I keep seeing this misclassification when various Tumblr folks are recommending books, and I feel it must needs be addressed.
First, some terminology:
HEA = Happily Ever After
HFN = Happy For Now
A romance is, generally speaking, classified by one of these two terms, where the ending of the story results in a “happily ever after” or a “happy for now” situation for the protagonists. The other condition, of course, is that the main focus of the story be on the developing romantic and/or sexual relationship between the protagonists—that is what makes a romance a romance, be it erotic, chaste, or any sensual heat level in between. (It is this second condition that tends to confuse readers; a love story does not equal a romance, at least in terms of literary genre classification.)
WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Brontë is not a romance. At the end of the book, Catherine and Heathcliff are both dead. It is a gothic historical novel with strong romantic elements, but it is not a romance.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green is not a romance. At the end of the book, Augustus and Hazel are not together, because Augustus has passed away. It is a young adult novel with romantic elements, but it is not a romance.
ROMEO & JULIET by William Shakespeare is not a romance. At the end of the play, the title characters are both dead, due to suicide. It is a highly dramatic stage play centered around a central romantic relationship, but it is not a romance.
PRIDE & PREJUDICE by Jane Austen is a romance. At the end of the book, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are together, living HEA. This is a romance novel.
OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, despite the protestations of the author, is a romance. At the end of the book, Jamie and Claire are together (though soon to be separated in future installments in the series, making this a HFN). It is a time-travel historical novel with very strong romantic elements, where the focus of the story is Jamie and Claire’s love story, and is, as a standalone literary work, a romance.
I spend a significant portion of my time as an author either defending or apologizing for the genre in which I write. When asked what I write—to which I respond, “I write romance novels”—the nicest response I hear is, “Oh,” followed by a rather strained smile.
That isn’t actually a nice response, in case you were curious.
Common perception of romance novels is that they are smut. Trash. Cheap, clichéd paperbacks with embarrassing clinch covers, outrageous titles, heaving bosoms, ripped bodices, and forcefully muscled men who deliver punishing kisses.
In actuality, today’s romance novels most often depict healthy relationships between two consenting adults, where regular communication, personal agency, and sexual pleasure are all encouraged. Characters have careers they are not expected to sacrifice, even once falling in love. Children are not always a given when it comes to that HEA. Orgasms are had by all, as it should be.
Trashy, cheap, clichéd smut abounds in the genre—frankly, you can find trashy, cheap clichés in any genre—but there’s enough good out there that readers often do themselves a disservice by refusing to explore romance. And because what I truly want is more people to read the genre, I’m going to offer up some excellent reads that I, personally, return to again and again, thus hopefully making that genre exploration just a little bit easier:
THE CHOCOLATE TOUCH by Laura Florand
FLIRTING WITH DISASTER by Ruthie Knox
REAL MEN WILL by Victoria Dahl
LOVE IRRESISTIBLY by Julie James
SAVOR THE MOMENT by Nora Roberts
A WEEK TO BE WICKED by Tessa Dare
BOUND BY YOUR TOUCH by Meredith Duran
THE DUKE AND I by Julia Quinn
A RAKE’S GUIDE TO SEDUCTION by Caroline Linden
UNLOCKED by Courtney Milan
Paranormal/Urban Fantasy/Steampunk Romance
CARESSED BY ICE by Nalini Singh
RIVETED by Meljean Brook
WICKED DEEDS ON A WINTER’S NIGHT by Kresley Cole
CAPTIVE PRINCE (VOL. 1 & 2) by S.U. Pacat
SCRAP METAL by Harper Fox
(My apologies for the short list; recent recommendations from reputable reviewers also include GLITTERLAND by Alexis Hall and AFTERMATH by Cara Dee.)
Erotic Romance (multiple subgenres (e.g., contemp, PNR))
THE SIREN by Tiffany Reisz
WILLING VICTIM by Cara McKenna
ADDICTED by Charlotte Stein
BEYOND SHAME by Kit Rocha
EXPOSED TO YOU by Beth Kery
These are just a very small sampling of some of my favorites. There are so many wonderful romance authors out there whose titles I haven’t listed (or more titles by these same authors), and I wish I could list them all. But what I’ve listed above are excellent launch points for those who believe the only options are FIFTY SHADES or Fabio-covered “old skools” (I wouldn’t touch romance, either, if those were my sole choices). There’s a whole world of HEAs and HFNs out there waiting for readers, where the main characters are alive and happy at the end of the novel.
My historical erotic romance, THE CORRUPT COMTE, released on Tuesday, 8/27! As of right now, it’s on Amazon’s Top 100 Regency Romance bestseller list (which is supercool, right?), and the four- and five-star reviews keep pouring in.
Any interest in dirty-talking French spies and stuttering English heiresses? Then THE CORRUPT COMTE might just be your cup of tea. :)
"People need to understand and internalize that online harassment, violent hate speech, rape threats, slut-shaming little girls until they hang themselves, and so on, are express violations of the social contract"Lindy West, “Don’t Ignore the Trolls. Feed Them Until They Explode.” (x)