The lovely Adrianne Wood is joining XOXO today to chat about the romance genre, or what she calls, “relationship wisdom.” (Love it!)

A few year ago, I was seated next to an older gentleman on a plane. He looked at the book I was reading—a romance novel, naturally. I looked at the book he was reading: a thriller. After some small talk, he ventured, “Aren’t those kinds of books…simplistic?” And he nodded at the novel in my lap.

I paused, for this was the first time a stranger had questioned my reading choices. But I didn’t want to get riled up with this nice man, so I turned the question back on him, with a little twist: “Has your love life been simple?”

He chortled. “No way.”

And that was the end of that.

Romance novels focus on the relationship—the complicated, ever-changing, and bone-deep satisfying relationship. Romance novels feature the thorny paths the hero and heroine have to traverse to reach mutual love, showing the reader the obstacles (lying!), the challenges (nosy mothers!), and the joys (scorching the sheets!) of building a relationship.

The value of trust is the keystone to my romances. Building trust, breaking trust, trusting without evidence. Trusting in the relationship even when everything else is shifting shadows, obscuring truth.

In my first western romance, Badlands Bride, the hero and heroine know that they’re keeping secrets from each other, and their moment of clarity comes when the secrets finally fall away. In Stowaway Bride, releasing tomorrow, the heroine is keeping a very big secret—and the hero has to decide whether to trust her again (and trust his heart to steer him right) once that secret is revealed.

Maybe trust is my theme because my boyfriend/now-husband travels so much. In the 1990s, I used to know which hotel he was staying in, because that’s how I could call him when he was on the road. Now I have just his cell phone number, the occasional Facebook check-in, and a lot of trust.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe every romance holds earth-shattering wisdom about how to build better relationships. But just about every romance has some kernel of truth, and I firmly believe that people who read a lot of romances have a stockpile of those kernels—especially if you read many different authors, as each author has her own insight that she’s trying to impart.

So as you dive into your next romance, don’t consider it just a “guilty pleasure.” Consider it “relationship wisdom.” Maybe you’ll even use that wisdom in your own relationships. I hope so! While the happy ending of a romance novel is what makes reading so satisfying, it’s the happy middle of the romance where all of us are living our real lives.

Happy reading,

Adrianne Wood