There's an interesting post over at AAR. A poster writes, "I think romance novels are death to normal, real relationships. You start thinking all that action, adventure and passion is the norm in the real world. You start to look for a man with romance novel hero traits...I have learned romance and passion are the execption and not the rule. But in the romance novel world it's the opposite which is probably why we read them. Who doesn't want romance and passion in their lives. But real love in the real world with real men is something completely different."
Well. I couldn't disagree more. Sure, romance novels present a somewhat idealized portrait of love. But it's fiction, people. I can't see how a book about love is more problematic than, say, a horror novel with dead bodies littering the landscape. Which isn't to say that horror novels are responsible for creating mass murderers, either. Again, it's fiction. Most readers don't find their reading undercutting their ability to live life, or causing them to confuse fiction and reality. If they do, that probably says more about them than it does about the genre they read.
Yes, if you start comparing your real-life husband to a Brava or EC hero, he's going to come up short, so to speak:-). So what? If this is a problem for you, it's time to close the book for a minute and repeat to yourself, "This is fiction." If this is a problem for you personally, then yes, maybe you should quit reading romance for a while. But this doesn't mean that romance is "death to normal, real relationships" for the rest of us. Reading romances hasn't made me unhappy because DH isn't built like a bodybuilder, or because we don't generally make love fifteen times in a two-hour period. I like DH the way he is.
Besides, I disagree with the implication that "real love in the real world with real men" doesn't involve romance and passion. After fourteen years, I still love DH with every fiber of my being, and he still loves me beyond all possible reason, too. With four kids infesting the house, passion is necessarily limited, but it's still there. Romance and true love do happen in the real world... and that's not fiction.