I had the most interesting discussion with someone on the subject of romance novels.
|“Come on and kiss de Girl”|
Based on that discussion, I thought I’d see what others had to say about what is or is not a ‘Romance Novel’. Some of the language seems to rule out LesFic or Gay Romance; I don’t necessarily agree with that. A romance is a romance.
I write across genres, depending on the story. However, I have two romances: The Orphan’s Tale and The Safeguard, both set in the 19th century, one in Paris, the other in 1864 Georgia. They are love stories; one ends with a kiss, the other with the heroine rising to stand, beaming, as her returning lover rides across the lawn toward her.
That said, here are some definitions:
This blog post from a while back has a definition I endorse:
A story about the growing love relationship between a couple that has an HEA ending. There may be other elements, but the love relationship and its progression should be the focus. Because of this, there should not be lengthy separations between the lead characters. There should be, however, an emotional bond with the reader that develops out of their story, and it doesn’t matter whether the bond is laughter or tears or a strong sense of lust.
Another, quoted there, says:
A romance is just like any other type of fiction out there; it can be mystery, suspense, science fiction, historical, western, comedy, even horror. The only differences are that the story concentrates on the relationship between the lead male and female, and the book is guaranteed a happy ending.”
RWA (Romance Writers of America) are a little more limited:
Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.
A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.
Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality-ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction.
Finally, there is this summation:
A novel is generally considered to be romance fiction if:
1.A love story is central to the plot – The main idea of the story must be that two people who are in love must struggle through obstacles to their having a relationship. While their can be sub-plots (job, family, etc.), the love story must be the main element that drives the narrative. And…
I love you, I love you, I love you – I do! But don’t get excited: I love monkeys, too!
2.The ending is emotionally satisfying and optimistic – The appeal of the romance novel for many is that the struggles of the lovers are rewarded and the risks they take pay off in a happy ending for them both.
*Timeframe – Romance novels can be set in the past (historical); the present (contemporary); or even the future.
Most normal men would opt for armor…
*Setting – Whether the Scottish Highlands or a made-up universe or even Topeka, romance novels can be set anywhere. The story can take place during a family reunion or a murder investigation (which would put it in the romantic suspense subgenre).
Sand in swim trunks: the essence of romance!
*Hero – He can be an “average guy” (as long as he looks better-than-average with his shirt off); a man in uniform (whether military, fireman… or kilt); or not even a “man” at all, as happens in the popular paranormal subgenre (“Hello, Werewolf!”).
*Tone – The sexual explicitness of romance novels ranges from demurely warm (the inspirational genre is generally not explicit) to hot and steamy… to super-sizzling.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Sheik springs to mind as a very good illustration. Women were swooning over that book in the 1920’s. Having read it, myself, I have to say that it is an excellent illustration of The Stockholm Syndrome, and I do wish that Diana (no relation) had had the gumption to brain him and his spineless buddy with something very heavy. Several hot-sellers from the 70’s, in which the woman is repeatedly raped (and just loves it) do not, to my mind, qualify as romances, but nevertheless fit the various descriptions, though (to my mind) with one or two of them, the HEA (Happily Ever After) consists of being stuck with the Nasty One, whether male or female, for the rest of their life.
I think this is a topic that is not going to go away, and I tend to enjoy listening to the arguments. Besides, when has the presence of romance, in whatever form, *not* lent spice to a story?