Monday, February 8, 2010

The Romance Genre

Romance. Romantic Suspense. Historical Romance. Inspirational Romance. Paranormal Romance. Contemporary Romance. The list goes on and on. All of these genres have one thing in common--romance.

I have no idea how many genres of fiction there are, and it seems as if new genres pop up often. However, I do know that romance novels are still wildly popular, and I predict they always will be. But maybe you're not familiar with romance. Sure, some of the books you've read have been romantic, but have they been romance novels?

When a book's genre features romance as a primary tag, you can bet on one thing: the book is about two people falling in love. Their love is the primary objective.

In a romantic suspense, two people fall in love in dangerous circumstances. In a historical romance, two people fall in love in a past time period. In an inspirational romance, two people fall in love and grow spiritually. In a paranormal romance, two people--or creatures--fall in love in a paranormal setting. In a contemporary romance, two people fall in love in modern times. The key is that the main story is about two people falling in love.

If you're at all confused about the genre of your book or a book you've read, study the plot. Romances start and end with the romantic journey. The hero and heroine meet relatively quickly in the book, and the last thread that's wrapped up is their romantic dilemma. Also, the couple will share most scenes.

If the plot begins and ends with anything other than the love journey, the book most likely is not a romance but contains romantic elements. It's important to have a good grasp on the difference between the two when querying agents and editors.

Do you read romance novels? What draws you to them? If you don't, what turns you off about them?

Join me on Wednesday when we'll look at romance as a sub-genre.


  1. Good morning! You know I love a good romance. I've struggled with figuring out if romantic elements make it a romance or does it have to be purer--like you said--starts with one and ends with it.

  2. Jill, thanks for the explanations. Now all those categories make more sense to me. I read and write mostly YA. Lots of YA novels have romantic elements to them. One of my current WIPs does.
    Have a great day!

  3. You know, I can honestly say I'm not sure I've ever read one! For shame...right? :D But I know this great romance writer about to be published. ;D
    ~ Wendy

  4. Oh, I think all of us have read some romance. Even Superman or Star Wars has a thread running through it,right?

  5. I love romances and the obstacles the hero and heroine must overcome to be together. IMO, all stories are enhanced when including an element of romance!

  6. Hi Jill,
    I love romances, especially when combined with suspense. I love to read them...and to watch them (TV, movies.) One of my fave Mission Impossible movies was No. 3. Tom Cruise was quoted as saying his goal was to make a "love story." While there was plenty of great action, the power of the movie (for me) was the story between the Tom Cruise character and his (new) wife. Patrice

  7. It's such a fine line between some of the genres, as you've pointed out here. And it's so important to differentiate when querying. I generally read commercial/women's fiction, often with a romantic thread running through it.

  8. Good Morning!

    Terri: It's tricky, isn't it? One of my favorite author's latest books was touted as a romantic suspense, but it really was a suspense with romantic elements. The main plot was the suspense, while the romance fit between. Very romantic, very suspenseful, but not tagged correctly in my opinion.

    Paul: With romance being as popular as it is, it couldn't hurt to mention the romantic elements when pitching your YA!

    Wendy: Ha! That's okay, I stick to the books I love best, too! And you're the sweetest thing ever!

    Tess: Yes! Lois Lane, Princess Leia--both are strong heroines, and both made me love the movies.

    Georgiana: Hear, hear!!

    Patrice: Oh yeah! I loved the first Bourne Identity movie for the same reason. Yum!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. Joanne: I never realized how important identifying our genres is until this year. And the more writers I talk to, the more I realize how confusing the genres are!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  10. Thanks for clarifying things here Jill. I've wondered what makes a romance.

    My writing includes romantic threads, but that is certainly not the basis of the plot.

    I could see myself writing a romance in the future...maybe.

  11. I love a good romance, but it usually has to have something else going on for a plot to keep my attention. Just straight romance gets a little boring for me - throw in a murder, history, or something else and I'm good to go! :)

  12. I love reading romance. And I'm with Georgiana...all stories are better for a little romance. :)

  13. I'm not much of a romance reader, I agree with Jaime. A straight romance a tad boring for my taste. Make the romance just part of the story, add some history, adventure, mystery, mayhem and I'm right there.

  14. I love, love, love, romances. And if a little suspense is added, that works for me.

    I used to be so confused about what makes a story strictly romance or another genre with romantic elements--so I thank you for clearing it up for me. You also helped me to realize what's truly in my heart to write. Yay! These romance posts are fun :D

  15. I really have to be in the mood for straight romance, but I always love to read something that has romantic elements in it.

    For me, sometimes a turn off from romance is the covers. *blushes* But the same can be true of any genre.

  16. Oh, I adore romances! And I particularly like how you've defined them. I would have to say, that I'm disappointed in books that say they're a romance, but then wrap up that romantic element too soon in the story. I personally think the romantic conflict needs to play out for as long as possiblecif.

  17. Tamika: It's good to be open to it!

    Jaime: With all of the fabulous romantic suspense writers out there, you're in luck!

    Erica: Me too!!

    CJ: Or all of the above, right? :)

    Cindy: Confusing--I know! And I'm glad you're writing what you're best at!

    Danyelle: I know. The covers can be risque! I really enjoy Steeple Hill's covers. They're always colorful and tasteful.

    Jody: I could yabber on and on about romances all day long. Wait, maybe I should--you up for a coffee?? :)

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  18. I do read romance, but it's not the only genre I read. My novels have romance in them but they don't fall in that genre.

  19. Hi Jill -

    Thanks for clarifying books from other genres with elements of romance. I think my current WIP fits this description. :)


  20. First of all, sorry I have been MIA for the past couple of months, but I'm back!

    I have never gotten into romance novels. Honestly, based on what I've been exposed to, I think of them mostly as (brace yourself) literary porn. I know that isn't true about all romance novels, but I suppose I need some guidance in thsi arena.

    I would love to read a good one. I want to be proven wrong and eat every word I just typed.

  21. GREAT post, as always!
    I do read romance but really like them as a sub-genre. What I mean by that is I like a good contemporary or historical or science fiction with a juicy romance entertwined with the plot.

    Does ANY of that make sense? I am still giddy from Who Dat??????

  22. I love romance novels. I've read all Nora Roberts' novels. But I also enjoy a good love story as part of a wider story. I need happy endings. It's part of my happy trip.

  23. Kristen: I read mostly romances, but I would say 20% of my fiction reading is classics. I could read a cereal box and be happy!

    Susan J: Yay! I love any book with a romantic twist.

    Brittany: I'm so glad you're back! Life gets busy--trust me--I know! There are several grades of spiciness in romance. There are sweet (no hanky panky!), mild, spicy, and burning hot. Romantic Times BOOKReview gives them each a rating based on this. It helps!

    Patti: I hear you! Nothing like a fast-paced plot with some romance thrown in. And I didn't know you were a Saints fan--congrats! First time at the SB and they won. Wow!

    Wifsie: I NEED a happy ending! I get too wrapped up in the sad books and they end up depressing me. Much like the nightly news. I've learned to just say no!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  24. I read probably 98% "inspirational" or Christian romance. I get so disappointed if SOMEONE doesn't fall in love with someone else by the end of the book... I'm a romantic I guess:-)

  25. Hey, Jill! I love me a good romance! I love all kinds of them. Historical, Suspense, Inspirational. You name it, I like romance.

    I hope you're doing well! I've been hit or miss lately while I do some tax returns. There is absolutely no romance in that!

  26. Jill,

    An excellent post and great clarification. I am always struggling with whether I am writing a romance, or not. Now I can see that mine really don't fall into that genre. The question is do I want to tweak my novel or leave it be. I really prefer reading romances and so it is interesting that it isn't what I have ended up writing in any of my books.

    Love the new look of your blog.


  27. I like a romance woven within historical fiction best:)

  28. First of, sorry I haven't visited in a while. I have been 'single Mommy' for two weeks. Hubbie is back now :)

    Thanks for the clarification on the genre. I always wondered what made a book fit that category. seems simple now you explained it.

    I'd love to know- what is your fav romance you have read so far?

  29. Krista: I do the same thing! Someone better fall in love... :)

    Heather: No romance in accounting?? :( Maybe you need to get to the store and buy yourself a romance? Don't worry; tax season will end, I promise!

    Tamara: Trust me, I know how hard this is! Be true to the heart of your book. Just make sure you tag it correctly when querying. If it's more women's fiction, call it women's fiction with romantic elements. Good luck!

    Karen: Oh, me too! There are so many amazing historical romance authors out there. Don't get me started!

    Tabitha: Yikes! I'm glad your hubby's back! It's hard doing it all alone. Your question is a tough one. I love so many!! I'll list my top 5:
    Stephanie Laurens "Devil's Bride"
    Jodi Thomas "To Kiss a Texan"
    Eloisa James "Much Ado About You"
    Julia Quinn "Romancing Mister Bridgerton"
    Mary Wibberly "Man of Power"

    I also am an avid reader of Steeple Hill's Love Inspired Line. Amazing Christian authors!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  30. I love romance novels. I tend to like old classics best.

    I try a new one and it has something in it that's too graphic that I definitely don't want to read.

    Or, I try a "Christian" one and things seen stuck in like prayer or some old lady who is a saint and knows it all and helps the couple along.

    I need to find some good ones, but I don't want to just buy lots of books and our library doen't have too many Inspirational romances.

    I'm open for suggestions.

  31. Nancy: I know. No one wants a sermon in the middle of a romance. If I'm not mistaken, you live in Michigan. You can order books through MLCat. I do it all the time, if my library doesn't carry the book I need. Georgette Heyer wrote Regencies way back when, and they're romantic without the spice. Give her a try.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  32. I love romances, although I don't read them as often as I'd like. The love of too many other genres gets in the way.


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