Okay. Not really fifty shades. I was just looking for a catchy title. Did it work? Whoa. I just looked up “Romance Novels” in Wikipedia. They list ten sub-genres of romance. Ten! Can you name them without peeking? I couldn’t. Here’s something you might find interesting: I don’t normally read what I call “romance”. I have read some, but mostly I gravitate toward Historical Fiction – or Historical Adventure, meaning stories thick with journeys, battles, tragedies, but also love in all its forms … the real stuff. Underneath everything runs a theme of love or romance, and that’s what makes all the trials worthwhile for the characters and for the reader. You root for the lovers to eventually unite happily, but it’s hardly worth reading a book (in my humble opinion) if you know within the first couple of pages which bedroom they’ll be visiting first.
So I haven’t been what you’d call a typical romance reader. I would much rather lose myself in the rich tapestries painted by geniuses like Diana Gabaldon, Sara Donati, Penelope Williamson, Jennifer Roberson, and recently Joanna Bourne and Kaki Warner. Their characters are battered and bruised, living the times as they were really lived, often sacrificing in order to hope for that happily ever after. And the scenes can be brutal. But in the end, I admit, I do go for the “love conquers all” theme.
So that’s how I write my books. I like to dig into 18th century life but not focus on the well-to-do. I write stories that involve more than just two people in love. With “Under the Same Sky”, I stuck my heroine in the middle of nowhere, with nothing. I dropped my hero on to a doomed battlefield. Then I said, “Find each other. Good luck,” and left them to it. Not very romantic, was it? I keep to gritty realism. In fact, because of some of the brutality, I was somewhat surprised when Penguin published me as a Historical Romance author. Then I learned that the Queen of Adventures, Diana Gabaldon, denies writing that genre … but all her readers know how hopelessly romantic those stories are, and how our hearts ache for more.
My book covers depict Historical Romance. Definitely. They’re beautiful and sweeping and lush, featuring gorgeous people who stare either into the reader’s soul or into the vast horizon … and while I love them, I worried some readers would feel misled and even disappointed if they’d expected a “normal” kind of romance. Fortunately, though many people said, “that was not what I expected!” I apparently broadened some readers’ horizons, and I’m so pleased about that.
I started Wikipedia-ing again, and this time I looked up “Romance (love)”, and found this:
“In the context of romantic love relationships, romance usually implies an expression of one’s love, or one’s deep emotional desires to connect with another person.”
Thesaurus.com likens romance to: “adventure, flight of fancy”, which sounds right to me.
“Sound of the Heart” is more of a romance than “Under the Same Sky” was, I guess, because the characters are with each other physically fairly early on, though they aren’t lovers at first. They develop a deep, loyal friendship that I find romantic in itself. Oh, and “Sound of the Heart” features the first “love scene” I’ve ever written *blush*. I think you’ll notice I stay away from words normally used in romance novel sex scenes. I’m particularly adverse to using words like “thrust”—unless it has to do with a sword. I just find describing the physical act so much less romantic than describing the merging of minds and hearts. When Berkley took me on board, they introduced me to some incredible Historical Romance authors, including Kaki Warner and Joanna Bourne. No quiet, frilly, kissy-face books, those. Right around that time I became pretty excited about being called a Romance author.
What kind of romance do you prefer? Neat and tidy? Hot and sweaty?
Or are you like me, a fan of wild, unpredictable adventure where you really do have to wait and see if there will be a happily ever after?
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