnormal but let’s face it, they shouldn’t be standards as well. Setting unrealistic body expectations is not just setting you up for disappointment it’s also unfair.

Then comes the other stuff, this is where romance novels win. Be it a contemporary romance novel showcasing love between two people with normal 9-5 jobs, billionaire MCs falling in love with their assistant or even a dark romance that has its audience, the men in the books win our hearts with their small gestures and by their love and care. One of the romance quotes I recently saw while scrolling through Instagram said, “If you love someone, you show up for them. It’s that easy.” And I couldn’t agree more.  So if it truly comes down to having our expectations set by romance novels, holding someone responsible for not appreciating them, making time for the theme isn’t unrealistic. Unrealistic expectations might be something grand, something not possible, messaging your partner and checking up on them when they are not well, isn’t unrealistic. 

If as readers we can find the perfect balance with all sorts of body representations for both men and women, because the books are out there, the onus lies on us readers to get them on the popular books table, romance novels are only helping us realize what not to settle for.    Author: Akansha Choudhary

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