Romantic novels of the Harlequin and Mill and Boon genre are the cause of marital breakdowns and unwanted pregnancies according to the British Medical Journal.

An article by Susan Quilliam, a relationship psychologist in the Journal of Family Health and Reproductive Health care, says that the problems dealt by the Family Health Clinic mostly had their roots in aspirations generated by devouring of these novels.

Her counseling experience suggests that most women base their expectations on what they have read in these novels than any family counseling clinic.

Family clinics advice on the stresses of child bearing and that marital sex is not always wonderful and a proof of loving. In short the ideal that these novels promote are very hard to achieve.

Another study done by Edinburgh based Heriot Watt University’s Family and Personal Relationships Laboratory of 40 Hollywood romantic comedies found that problems typically reported by couples in relationship counseling centers reflect misconceptions about love and romance depicted in Hollywood films.

Some revealing statistics about Romance Novels

So what is it about romantic novels that it is the most widely read genre of all. It has a market share of $13.6 billion ahead of both religion/ aspirational and mystery market shares which hover in the region of $700 million.

The largest share of consumer market is romance novels at 13.2 per cent. (Source Business of Consumer Book Publishing).
Romantic novels have also figured in the best selling lists of most newspapers of the US. The genre is so popular that it is the number 2 category of all e-books sold, according to Amazon.com

Long relegated to be escapist literature meant for female teens and the frustrated in life, the readership demographics may leave some reeling.

 Around 60 per cent of romance readers are married. The readership age-group is between 31-50. More than 22 per cent of readers have a college degree or equivalent and 10 per cent hold post graduate degrees and only 5 per cent have high school or less. (according to 2009 figures given by Business of Consumer Book Publishing and RWA-Romantic Writers Association).

Romance novels have always borne the burden of being relegated to trashy literature which went against all laws of feminism. It promotes happily-ever-afters with the white picket fence and 2.1 children.

Romance vs Reality

According to Phillip Hodson, a fellow at the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy who said in an interview to Times magazine that romance provides a much needed source of hope and inspiration for the unattached. We need to live by stories that help us deal with tough realities. Idealism has a role to play — it can convince us that no matter how misshapen, decrepit, or dull we are, there is someone out there for us. And you know what? There is! Walk through any shopping mall and you see the most extraordinary pairings, he said. We all need hope in our lives.”

Romantic fiction trades on these hopes. The reality is to be able to distinguish between what can be and what is.