I write romance novels…okay, and paranormal as well as murder mystery novels. BUT my first love is romances. As a teen I read Jane Eyre and loved it. Still do. Back then the idea of calling it a romance was the farthest thing from my mind. Yet the novel fits the description today by which we measure any novel called a ‘romance’…the relationship between two people and an ‘emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending’. The printing company Mills and Boon (British) began printing romances in the early 30s through Harlequin in the US.
My first introduction to a true romance novel was in 1972—as was a few million other readers. Author Kathleen Woodiwiss wrote a novel called The Flame and the Flower. A lovely story filled with hero, heroine, danger, misunderstanding, romantic love and resolution into ‘happily ever after’. BUT the reader wasn’t sure at all if that HEA ending would ever come, so well did Ms. Woodiwiss create her tale.
So what makes a novel a romance? A story that is long enough to include the couple’s developing relationship as well as the interaction with the secondary characters and events that threaten their final happy ending. BUT the story can’t be so long that it bogs itself down in countless details and characters. Readers simply give up on such. Sex is expected in a romance novel but it doesn’t have to be the bang-bang of two bodies slapping together. Rather it’s the touches and glances, the tension that builds when two people desire but refrain from doing anything about the growing attraction. By the way, waiting until the last two pages of a novel for the characters to come together physically is frustrating to a reader. Finally the author should be mindful of the audience when writing, especially a novel set in an age other than present. Historical and futuristic novels can use words and phrases unfamiliar to the reader and totally throw off a scene when the reader goes ‘huh??”
So as a writer, I create a girl and a guy, give them buddies and someone to fight with then throw a kitchen sink of trouble at them all. Sometimes the hero starts out looking like a bad guy and the antagonist (the villain) looking like the good guy. In the end I better have switched the two roles and answered all the questions I raised in the novel or my readers will throw the book down and never glance my way again.
A fate worse than death—to a writer.