What is Romance?
Exactly how much “romance” does a novel have to contain for it be considered a romance novel?
I’ve been pondering this question for a while now. Is it as simple that at the end of the book the male or female protagonist ends up with the person they’ve been flirting with? Is it the amount of sex in the book, and by sex I mean sex other than casual sex? Is it as simple as love, two characters that weren’t in love when the book began but are when it ends?Let’s take my latest book, If Love is a Lie, for an example. I list it as a romance, but there’s a whole lot more to it than your standard formulaic romance. The first third of the book is Emily’s relationship with her internet dating scam artist. Hardly a worthy romance! The next phase of the book is her working with the FBI to bring her scammer and his gang to justice. There’s a growing attraction between her and the FBI agent assigned to the case, but really this section of the story is more crime/action/adventure. The last section of the book is where she’s forced to make a choice about the direction of her life. She’s caught in a love triangle between her scammer and the FBI agent. In the end she makes her choice and they ride off into the sunset together to start a new life. The last section is very dramatic but I suppose it would fall into a romance category. I’ll admit I like love triangles. There’s always a happy ending in my books but I like to keep the suspense of who she’ll be happy with until the very end.
So is If Love is a Lie a romance novel?
Sometimes I think romance is like vampires. My book series (The Purity of Blood novels) has vampires in it. Is the fact that they are vampires central to the story? No, but because there are vampires in it, it’s automatically “Paranormal Romance.” Personally, I don’t feel that classification is warranted, but a vampire is a vampire and if even one creeps into a novel, it’s automatically a paranormal book. This makes me wish there really was a vampire in the world, just one, a friendly one preferably, but just that one would make the paranormal … normal. Thus my “paranormal romance” could be classified as just romance.
As with vampires, I think any book with kissing involved gets unfairly classified as a romance novel. Is If Love is a Lie a romance? Yes … and no. I think folks who like and those who dislike romance novels would both enjoy it.
Yesterday I wen to lunch with a friend and asked him this same question, how much romance is enough to push a book into that category. His reply was if the central theme of the book was romance, than it’s a romance. A logical and well thought out answer. With that in mind, I’d say my series (The Purity of Blood) is not a romance series at all. The central theme is the development of Sara from the innocent girl she is at the beginning of the series to the strong woman she is at the end. Are her romantic relationships part of that development? Yes, but even stronger in it is her relationship with Randall, her grandfather. But seeing as Randall is a vampire … I’m still stuck with the paranormal label. Oh, well. C’est la vie as the French say.
Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.
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