The Difference Between Love and Romance

Romance writer Nana Malone loves love.

“Every romantic comedy…I’ve seen twice. I’ve watched Love Actually probably 22 times,” she says.

Of course rom coms and romance novels aren’t known for their realism.

“The pragmatist in me knows that that’s not real,” Nana continues. “You know, the whole, ‘we had this big fight and he flew across country and showed up on my doorstep?’  In real life that doesn’t happen—there’s no grand gesture.”

So what does happen in real life? And how does that translate to romance novels and romantic movies that make us swoon?

I sat down with Nana to answer that question and find out the truth about love and romance.

LWJ: What’s the difference between real life romance and romance in novels?

Nana: I take the bits about how real people meet and fall in love and amplify them by a thousand. That’s how romance writing works. My stuff is rooted in real moments in people’s lives. Sure, romance has to have a happy ending but it has to come from an authentic place.

In Sexy in Stilettos you have this girl who is a hyper nothing-can-be-out-of-place person. She meets someone that’s beyond carefree. These people are extreme versions of Eric and me.

In real life, I act like a ball buster and say inappropriate things but I still know how to have good behavior. Eric is spontaneous and carefree but he’s also the most solid person I know. If he weren’t so solid, that would make him unreliable. But it makes for a great character.

How so?

It all feeds into what women want as a fantasy. Bad boys are always in, so I look for people who are deeply flawed but who have a really good soul. Women want to see a bad boy who was a womanizer, but love changed him. There’s a reason navy seals are so popular. Women think they want to be married to one but no, you really don’t.

There are these macho men running around but most women don’t really want to date them. That guy’s an asshole. In real life, that guy has problems.

I love a beta male, and beta males are very in right now. They counteract the alpha, Vin Diesel type. They’re your best friend; they’re more emotional and talk more, so they can be more romantic in word and gesture.

The truth is, though, no one wants a beta guy either, he’s a whiney bitch-ass; he’s the guy from Say Anything. And that guy didn’t get laid.

[Bottom line]: You wouldn’t take home your book boyfriend.

Are romance novels and rom coms misleading than?

I always feel like I should put a disclaimer in my books: “This is a book—a work of fiction.” In the real world these characters would be more muted.

I don’t actually believe in love at first sight. Yes, there’s instant attraction but that’s lust. I am a firm believe in love at first conversation. People grow on people.

Romance is work, but no one wants to read about work.

How is romance work?

Love is the easy part. You can love dogs and cats. You can love what people do and say. Even after people break up they still say, “I love him; we just couldn’t make it work.”

Love is the thing that’s always in the background.

Romance is the keeping up of that feeling and that’s a lot more difficult, especially the longer you’re in a relationship. To keep the love going you have to focus on the romance.

How do you keep the romance going?

Romance is knowing who your partner is and how to make them feel special. Flowers are nice and yeah, I’m a girl, so I wouldn’t turn them down, but that’s not gonna cut it. Romance shows that you’re paying attention and know what your partner needs.

You have to really know the person to pull off romance.

Nana Malone is a USA Today Bestselling author. Her books are available on

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