Variations on the Romance Genre

Monday’s post was my contribution to a blogfest… a circle of blogs related to a single theme with links to facilitate movement between them. Its theme was “Romance… or not so much” and after reading all the different posts I couldn’t help marvel at how many different relationships have a romantic flavour.

A year ago I would have denied my novels were romances and, while they were written from my Christian worldview they certainly weren’t Christian fiction. For years I said I wrote light suspense or cosy-style mysteries although they weren’t really cosies. Trying to identify a sub-genre in mysteries was impossible. I’m still not sure they are genuine romances either, and yet I’ve mellowed.  There’s romance hiding amidst suspense. Sometimes, as in our blogfest, it’s the “not so much” kind, but there’s enough caring and personal connection to qualify.

The Romance Writers of America’s website says, “Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.” That gives writers a lot of latitude, but at the same time it was here that I found the inkling of an explanation as to where my stories best fit.

Among their Sub-genre descriptions I discovered:

  • Romantic Suspense — Romance novels in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.
  • Inspirational Romance — Romance novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs (in the context of any religion or spiritual belief system) are a major part of the romantic relationship.

Suddenly my last two novels fell into place as “Inspirational Romantic Suspense”… not one sub-genre, but a combination of two.  An earlier one is “Contemporary Women’s Fiction” but there are seeds of romance and suspense in it, too. Who’d a thunk it? The self-professed critic of romances and Christian fiction is now writing a version of both.

What genres were your earliest writings and what genre are you writing in now? If there has been a change, what influenced the evolution?

~

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6 thoughts on “Variations on the Romance Genre

  1. If I were to write another novel, having considered the first finished, published or not, I possibly would switch to another genre. If I were to speculate about the readership my first novel would draw, I’d say young adult and young married women. The genre is Christian mystery, to the best of my understanding. I’m hearing that writers should select a genre and stick closely to whatever guidelines exist for it. This is not what I did on my manuscript. Naive as I was and perhaps am, I just wrote my heart. Blessings to you, Carol…

  2. joylene says:

    It’s hard to open up to the possibility that the concept of Romance has changed. I’m quick to announce I writer suspense thrillers, yet all my novels have a love element. What I really need to understand is that love makes the world go round, and a lot of readers love love stories. I’m rethinking my earlier assumptions. Thanks, Carol.

  3. territiffany says:

    I began with Inspirational Romance and now find myself writing women’s fiction with seeds of romance. But still not sure that’s where I should be:)

  4. elderfox says:

    Interesting, Carol. I believe most of my efforts have been in the “romance” genre, although in some of my historical (American west) efforts there are romantic elements…but I suppose it just comes down to what publisher(s) you send to in the hope of being selected. I believe “genre” can too often override our creativity. You write mystery it can have romance in it. etc.

  5. Thanks for a thoughtful post, Carol. I like to experiment with different genres. My writing began as a series of journal entries and short stories about a family, focus on one member of the family …

    The next time I went to my favorite, mysteries, then to romantic comedy, paranormal romance/suspense and romantic suspense. The short stories and the journal writing give me material for characters and plots, and I plan to use them some day for a series of novellas.

    I have two books I am concentrating on sending, my paranormal romance and the first mystery. Genre is an overused word that really serves publishers and booksellers in knowing where to put you. Don’t give in to becoming a square peg and experiment and enjoy all types of writing.

  6. Carol Ann – Writing your own heart isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes that’s what keeps a writer within the same genre, too.

    Joylene – It’s reality that love/romance exists so it seems reasonable that we find some of it in every story, regardless of the genre. If it dominates, it’s a romance; if it doesn’t, it’s whatever else the story is about. I think that’s why I was having trouble labelling ‘Refuge’, because romance wasn’t the primary theme.

    Terri – As Carol Ann mentioned, maybe writing from your heart without trying to label the genre will lead you in the right direction, although what I didn’t say to her is when I did that my earlier stories tended to wander without purpose. 😮

    Earlene – With their American West flavour would your stories be considered historical romance or are they too contemporary for that?

    Florence – You really have explored a lot of different genres! Have you not found one that’s a more comfortable fit than the others? It’s fun to experiment while you have the opportunity and freedom, but once you’re published in one genre and have developed a following, I’d think your readers would look for future work in the same genre. I know if my favourite mystery writer published a sci-fi, for example, I’d pass on it because I don’t read that genre.

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