Here's a little-known fact -- in addition to writing young adult fiction, I'm also a published romance author. A MATCH MADE AT CHRISTMAS, THE PARAMEDIC'S RESCUE, and NOBODY SAID IT'D BE EASY are all contemporary romances, a genre that is ridiculously lampooned and insulted.
Critics dismiss romance fiction, labeling it as 'mommy porn' or claiming it gives readers unrealistic expectations of men, love, and relationships. It's clear the people making such claims have never read a romance novel.
Romance fiction contains the KEY to winning at love. Here's a clue -- it's not bodice-ripping, and it's not owning a helicopter, a yacht, and a red room of pain.
In today's romance novels, you're likely to find relationships built on foundations of mutual respect. Hereos are strong but that's not all they are. They're flawed. They have problems and issues. Heroines are not weak today. Today's heroines are often independent and steely-spined women who don't need saving, but hope to find a partner, someone willing to share the load for the long haul. In today's romance, you're likely to find same-sex main characters as well as differently-abled main characters.
Twilight and its successor, Fifty Shades of Grey, are two of the most frequently ridiculed pieces of romance fiction. (Spoiler Alert: Fifty Shades was first written as Twilight fan fiction.) Whatever you may think of the quality of writing, both novels feature deeply flawed heroes. Edward and Christian are both stalkers, both scarred by the lives they've led until they meet their respective love interests. For Edward, his guilt as a prodigal son returning to the Cullen family to endure life as a 'vegetarian' vampire following a decade of murderous hunger has convinced him he's a monster and therefore, unlovable. For Christian, his inability to bear the human touch he so strongly craves but can only be overcome through his BDSM arrangements, convinces him he's incapable of any other sort of relationship. Edward meets Bella, Christian meets Anastasia, (again, both women are the same character), and learn to respect those women as entities separate from themselves. Bella is not merely a food source; not merely another giggling student in high school. Anastasia is not merely a sub to dominate, not merely an object for his fantasies. Once that point of respect is attained, the love blooms.
There are infinite stories arguably better than these in which this truth is further evident. The best romances are ones in which both main characters demonstrate a profound respect for each other. Today's romances are stories of hope, forgiveness, redemption, and yes, love -- the one emotion every single human being ever born has sought. Why should anyone find reason to dismiss that?
Yet, they do.
Pick up any novel by Nora Roberts, the reigning queen of romance fiction. Nora writes contemporary romance, paranormal romance, romantic suspense. In ANY book you choose, find the moment when the respect is shown -- and SPOILER ALERT -- it always is.
In a society where the president pays porn stars for sex and hangs out with unscrupulous sexual predators, books that promote mutual respect should be, IMHO, on every reader's TBR list. I write my young adult novels the same way, showing the respect my characters develop for each other. In SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW, older brother Derek Lawrence spends much of the novel figuring out how to fix his relationship with his sister, Ashley, raped by his teammate in a scavenger hunt gone horribly wrong. It's not until Derek learns to STOP framing his sister's assault and subsequent healing in HIS terms and begin recognizing and accepting her as a being separate from him, as fully human in her own right, that we see his growth.
If you want to learn to the secrets to finding love, read a romance. They're all in there. You just have to know where to look.