So why romantic fiction? Perhaps we should be asking the buyers who spent $1.36 billion on romantic fiction books in 2011!
I am a reader too, and while it's been some time since I read romantic fiction avidly, getting back into it again has reminded me of what I loved about it before. Writing in the genre is even more exciting. You have some control over how the story goes, but once the characters are out of the box, they take over certain aspects and they drive how things unfold.
So what do I enjoy most about romantic fiction?
Falling in love.
If you haven't already done this in your life, then you get to live the fantasy of what it might feel like if it happened to you. Guess what, when you have fallen in love, it is so enjoyable that you want to re-live those emotions over and over again. Perhaps some readers need to hang onto the falling-in-love honeymoon period because their actual relationship has drifted into dullness. I can certainly empathize with this from previous relationships, and it's not a great place to be. But even when your relationship is alive and exciting, many years on, remembering what it felt like to fall in love is just like looking back at your wedding photos. It brings back all the excitement and reminds you of why you fell in love in the first place.
That's the only explanation I can think of for why I can never get enough of watching the end of You've Got Mail, or Sense & Sensibility for that matter...or Pride & Prejudice...or reading the last chapters of Jane Eyre...
Ignore all the anthropologists and biologists who go on about natural selection and pheromones and biological compatibility (though I'm sure there is truth in all those things as well). Falling in love is a strange, mysterious and wonderful thing. I highly recommend it.