What is a Romance?

I was over visiting Paperback Writer’s blog this morning, checking out reactions to my very first comment on anybody’s blog, and one very nice gal had responded to the comment I made, and in my response to her I wrote something that to me was profound:

For me, there are three promises the author/publisher makes to me when they put a book on the romance shelf:

1) A good romantic story,

2) A promise that’s been around as long as the genre for a happily-ever-after ending and

3) In the last 5-10 years the genre has changed so the current promise is that the man doesn’t force himself on the woman (physically or mentally).

This is important to me, because I disliked all the examples I saw of RWA’s attempt to define “romance”, and at the same time I think a definition of “romance” is needed because I keep running into books on the romance shelf that aren’t romances.

Those three were just off the top of my head, but as I think more about my personal definition of romance, I’d leave #2 and #3 basically the same:

2) A their-relationship-will-endure-and-prosper happily-ever-after ending.

3) No rape of heroine or hero by the other, either mentally, physically or psychically.

But #1 needs to be thought about … A good romantic story… what makes this up?

Number of people involved limited to two? Nope, my next book will be extremely romantic (if I do it right) and it’s a threesome.

Only a man and a woman involved? Nope, some of the neatest romances I’ve watched evolve have been between my lesbian friends.

Oh, and I also feel that there is a difference between a “love story” and a “romance”… “love story” doesn’t require rule #2. For a really neat “love story” you can kill off the hero in the last chapter, for a “romance”, you can’t.

It also has to have a (at least semi-) realistic depiction of the stages of emotional involvement, and their love has to be tested at some point in the story, to pave the way for rule #2.

A “romance” is:

The evolution of a loving relationship between the main characters, that is strengthened by the tests they face and culminates in a long-term commitment to each other and their relationship.

Hey, I like that. 🙂