Can men get into Romantic fiction?

My name is Justin, I am an administrator on Festival of Romance online and Mr Kate Allan. I have read one conventional romantic novel in my life if you do not count Pride and Prejudice, the Lady Soldier by my wife and Michelle Styles.

I am a history teacher by trade and can day dream and empathise with soldiers of the First World War or medieval people or practically any period of history. I am also not the conventional man in that I am not  at all interested in watching sport. These questions occur to me when considering why I and most men are not interested In romantic fiction:

Is romance a female genre that it is impossible for most men to get into? Is it too female with its female heroes excluding male interest? Are men just hard wired differently to women with a view of romance that is much more situational and less relationship orientated and so do not enjoy fantasising about new or other relationships unless they are unhappy with their partner? Or am I kidding myself and do men actually fantasise about relationships via new men orientated books such as those written by Nick Hornby?

Am I simply not looking at the genre properly, letting preconceptions and stereotypes get in my way or is it simply a female orientated genre?  My guess is the latter and that even if romance novels were written from a male point of view for males (not by a female author for a female audience e.g. Mr Darcy’s Diary) it still wouldn’t work?

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Comment by Justin Nash on June 8, 2012 at 17:15

Rhoda, I just looked up Matt Dunn and I agree with you. The book I looked at from Matt Dunn I saw has something akin to the film 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall'. It is as I have said previously in this post romantic plot lines from a male perspective are normally about a man picking themselves up, dusting themselves down and along the way finding a woman who helps/leads them back to happiness (also runs through High Fidelity etc). Hugh Grant specialises in this.

Comment by Rhoda Baxter on June 8, 2012 at 15:56

I've only just stumbled on this topic. It's an interesting one. Especially as Romance is such a wide ranging genre.

I wonder who Matt Dunn's readers are? His books are very blokey. Definitely romance. Lad Lit, if you like.


Comment by Francine Howarth on September 28, 2011 at 10:53



I'm coming back to this, Justin, because I think it's an interesting (if not intriguing) topic! I still think millions of women are little different than men in choice of reading material, yet romance remains on the whole the domain of women.  


How we as writers define romance is interesting in itself, and even more interesting is how editors at publishing houses define what is and should be romance according to the rules. What rules? Who invented the pseudo rules of romance as we now understand them to be?  It's all very well for eds to say, yes, but we've been selecting romance stories for donkey's years and we know what sells!  The latter "sell" being the optimum word, which fits snugly with idealistic belief in the status quo. That's not to say the main romance publishers haven't moved with the times, as in open bedroom doors and steamy sex. After all, at one time, sex in a 1950's romance novel was kind of taboo and a ubiquitous fading out scene moved a reader on to next chapter, to the holding hands scene where magic of dreamy eye contact and shameful thoughts of what had occurred (though not in detail) and presented as the after glow. Yeah right, and for years women were left wondering if the hero was really good in in bed, and could he rock a woman's world or was he just a wam-bam-thank-you-ma'am kind of feller. These books were and and most still are totally unsuited to a male audience, because they're based on female fantasies of the ideal mate, And the truth being these stories have changed very little in basic content, of boy meets girl, falls in love, element of inner conflict Vs outer conflict, the main themes being silly misunderstandings easily resolved with sensible adult behaviour, secret love child and can't possibly tell the father because ... or some other dreamed up barrier to keep them apart long enough to fill the required page count. Sound familiar?


Here's the crux, though. If the main romance publishers are providing what they believe all readers of romance are seeking from a romance novel, then why are there so many women writing romances way off the mark for requisite guidelines (pseudo rules) laid down by these same publishers. Fabulous reads I might add. And why are there women like me, millions of us, seeking something more than just a romance from a romance novel? I think it's because women have moved ahead of the publishers in not wanting just a romance with chocolates, sex, flowers and angst of lovers' in turmoil over love alone. Many of the male POVs are laughable. What male in real life broods for hours or plots and plans a counter move to secure his heart's desire with exception of a strong love bond that already exists? Men are much more impulsive than that, or they shrug their shoulders and think bugger, better luck next time.


I, like a lot more women forever seek that elusive ingredient of real taste much like men, and cannot get my head around the convoluted romantic fantasies one sees on book store shelves, and I hate book covers depicting half stripped male and silk-clad females. Come on publishers, get real and put a real man on the cover: a uniform, suit, the whole business. He's my interest, he's the one I'm going to strip with my eyes at first glance. I'm far more likely to pick up a book about a hero like Hornblower, or a brazen pirate, even a beautifully dressed female with a hint of something dangerous or intriguing within the image than I'm ever going to select a couple in posed clinch and bedroom scene! Don't get me wrong, romance stories are no less escapism from the world at large in the same way men disappear into dark elements of crime (me too), or that of a Sci-Fi universe, but do all women have to be subjected to closeted cosy romances defined by pseudo rules of engagement per sub-genre of romance?  No! Hence we're buying more and more self-published novels readily available on Kindle. And yes, some

Comment by Talei Loto on September 26, 2011 at 22:48

Hmmm, I think it would make sense to take a poll with Male readers to find out why they read certain genres.  I don't think we'll ever see a great male audience with Romantic Fiction or Historical Romance, this is clear.  

Tony Parsons is an author who springs to mind in terms of a males POV with modern relationships - and I think his humour is appealing to a lot of male readers. 




Comment by Justin Nash on September 26, 2011 at 20:17
I think personal preference does indeed play its part, but I also think that in my own case it is not lack of sentiment. I can empathise with many people and their situations. I have to do so on a daily basis, even if it is explaining people's actions in the past. I think where I can agree with the comments made so far is that most males require the emotional and relationship orientated stuff to be bolted onto something else. How essential this is can be seen from crime fiction, where many detectives are either lonely or have suffered a personal tragedy (witness the killing off of Lewis's family as a device to deepen his character). Isnt this in truth about relationships, but without the thrill of the chase prevalent in a lot of romantic fiction (forgive me for a generalisation)? I also come back to people like Nick Hornby, whose characters often ultimately need a close loving relationship (so maybe this is a kind of romance).
Comment by Talei Loto on September 26, 2011 at 18:28

My guess is that you probably know why you're not interested in Romantic Fiction, maybe it's all of the above questions?  I couldn't answer it for you but I'd guess, its an individual preference shared by A LOT of blokes. ;-)  Most male readers I know seem to lean towards crime fiction, thrillers and biographies of the self-made millionaires.  I'm not sure what that means but each to their own, I say.  



Comment by Deena Remiel on September 26, 2011 at 0:04
I believe that if romance is "cloaked"  in a particular way, if it is more of a complement rather than the central theme, men can enjoy romance in a novel. I was surprised to find men reading my novels, but when asked why they read them, they said the romance, although important to the story, it wasn't thrown in their faces page after page. Instead, the storylines intrigued them. 
Comment by Justin Nash on September 25, 2011 at 20:08
Agreed. Sex and death.
Comment by Francine Howarth on September 25, 2011 at 19:23

Tudors, aye, fun indeed. But what I was getting at was the fact that it's light pornography disguised as historical drama, hence men don't fall asleep while it's on the screen.

Darn it, I'll give sway to "barrack room language" as more direct:  great w*nk fodder!  So are steamy romances for women, and men often do well in bed after a hot romance hits the bedside table. ;)    

Comment by Justin Nash on September 25, 2011 at 18:27

A bit harsh on the Tudors, great fun, who cares about historical accuracy and Henry VIII looking in his twenties! You have to have a sense of fun (kind of a horrible histories approach for grown ups).


I think we agree again. It is interesting that each example you cite has something added beyond what might be expected for some conventional romances to hook men in which makes my point entirely. A friend of Kate's came round today for Sunday lunch and the subject raised here came up (as I raised it) and he agreed that romance can be read by men but usually not conventional romance, it needs to be an element in another story. At university he had to read some Mills and Boon novels (I guess for a literature course) which lo and behold was brought up by his best man at his wedding as being an unusual thing that he had done at University,

I rest my case!


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