Romance, Romance Novels

What Jane the Virgin Taught Me About Romance Novels

I’ve said before that I prefer romance novels over television shows. And while that’s still true, I have to mention the exception to this rule: Jane the Virgin. Now, if every show was as compelling as Jane the Virgin is, perhaps I’d have a problem. (Or perhaps not, since I’m fairly certain the reason I love this show so much is because of its resemblance to romance novels.) But this quirky, sweet, smart show is my favourite. And because I write about romance in this blog, I’m going to share why that is in a way that has everything to do with romance, and nothing to do with my obsession with Jane…

Jane is a heroine you can relate to…

And this, my friends, is probably the main reason I love the show (and Gina Rodriguez!) so much. When we meet her, Jane is twenty-two years old. She’s in a serious relationship with a handsome guy, is heading toward the end of her teaching degree, and has secret dreams of being a romance author. If you swapped ‘teaching degree’ with ‘linguistics degree’, Jane would basically be me at twenty-two.

If you can’t relate to her, you want to be her. Which is why a heroine like Jane is exactly the kind you want in your own romance novels. (See, this is working!) If your reader is a woman – and she probably is – she’ll want to see herself, or the person she wants to be, in the romance novels she’s reading. It makes it easier for her to root for your characters, and helps get her invested in their journeys.

What about the heroes?

Now, bear in mind that Jane the Virgin is a television show, and so there has to be more conflict than we’d usually find in a romance novel. (I’m really getting into this now.) Which is why the show offers us two very different romantic heroes. We have the dorky, protective guy next door in Michael…

…and the rich, slightly arrogant Alpha male, Rafael.

Each of these heroes appeals to different romance audiences. Michael is the everyday hero who appeals to romance fans who want ‘real’ relationships. He’s sweet, reliable, and exactly the kind of guy you’d want to be with in real life. Rafael is more of a fantasy hero. He’s a rich, Alpha hotelier (a trope I have a special place in my heart for), with a redeemable heart. Did I mention he’s also Jane’s baby daddy? Yep. Poor Jane.

By providing two very different heroes, this show appeals to a wide audience. This has taught me to challenge myself to do the same in my own writing. If I’ve written an arrogant Alpha in one book, I try to go for a more compassionate hero in another. (He doesn’t to be a Beta hero. Which is a challenge of its own, but very doable.)

But Jane the Virgin has further resemblances to romance novels…

It has strong, female characters

Romance is often celebrated for being written by women, for women. And that’s clearly seen in Jane the Virgin. Jane has strong, confident women around her who take charge of their own lives. They have agency in their stories, and aren’t merely supporting roles to a man’s lead. (It happens.) This happens in romance novels, too. In the best romances, strong women are abundant. And if she doesn’t start out strong, rest assured she’ll get there!

New takes on traditional romance tropes

The first and most obvious example of this is the accidental pregnancy that starts the Jane the Virgin series. Jane is accidentally artificially inseminated with an old flame’s sperm, and becomes pregnant even though she’s a virgin.

There are plenty of other tropes (mistaken identity, one-night-stand-babies, couples reunited – it’s a really awesome show), and each is treated completely legitimately, just like in romance novels.

Which brings me to my final point…

Pursuing dreams is a completely legitimate option

Now, this might be my obsession talking, but one of my favourite parts of Jane the Virgin is how seriously it takes pursuing dreams. Particularly Jane’s dream of being a romance author.

Dreams are important to me. Without them, I wouldn’t be published. And I believe that watching a show where dreams are encouraged – and where the dreams of women, women of colour, and women who want to write romance are encouraged – will help inspire young women to believe that they can achieve their own dreams, no matter what those dreams are.

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