What if you were asked What is a Romance Novel by someone who doesn’t read romance novels? A relative asked me this question. She’s an educated, well-read person, so I wanted to give her as good an answer as I could.
Romance novels can be incredibly diverse, encompassing history (like me), suspense, elements of women’s fiction, comedy, paranormal, inspirational – you name it. They can also vary by tone from light “romps” to darkly emotional. But what they all have in common is that they are telling the story of a romance. The book is about the romance. The story is the romance–How two people fall in love and find their happily ever after. The happily ever after is essential. A romance is not about doomed romance or tragic romance. It is a celebration of successful romance.
What I mean is, an historical romance is not about the historical events; it is about how two people manage to find love together. Historical events might impact on them, but the story is about their romance. Same with Romantic Suspense- the story is not about—say—a murder mystery. It is about how two people find love together while impacted in some way by a murder mystery.
Because of the focus on two people falling in love, romance novels are basically character focused. And because nobody would read a book about a romance that goes smoothly from first meeting to the wedding day, there has to be conflict. There must be forces driving the couple apart as well as the attraction between them that make them fall in love.
Romance novels today mostly have strong heroes and heroines. Gone are the victim heroines who must passively be rescued by the hero. Heroines need to act on their own behalf just as much as the hero. Characters must be three dimensional and must act in sensible ways or in ways that are understandably motivated.
There are some “mostlys” we see in romance novels:
The hero and heroine are mostly together for most of the book
The plot is mostly fast-paced with a major turning point in the middle of the book and a “Black Moment” toward the end.
Okay….so, how did I do?