Fri 18 Nov 2011
This week over at Smart Bitches, SB Sarah summarized a recent conference (link may be down; understand they are doing some work on the site) she attended. What caught my attention was the disagreement between Dr. Mary Bly, who writes as Eloisa James, and the President of the RWA (Romance Writer’s Association) over a topic that – at first blush – seems very simple: What is romance?
The RWA Prez had been judging a Food Network Romance Cakes cooking competition. She ruled out one of the finalists because it showed a married couple. She said books featuring a married couple weren’t romance novels.
It’s an interesting question. What is romance? What books fit the genre? I guess every reader and every writer has their own definition. To me, a book is only a romance if it fits three key criteria.
First and foremost AND forever, amen – to be a romance it must have a happy ending. By that, I mean that by story’s end the hero and the heroine must have committed themselves to more than a relationship. They must have committed themselves to each other forever. (My definition of a happy ending is pretty strict for such a loosey goosey duck lady, isn’t it?)
Second, the book must focus on the relationship between a couple. And third, the book must focus more on internal than external action. It’s both an exact and a very loose definition. But I don’t think every book that many consider a romance fits. Several of Nicholas Sparks don’t fit the definition because there’s no HEA. Gabaldon’s “Outlander” doesn’t fit for the same reason.
A romance novel is a tale of the heart. Action, interaction, scenery and setting are window dressing. Emotion creates the story, emotion carries the story and emotion concludes the story.