Monday 6 April 2020

The Power of Writing

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

In September 2018 on this blog, I wrote an article about how romance novels can empower women. I mentioned how modern romances cover a whole host of hard-hitting issues women face such as rape, abuse and loss of children. I also discussed how romances are culturally relevant and promote discussions about love and relationships and it really hit me how much romance writers as a collective group have achieved and how much a story can not only impact on an individual life but on society in general.

Literature isn’t just a form of entertainment. It’s a powerful platform. It can provoke us into deeper thinking about controversial subjects, challenge the perceptions or prejudices we may hold and teach us so much—all while presenting us with a riveting story.

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Some authors have specifically set out to ignite burning questions and their stories have become classics that are still studied.  Earlier this year, my youngest daughter had to write an essay on George Orwell’s 1984 – a book that I had studied over thirty years ago when I was at school. What a powerful story that is.

George Orwell used his literature to push his political viewpoint and I doubt there are too many romance authors who write with that intention. Having said that, there aren’t too many romance novels (Romantic Tragedies such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet aside) that are perennially studied. But, when I thought about it I realised that there are a lot of contemporary romance novels that make mention of pressing issues that are relevant in our society.

I don’t think it’s necessarily been a conscious decision by the author to bring these issues to light. I feel it has most likely been an organic part of the story, relevant because of the characters’ beliefs, values, difficulties and general life experiences.

I have never set out to write romances as a platform to highlight some of the problematic issues of the world. After all,  by their very nature, romance novels centre on the development of the romance between characters and how each character becomes stronger because of the romance and none of us who read romance want to be diverted from that by a whole host of heavy hitting side issues. But if authors are penning believable contemporary romances, the characters must surely have been touched by some real issues that are present in modern society. Who hasn’t been?

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When I reflected back on some of the issues relevant to my characters I was surprised by the diverse range of issues that have been mentioned in my stories. I won’t list them all but Logan from Roses for Sophie was campaigning against the use of Blood Diamonds. Chloe from The Irresistible Royal was a lawyer fighting a legal case against discrimination in the workplace. The Formidable King briefly mentioned a dictator in Africa who used child soldiers. The Irredeemable Prince highlighted the need for ongoing measures to be taken against drug dealers. And, in my latest release, Seduced by the Billionaire (12th April release date), both the hero and heroine involved me in a whole host of issues relevant to society—all completely character driven!!

Despite all those issues, I wouldn’t think that they stand out in the readers’ minds and I hope they don’t because they weren’t essential to the romance but they were very relevant to who the characters are.

Are you aware of a romance novel you’ve read where you’ve learned something interesting, or one that’s highlighted a societal problem?

Love to Love: The feeling of emotional connection to characters in romance novels and the satisfying HEA in a story that has delivered entertainment, escapism and on some level has also been educational or thought-provoking.

Love to Laugh: At romantic comedies.

Love to Learn: I love learning as I read romances – whether it’s interesting little facts about life in historical times or in contemporary romances something about a city, culture, occupation or an issue that’s occurring in society.


  1. Hi Alyssa. Thank you,t thank you for talking about the fact that novels are not just entertainment, how they often bring into focus the realities that exist in life. Yes, I read for entertainment but the stories that get to me, that I remember are the ones where the characters have experienced in the past or are experiencing in the present things that have happened in reality. I have read of one heroine with breast cancer, another with a brain tumour. I have read of a hero with PTSD after fighting in Afghanistan. Of I have read romances dealing with child sexual abuse, being the child of a serial killer, being a victim of a mass shopping mall shooting. All negative issues but they show how the characters grow from the experiences into beautiful people. On the plus side, I read a romance where the hero had won the lottery jackpot and all the good things he did with the money. And what a bonus for me that you mentioned George Orwell and 1984. My favourite, favourite book of all! I, too, read it for my HSC and I credit the book for making me who I am. It is because of the main character, Winston, and his struggle to be himself rather than one of the masses that influenced me. I didn't have to be like the other girls, didn't have to be in their clique. Sadly, Winston lost his bid for individuality and became one of the masses. I swore I never would. For him and for me. And here I am, individual. I have to stop now.

    1. I'm glad my thoughts resonated with you Enisa! The issues can be memorable. The trick is making certain they're central to the characters and their challenges and development.
      I hope you read many more entertaining novels that provide escape even while rooted in reality!

  2. Love this post, Alyssa, and totally agree with you about novels highlighting issues. I've read 2 in the last couple of weeks that have done exactly that: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, highlighting the awful plight of refugees, and Marry in Scarlet by Anne Gracie, a Regency romance which picked up on the way women often forfeited all their money, possessions and rights to their husbands when they married (but *this* hero and heroine were having none of that!). The latter is out in May. I'm fond of the saying 'everything I know I learnt from a romance novel' - and, quite often, it's true! Thanks for reminding me! And I love George Orwell's novels, BTW. I finally read '1984' in … 1984!

    1. Those stories sound fabulous! Marry in Scarlet is on my wish list but the American Dirt is one I'll look out for.

  3. Hi Alyssa! Great post, and so relevant! It made me think back to my own Rural Romances. In The Farmer's Perfect Match the duplicity involved in creating reality TV was central to the core of the story, and in Falling in Love Again the effects of domestic abuse were highlighted. Romance certainly points a spotlight at modern realities.

  4. Marilyn, your stories are perfect examples of these modern issues being faced by our modern characters. I think it's really great for readers to see real challenges being overcome. Even if our characters are fictitious, the way they handle real life issues might hopefully provide some hope and inspiration right there in the midst of a great read.

  5. My debut book A Scandalous Wager was about how gossip and bullying tactics can really have an effect on people's perception of the truth.

  6. Hi Alyssa, thanks for such an insightful post. I read The Irredeemable Prince recently and loved it. I'm now reading your other novels in that series.


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