Monday, October 17, 2011

Fairy Tales Vs Romance

I saw it again this week: “Romance novels, like fairy tales, lack realism; they make women believe a handsome prince is going to rescue them with promises of happy-ever-after.”

Oh, please!

I loved fairy tales as a girl, but spent not a single second gazing down the road for my prince. It’s my considered opinion that those who use this analogy know fairy tales only from Disney movies, particularly “Cinderella” with its dreamy-eyed heroine singing “Some Day My Prince Will Come.” This makes for a seriously skewed view. And if you really want to set me off, try telling me men and boys have no problem with fiction versus reality in male-oriented stories such as 007’s exploits or “The Sword in the Stone,” while women and girls, poor weak-minded creatures that they are, can’t distinguish between female-oriented fiction and real life!

In fact the basic theme in “Cinderella” is far from being Female Rescue. As in most enduring fiction, it’s actually the battle between good and evil. Gentle, down-trodden Cinderella gains the love of her prince in spite of unreliable miracles and the machinations of her wicked stepmother and stepsisters. “Sleeping Beauty” has the same premise with the addition of a warning against trusting schemers and strangers. “Rumpelstilskin,” with its twisted little man who forces a young woman to spin straw into gold, features a heroine who triumphs through intelligence, plus a caveat about males who profit from female labor. “Beauty and the Beast,” instead of encouraging female attempts to redeem violent, abusive men, as some claim, is about compassion and seeing beneath surface appearances. And its secondary message, as with “The Princess and the Frog,” is that every prince need not be handsome. “Rapunzel” illustrates the essential truth that women can change what happens to them, since the prince-hero is unable to reach the eponymous heroine in her lonely tower until she decides to let down her long hair as a rope. And the list goes on.

My point here is that neither fairy tales nor romance novels lack core realism. Both address serious issues, both reward the good and punish the wicked as they hold out the gift of hope. As romance authors and readers we should ignore critics who use slanted comparisons to belittle our genre—or suggest they take a closer look at their own fantasy and reality.


Since publishing her first book at age 27, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to write over 65 historical and contemporary novels in multiple genres. She brings the story-telling power and seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her 8th-generation Louisiana heritage. Jennifer lives with her husband in northern Louisiana.

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