Last weekend, a friend of mine asked "How can you love action movies so much? You write books about people embracing. You should be with me on wanting something without explosions."
At the time, I made a joke about it just being the result of my multiple personalities, but later, as I thought more about it, I decided there were actually a lot of similarities. I like both because both appeal to similar instincts in how I feel a story should run.
Genre Driven: Both action movies and romances must follow a certain pattern of events or else they aren't satisfying to the audience. Many use that fact to criticize both as fluff entertainment, but don't seem to appreciate that writing a compelling story is an exercise in skill, particularly when that story must meet certain audience expectations. Thus there are a lot of very skilled writers in both romance and doing action screenplays.
Larger Than Life Heroes: Action heroes and romantic heroes have certain qualities in common, though I can't quite put my finger on what they might be. Perhaps a visual aid would help:
What was I saying? Oh yeah. The heroes (and heroines) of both romance and action are larger than life. They are able to cope with situations which would leave most of us sadly dead or broken in real life and do it with relative ease. Need to rescue someone from an international slave ring, break through bullet proof glass and drive a car backwards through the streets of Peru? All in a days' work for these ladies and gentlemen.
Character Growth through Romance: There is a reason why the hero rescuing an ex-spouse is such a universal action trope (the other one being when they are forced to work/protect someone they don't initially get along with). Through the development of the romantic subplot, the hero gets to show character growth. Granted, a romance novel will explore the relationship as it develops while an action film will imply more than explore, but the seeds are still there.
Happily Ever After: It's not an action movie if the hero doesn't succeed. Those are called tragedies, or possibly, the Watchmen. And it's not a romance if the couple doesn't end up together as well as having succeeded in their personal goals. Critics see this as a flaw, but I see it as a strength. The audience of both genres literally knows how it will all end. This means that a writer must be very skilled to still create tension and drama to keep us interested, which has led to some very clever and nuanced plots.
I'm not claiming every action movie or every romance is a gem. But there are a lot of quality stories in both genres, which is why they've remained so popular. Those who dismiss both as frivolous are missing the strengths of the genres. They both offer hope. Hope that the world can be a better place and that what we dream isn't as impossible as we fear.