There are rumblings on social media over what romance really is as a genre. Some state that all you need is a glimmer of hope for a story to be labeled a romance like, let’s say, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes or The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks*.
Therefore, a Happily-Ever-After (HEA) or a Happy-For-Now (HFA) is not exactly required. Allegedly.
I don’t know about you but can #romance just have one thing that’s entirely ours, like a happy ending? That’s really the only requirement for a story to be considered a romance. The happy ending. The journey of two people (or more, if you’re talking about Menage, Harem, or Reverse Harem romances) amid conflict and obstacles toward that HEA or HFN.
The argument about what romance is and isn’t had me looking back at the books I’ve read when I was much younger. Outside of the classics, the first novel I read was my mother’s copy of Harold Robbins’ The Adventurers, clearly not a romance because the Prologue (that’s also an Epilogue) already tells you that the hero is dead. Then there was also my mother’s copy of Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough, clearly not a romance because we know what happens to Father Ralph and Meggie. Not a happy ending.
And then there’s P.S. I Love You by Barbara Conklin from Sweet Dreams Romance, which was handed down to me by a friend. I can never forget the cover because I got so sucked into this romance only to find out it wasn’t! Talk about an unhappy ending…
That taught me to be careful about books labeled “romance” because many are NOT romances but love stories. It also taught me to skip to the ending, because I’ve had trust issues since reading P.S. I Love You.
Yet for some reason, a lot of people insist that #romance books don’t have to have a happy ending. Um, yes, they do. Everything else doesn’t have to have a happy ending like literary fiction, women’s fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, thrillers, and George R.R. Martin, so why insist that #romance not have it as well?
It’s the only reason I read and write romance—for that happy ending… and not in the massage kinda way.
*Sparks, by the way, insists he does not write romance.
“I haven’t written a single book that could even be accepted as a romance novel. I mean, there’s a completely different voice. They’ve got very specific structures; they’ve got very specific character dilemmas; they end completely differently; and they’ve got certain character arcs that are required in their characters — I do none of those things.
It’s like you might as well say, ‘Why have I been bothered by not being called a thriller writer?’ Because I’m not –- that’s not what I write.”