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Just what is "romance" fiction
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
Posts: 1557

PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2008 11:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure I understand why the definition is an issue. What's the actual problem with being broad? Is anyone actually out there publishing My Friend Flicka as a romance and deceiving people?
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
Posts: 2064

PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2008 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

willaful wrote:
I'm not sure I understand why the definition is an issue. What's the actual problem with being broad? Is anyone actually out there publishing My Friend Flicka as a romance and deceiving people?


I don't think that people who post here, by and large, have problems with a "broad" definition of romance. However, if you look at the threads under "Romance" on amazon.com, for example, you'll find all sorts of readers who announce firmly that they won't accept/read as romance:

virgin heroines
experienced heroines
TSTL heroines
virgin heroes
heroes who are rakes
heroes who are alpha males
heroes who are beta males
medievals that mention religion
regencies
arranged marriages
sports themes
romantic suspense
couples who have a "history" (married and separated, etc.)
couples who just met
erotica
inspirationals

and on and on and on. Any author who tried to meet these requirements all at once would end up with no book to write Smile
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
Posts: 799

PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2008 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure you can get much more restrictive than the RWA definition without running into all sorts of problems. For example, I think the list veasleyd1 put up is less a list of things that don't belong in romance than a list of things some people don't like to read, and I suspect that the people who started those threads would agree.
Nobody likes every example of a genre, as is clear from the comments on this board, to say nothing of the varying grades given by reviewers. After all, somebody liked the books that get D and F grades well enough to publish them. Personally, I don't care for paranormals. That doesn't mean I think they should be expelled from the romance section. It just means I'm not likely to read them.
All genres have the same problem. Consider mysteries. Once you get past the inclusion of a crime and a solution, how do you come up with a more restrictive description that includes both Agatha Christie and Mickey Spillane? The warm cozies and the explicit gore?
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1129
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2008 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As for comparing romance novels to sonnets, Jennifer Crusie did just that in an essay some time ago, only that Crusie compared the restrictive form of the sonnet to the restrictions of category romance.

IMO that comparison makes sense, because categories are indeed fairly restrictive forms. If you pick up a Harlequin Presents or Blaze, a Silhouette Nocturne or Special Edition, a Mills and Boon Medical or Historical, you know exactly what you are going to get. Nonetheless, some authors have managed to write excellent novels within that very restrictive framework.

However, the romance genre is wider than the various category lines and that is a good thing. You won't find a tender gay love story between two baseball pros in a Harlequin Presents novel, which is okay, because that sort of story does not fit into the Presents framework (though I for one would enjoy "The Greek Tycoon and his Virgin Secretary", if the secretary turned out to be a young man). A gay love story between two baseball pros is, however, a romance novel, provided it ends positively.

As for the list of exclusionary criteria, those are just individual reading preferences. There is nothing wrong with that, we all have varying tastes and complete deal breakers. However, no one should confuse his or her personal deal breakers with exclusionary criteria for the entire genre.
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
Posts: 2064

PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2008 8:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cora wrote:
However, no one should confuse his or her personal deal breakers with exclusionary criteria for the entire genre.


The fact that no one should confuse preferences in such a way doesn't mean that nobody does it. There are plenty of people around who are perfectly willing to proclaim, often at tedious length, that X couldn't possibly be a romance because ... It may be a personal preference, objectively seen, but, honestly, that doesn't keep them from doing it.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2008 3:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cora wrote:
As for comparing romance novels to sonnets, Jennifer Crusie did just that in an essay some time ago, only that Crusie compared the restrictive form of the sonnet to the restrictions of category romance.


Jane O wrote:
All genres have the same problem. Consider mysteries. Once you get past the inclusion of a crime and a solution, how do you come up with a more restrictive description that includes both Agatha Christie and Mickey Spillane? The warm cozies and the explicit gore?


This brings me back to uni, when we actually had a whole unit on this! Laughing It turns out that Christie belongs to the "English Detective Story" and Spillane belongs to the "American Detective Story" genre. It may sound like splitting hairs, but the different conventions really do apply in both cases.

So while I agree that it is Category Romances which are most like sonnets or ballades or other rigid forms, I still think that the RWA "definition" isn't much of a definition at all.

(Oh, dear! Are we going to be defining "definition" next? Laughing )

veasley1 wrote:
The fact that no one should confuse preferences in such a way doesn't mean that nobody does it. There are plenty of people around who are perfectly willing to proclaim, often at tedious length, that X couldn't possibly be a romance because ... It may be a personal preference, objectively seen, but, honestly, that doesn't keep them from doing it.


I'm not thinking of personal deal breakers, since I think everyone taking part in this discussion can tell the difference between them and actual conventions. What I mean are books which clearly aren't Romances, like the novels of Danielle Steele, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Anna Quindlen. (Yes, Quindlen!!! I still don't get it.)

My favourite bookstore used to shelve them in the Romance aisle, but then moved them to the General Fiction section. It turns out that they sell better as General Fiction (or Women's Fiction) than as Romance, so even the market seems to agree that they don't fit the definition.
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Last edited by Schola on Tue Sep 30, 2008 3:42 am; edited 1 time in total
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2512

PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2008 10:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The opening post in this thread stemmed from the thread on the Reviews board about Guhrke's The Marriage Bed. That book described a love story; it had a happy ending, per the text. It fulfilled the RWA definition. But some reactions to it were that, even though it satisfied the RWA definition, it was not "romantic"; therefore, how could it be romance fiction?

A romance or romantic love story with an HEA differs considerably in my estimation from a love story with a happy ending, the very point I was trying to make in the post mentioning stories about the relationship between people and animals, which are often love stories with a happy ending, just as the relationship between a parent and child can be made into a story of love. Still, few people, including the originators of the RWA definition, would place stories of either of those relationships in the genre romance fiction.

Why?

Isn't it because romantic love stories differ from love stories? Aren't so-called deal breakers but a shorthand way of saying some things, such as continuous infidelity, just don't "fit" within the qualifier romantic?
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2008 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:


A romance or romantic love story with an HEA differs considerably in my estimation from a love story with a happy ending, the very point I was trying to make in the post mentioning stories about the relationship between people and animals, which are often love stories with a happy ending, just as the relationship between a parent and child can be made into a story of love. Still, few people, including the originators of the RWA definition, would place stories of either of those relationships in the genre romance fiction.

Why?

Isn't it because romantic love stories differ from love stories? Aren't so-called deal breakers but a shorthand way of saying some things, such as continuous infidelity, just don't "fit" within the qualifier romantic?


I would say it's because romantic love is sexual love. A story about riders and horses or parents and children that included romantic love--in its current meaning, rather its historical meaning--would by definition be considered perverted in our society.

I'm not saying that a romance needs to include sex, btw. But if sexual feelings aren't present, it's not romantic love.
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
Posts: 799

PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2008 2:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dick, I don't think anywould would doubt that romantic love is different from the love of a boy for his dog (and I doubt anyone reading the RWA definition would think the second is meant). However, I think that romantic love is also different from the love that develops from it which might be described as more mature if less intensely passionate and is the basis for an enduring relationship. The HEA is satisfying when the author has convinced the reader not only that there has been "that first, fine, careless rapture," but that the further development has occurred, or at least is in the process.

I think the "dealbreakers" are those situations that, for a particular reader, make it impossible to believe that the further development is possible. But dealbreakers can only determine your personal reading list, not a definition for the genre as a whole.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 3:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

JaneO wrote:
I think that romantic love is also different from the love that develops from it which might be described as more mature if less intensely passionate and is the basis for an enduring relationship. The HEA is satisfying when the author has convinced the reader not only that there has been "that first, fine, careless rapture," but that the further development has occurred, or at least is in the process.


Well, since Dick has brought up The Marriage Bed again . . . I did say in the other thread that I think it's a decent story about a bad marriage that managed to work itself out, but also that I don't think it's a very good Romance. So while I agree with you, Jane, about how an HEA must convince us that the first "rapture" has developed into a mature, if less passionate love, I don't think an HEA alone can make something a Romance novel. I mean, assuming I do think John and Viola will make it work (and I confess I still have my doubts Laughing ), I wouldn't say they even had that first rapture. They didn't build their HEA on an initial romance; they built it on something else.

JaneO wrote:
I think the "dealbreakers" are those situations that, for a particular reader, make it impossible to believe that the further development is possible. But dealbreakers can only determine your personal reading list, not a definition for the genre as a whole.


As I've said, I think everyone here understands basic things like:

a) My Friend Flicka is not a Romance novel Laughing ; and
b) a personal preference for dark-haired heroes does not mean that a Romance novel can never have a blond hero.

But there are certain conditions that a novel has to meet in order to be considered a Romance that have nothing to do with personal preference. That was the problem many readers had with The Marriage Bed. It wasn't as short-sighted as saying, "All Romances with adultery in them stink"--which I know because I personally like two Romances which happen to have adultery in the plots. It was about The Marriage Bed possibly not meeting a certain basic convention of the genre.
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Gail K.



Joined: 19 May 2007
Posts: 1292

PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, dick and Schola...since you're both just so...um, adamant, that the romance genre *must* have a definition, I challenge you both to read THE BOOK OF SCANDAL by Julia London. I just started it last night due to praise from other AAR readers. It's definitely a marriage-in-trouble, infidelity-to-get-over story. Sound familiar? I'm curious whether you would qualify BOOK OF SCANDAL as a romance novel.

-Gail
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 4708

PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
[
But there are certain conditions that a novel has to meet in order to be considered a Romance that have nothing to do with personal preference.


Really, like what? What conditions outside of the RWA's basic definition must be met in order for a book to be considered a 'romance novel' that have nothing to do with personal preference?

Linda
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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1481
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The trouble with definitions is that they can vary from book to book. At least I do, that is. For example, I really enjoyed Sharon Cullars' Again, but that book ended with the h/h deciding to make another go at dating one another because their first try didn't end up so hot (which was the entire plot of the book). This satisfied me because I felt the h/h had made enough of a connection that they would probably have that traditional HEA sooner or later. For many, that sort of ending would qualify a book as a wall-banger. However, in other books, particularly historicals, marriage is the ultimate gift a hero can give a heroine--especially if she's some sort of courtesan or lower-class woman.

BUT, the end result has to be emotionally satisfying, which is where we run into trouble because what is satisfying for one mayn't be satisfying for another. Coming from a background in Chick Lit, I'm satisfied with the HEA where the messed-up heroine heals and realizes she loves the guy who has (usually) been hovering in the wings. But the romance genre is about the romantic story of a hero and a heroine, not the heroine finding out who she is through a bunch of bad relationships or situations that test her mettle, and then becoming whole enough to be with her "soul mate."

So this boils down to my satisfaction: a deep, convincing character arc, where I see the characters grow and evolve and become "right" for one another. To drag it back to The Marriage Bed, I guess I've never said it wasn't a romance since the word is stamped on the spine (a label fraught full of meaning, which is why readers are angry when a book doesn't unfold like a standard romance novel), but in hindsight, it fails as a romance novel, and as a book--period--for me, since I found the character arcs of John and Viola utterly dissatisfying and weak.
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cawm



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 210
Location: Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:

But there are certain conditions that a novel has to meet in order to be considered a Romance that have nothing to do with personal preference. That was the problem many readers had with The Marriage Bed. It wasn't as short-sighted as saying, "All Romances with adultery in them stink"--which I know because I personally like two Romances which happen to have adultery in the plots. It was about The Marriage Bed possibly not meeting a certain basic convention of the genre.


I enjoy a wide variety of romances, both dark and light, but for me The Marriage Bed is not a romance because the hero never loves the heroine or shows any concern for her feelings, and the heroine is facing a lifetime of unhappiness. No matter how badly a hero behaves initially in a romance, he has to change and come to see that he behaved badly by the end of the book, or there is no romance. This book definitely qualifies as women's fction, where plots often revolve around misery and unhappiness and learning to cope, but that's not what I look for in a romance. A romance requires a genuinely happy ending.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 9:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gail K. wrote:
OK, dick and Schola...since you're both just so...um, adamant, that the romance genre *must* have a definition, I challenge you both to read THE BOOK OF SCANDAL by Julia London. I just started it last night due to praise from other AAR readers. It's definitely a marriage-in-trouble, infidelity-to-get-over story. Sound familiar? I'm curious whether you would qualify BOOK OF SCANDAL as a romance novel.


I'll keep an eye out for it, now that you've brought it up, Gail, but I don't know how long it will be until I get to read it.

There is one Romance with adultery in it that I really, really liked: Jo Beverley's Shattered Rose. (In fact, during the last Top 100 poll, I put it at #1 on my ballot.) Come to think of it now . . .

I remember an Amazon reviewer who hated The Shattered Rose saying that the main love story wasn't a "real" Romance and that the secondary love story should have been the main focus. In the light of everything I've been saying about The Marriage Bed, I reluctantly have to agree with her. Confused The main romance, in which the hero and heroine have to get over the heroine's infidelity, is a great love story, but not quite Romance material. Oh, crap, there goes my ballot! Laughing

Linda in sw va wrote:
Schola wrote:
But there are certain conditions that a novel has to meet in order to be considered a Romance that have nothing to do with personal preference.


Really, like what? What conditions outside of the RWA's basic definition must be met in order for a book to be considered a 'romance novel' that have nothing to do with personal preference?

Linda


Okay, I'm probably coming across like a troll again, so I'll admit now that I don't have all the answers--just a firm allegiance to form.

If anything, this discussion has actually been making me reevaluate what I think the boundaries of the genre are. If you had asked me a few days ago, if adultery was okay in Romance, I would have remembered my love for The Shattered Rose and said yes; but now I think that it's only the case if the hero and heroine are cheating on somebody else.

I think we have a married hero in a Mary Balogh novel and I'm sure there's a married heroine in another Beverley novel. I avoided Jennifer Crusie for years because I heard that in one novel the heroine had oral sex with the hero while she had another boyfriend--but pretty much the same thing happened in a Kresley Cole novel and I had no problem. Rolling Eyes

However, it is when the hero and heroine are cheating on each other that the novel enters a kind of realistic territory that I don't think is compatible with the fantasy element in Romance.

So there is my glass castle. Feel free to catapult boulders at it. But I'm not saying that these are poorly written or unromantic books, just that they push the envelope beyond the genre.
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