I used to be so scornful of romance novels and their creation. How hard is it to smack together a female and male? He's handsome, she's orgasming ... game over, novel complete. Stuff in a Happily-Ever-After in the end and presto! You have yourself a book, one that will be gobbled up by scores of blissfully ignorant readers. 

I was wrong. I can't even go into all of the ways that I was wrong, it would suck up your entire Saturday. 

I started off writing romance, and have jumped around a bit since then, writing a suspenseful series, and now--my first contemporary fiction. It is so strange being out of the world of romance, and writing a book where there is no sex or romance. It's also incredibly liberating. 

Romance novels are often slammed for having a formula. There needs to be love. There needs to be a happy ending. @@Few realize how difficult it is to write within romance guidelines and still deliver a unique read.@@ How do you write a love triangle that's been done a million times and make it different? How do you surprise a reader, or keep them guessing, when they know a happy ending is coming? How will your friends-to-lovers romance stand out against a thousand others?

Self-publishing has changed the landscape of romance drastically. Fifty romance novels used to be pubbed a month. Now, we have fifty in an hour, or possibly a minute. The market is flooded, and setting your novel apart from others, while still playing by the 'rules of romance' is incredibly difficult. 

Now, in my strange new world of contemporary fiction, I'm almost giddy at all of the possibilities. My main character could die! Or she could end up the villain! She could get divorced, or be a spinster, or a cheat. I can write characters of any age, and they can all be unattractive, or dull, or any combination of the three. All of the walls, all of the restrictions, are gone. I can write anything, as long as it holds the reader captive for those four hundred odd pages. 

I was sitting in my office when this epiphany occurred. I looked over all of the spines shoved into my ancient bookshelves. I thought of all of the struggles that I had fought while writing them. I had a newfound respect for them, and for all of the others on the shelf. 

Romance is not a fluff genre. Our readers are not robots that gobble up anything we put out. A romance novel requires the reader to be affected--they have to fall in love with your hero, and to believe in the passion. They read vicariously, on average more than once per week, and have grown very selective--a requirement when faced with so many options.

It's time that romance novels got the respect that they deserve. Then again, let's look at the numbers. @@Romance novels earned $1.4B last year, compared to suspense ($700M) and fantasy($590M).@@

With that type of earning power, does respect really matter?