What Romance Is, and What It Is Not

As I mentioned in an earlier post, a few months ago I had a run-in with a rather rude man at a Barnes and Noble. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the romance genre, about what it is and what it isn’t. What follows are my humble opinions on this subject, for what they are worth.
What Romance Is
In a romance, whether novel or subplot, two people come together and form an intimate bond. At the end of their story arc, no matter how long it takes to get there, they have remade their world. They are now a unit beyond the sum of their parts. If their world is not remade, the story is not, in my opinion, a romance.  “Happily ever after” is required. Under this definition, a book like Wuthering Heights is not a romance. A book like Pride and Prejudice, however, is.
What Romance Isn’t
In today’s market, Wuthering Heights would probably be considered “chick lit”. I really hate that term, because basically “chick-lit” is just old-fashioned literature written by and about women. Romance can certainly be a part of a “chick-lit” novel, like Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner. But whereas the point of a romance novel is two people learning to become one whole, the point of “chick-lit” tends to be self-discovery.
Romance heroines grow and change and go on journeys of self-discovery too, of course they do. A romance novel would be pretty boring if the hero and heroine didn’t change! It’s just that the main point of a romance novel is the discovery of intimacy with the “other”, and that is not the main point of a “chick-lit” novel.
Because romance deals with intimacy, and intimacy between two adults is often expressed in sex, romance novels contain sex.  The sex is of varying degrees of intensity, depending on author and subgenre. But regardless of erotic content,  a romance novel is NOT erotica or pornography.
In erotica, the individual’s journey of self-discovery takes the form of an exploration of sexuality. The other people involved in those sexual exploits are, so to speak, tools for the journey. It may be that there will be an emotional bond with one or more of them, but that isn’t the point of the story. The point of the story is the sexual exploration.
And porn? Well, what can I say. In pornography both the viewer and the viewed are objects. Ain’t no journey happening there except the journey towards…*cough*… well. Let’s just say that character development is not a priority one way or another.  True intimacy is not involved.
So, there you go. My opinion of what romance is – and what it isn’t.

I’m glad I have a blog now so I can share these deep thoughts with you.  I’m sure you are glad as well. 🙂


  1. WOOOOHOOOOO! Agreed, agreed and, as usual, well said! 🙂

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