So why is my romance novel not a romance novel?

Now that's what the cover on a romance novel is supposed to look like.
Now that’s what the cover on a romance novel is supposed to look like.

I’M WRITING a romance novel.

At least I thought I was.

The professionals tell me I’m not.

The professionals know better than I.

“The story has love in it,” I say.

“The story is full of lust,” they say.

“The boy’s in love,” I say.

“The boy’s a high school quarterback,” they say.


“The girl’s a high school cheerleader,” they say.

“Again. So?”

“The boy’s in love with her long blonde hair, short skirts, and long legs,” they say.

“He knows his heart,” I say.

“He’s not thinking with his heart,” they say.

“How about the older woman?” I ask.

“The femme fatale?”

I nod.

“She seduces the quarterback.”

“They have a relationship,” I argue.

My back’s pinned against the wall.

“The boy has a night he won’t soon forget,” the professionals say.

“What about the woman?”

“She’s married to the preacher.”


“She has a fling.”

“It won’t last?”

“It didn’t last till morning.”

I make my final plea.

“The story has passion,” I say.

“So does a dog fight.”

The professionals smile politely.

They shake their heads.

They walk away.

So, I wonder, what’s the basic, bare-bones formula for a good romance novel?

I search the gospel according to Google.

And I find it.

Boy meets girl.

Girl has a secret.

Girl keeps a secret from the boy as they fall in love.

Boy finds out, and they part in anger.

Girl loses all.

Boy returns. He is repentant and declares what both of them knew all along.

He loves her.

Girl is now strong enough to turn him down.

Or maybe she will take him back as an equal partner in the relationship.

How does it turn out?

Well, that’s what the story is about.

Sounds simple enough.

It’s not.

Relationships never are.

Think wars are fought over land?

Over money?

Over ambition?

Over power?

The real ones aren’t.

The real ones aren’t fought between armies.

The real ones are fought between men and women.

The real ones are fought over love or some reasonable facsimile.

Who has it.

Who wants it.

Who’ll sacrifice to get it.

The critics spread the word that all romance novels are alike.

Same plot.

Same characters.

Same problems.

Same solutions.

How do they know?

They look at the cover designs on the bookshelves.

And all are similar.

But those same critics shop at the same grocery stories.

They see soup cans.

And the cans all look alike.

Same colors.

Same designs.

Same brands.

But one can has Cream of Tomato.

Another has Corn Chowder.

A third has Chicken Noodle.

They’re no different from romance novels.

They all look alike.

But everyone has something different inside.

My novel is no different.

It may be lacking on romance.

But it does have angst, lust, fast, and trust, and any novel packed with a lot of words that end in “T” can’t be all bad.


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