Let’s talk about romance novels!
Sometimes it seems like romance is the most hotly contested genre out there. There are the naysayers, the ones that dismiss the entire genre. And, in my opinion, that is a travesty. Dismissing any genre, usually based on some preconceived (and often wrong) idea of what the genre is really about, without trying out a few books, is closing the door on some potentially great reads! But the arguments aren’t just from those naysayers; it’s from those who read the genre.
I call it the Romance Wars, the war among readers of different subgenres of romance. People can get angry about their romance loves and hates. It seems like everybody has a different idea of what a romance novel is.
Webster’s dictionary defines romance as a love story, which, at its heart, it is. And the Romance Writers of America says that a romance has to be central to the story and that there has to be an HEA/HFN ending. Which makes sense. A romantic story needs a happy ending.
Or does it? What about Me Before You by Jojo Moyes? I would call that a romance, but the ending definitely wasn’t a HEA. Or All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Or practically every Nicholas Sparks novel, ever. I would count every one of them as a romance, but none of them have truly happy endings.
There are those that say that, for a novel to be considered a “romance,” the love story has to be more than 50% of the story. So what happens if a book overlaps with another genre that is just as important, or even more, than the romance? Does that make it less of a romance novel? Like Twilight, for example. I would definitely call those romances, but the paranormal part is definitely crucial to the story, as important if not more than the romance. Or the True Blood/Southern Vampire books by Charlaine Harris.
For me, a love story doesn’t have to be central for it to be a romance of any subgenre. Yes, it needs to be important to the plot, needs to be more than just a little side story, but it doesn’t have to be the main thing. If you could take out the romance elements and it would totally change the story, that makes it a romance for me. But if you could take it out and it doesn’t change the story, then it’s not a romance. Does this make sense?
So what makes a romance novel for you? Happy endings? Or any emotionally satisfying ending? The bulk of the story being the love story? Or having it simply be important?