It’s no shock that romance has always been stigmatized. Too often, the genre is viewed as frivolous, fluff literature strictly for women. But romance is valuable in ways that often get overlooked.

With Romance Awareness Month having just come to an end, I spoke about the topic in detail on a recent episode of the One True Pairing podcast. Here are some of the critical points.

I think it’s crazy that the romance genre gets bashed. Ultimately, I feel like it’s what every person is striving for. Everyone wants to fall in love – we want to be happy, we want to be linked with another person. That’s one of the most basic elements of being human.

If we want the romance stigma to stop, readers first have to embrace the genre—we love love, and we’re proud of it. Many of the emails and letters I get from readers praise romance for helping them get through hard times and made them softer toward the people in their lives. So will romance save us all? My hope is that as more and more people embrace the genre, it’ll bring more happiness and love to the world.

Once non-readers get over the stigmas, the best way to start reading romance is to just dive in. One of the best things about romance novels is that there is seriously something for everyone. Whether you want regency romances that whisk you away to the Scottish Highlands or you’re looking for some paranormal Bigfoot erotica, you can find romance about it.

Everyone is different—think about what you want out of a plot and characters to help figure out what works for you. Do you want something steamy or are you looking for a sweet, laugh-out-loud storyline? And keep trying different genres to find out if you’re more of a rom-com reader or looking for some angst in your storylines.

And when in doubt? Ask a romance blogger. Most read across the entire genre, and while they might have their favorite tropes, they can point you in the right direction when it comes to the many subgenres. Reaching out to an author is great, too—they can share the book that brought them down the romance rabbit hole and why they keep coming back for more.

We have so many types of romance novels. That’s the great thing—there are so many varieties, I really think there’s something for everyone.

To hear Lauren’s full interview on the romance genre, listen to the One True Pairing podcast.