Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Genre whose name will not be mentioned ...

Romance - there, I've said it. It is now more acceptable to admit to being gay, than it is to admit to reading romance. (Note - this is a broad generalisation, made for fun and not to be taken seriously).

Could it be the titles? The Billionaire's Virgin Bride's Secret Baby? Could it be the covers, which are often lushly sensual? (They can be the sort of thing you hide behind brown paper so you can read on the train).

For a smile, drop by here to see the cover with the three armed woman. The author, Christine Dodd, doesn't mind.

Here is a post by someone who attended the Australian Romance Readers Conference. There is a section on a panel of academics discussing romance.

But seriously folks, romance makes up around 65% of the fiction market (depending on your sources) and there is a major overlap with speculative fiction: fantasy-romance, paranormal-romance and futuristic-romance. Although you will probably have noticed the Dark Urban Fantasy on the shelves as this sub-genre, along with its cousin paranormal-romance, has been going strong for several years, so strong in fact that it seems to have almost consumed fantasy-romance and futuristic-romance.

The difference between a paranormal-romance and a Dark Urban Fantasy is in the 'endings'. Both are set in our world where the paranormal exists alongside the mundane world, either acknowledged or in secret. Both have a strong female heroine who fights evil. The difference is that in a DUF the heroine may (probably) will sleep with the guy, but she won't end up with him. She'll go on for further adventures. In the paranormal-romance you'll get a HEA - Happily Ever After ending.

NY Best Selling, author Nalini Singh is a good example of a writer who sets related stories in an invented world but gives the reader a HEA (in her Changeling-Psi books) and an open ending in her Guild Hunter novels.

Now what is the difference between a DUF like Keri Arthur's books (another NY Best Selling author) and a DUF like Trent Jamieson's Death Most Definite? Both are set in our world with a paranormal twist. Both have a protagonist who falls in love with someone.

The difference is in tone. Trent's book has a male protagonist and has more in common with Simon R Green's Nightside series.

While a DUF will have blood, swords and/or guns but it will also have a lush sensuality. Imagine one book as a three course meal and the other as a similar meal with lashing of sauce to titillate the taste buds.

The romance writer sets out to create a heightened sensual experience. They set out to connect the reader with the character so the reader can vicariously enjoy this experience. If you're interested in how they do this, then take a look at the paranormal-romances that are short listed for the RITA. (This is the RWAmerica's peer award).

I am going to come out of the closet and admit that I've read all of Nalini's Changeling -Psi series and enjoyed them. I've read every Regency that Georgette Heyer ever wrote. I've read some of Keri Arthur's books and enjoyed them. She delivers on both pacing and sensuality.

I've also read Simon R Green, China Meiville, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ian McDonald and Jeff VanderMeer.

Is anyone else brave enough to come out of the closet?


Unknown said...

I don't have a closet to come out of, but I'll come out in advance mostly because anybody should be able to read whatever they enjoy without censure, but also because there ain't nothin' wrong with Happily Ever After. I'll even promise to read one of those books mentioned ASAP.

And that's not just because the phrase "lushly sensual" is so alluring.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Let's hear it for lushly sensual!

Yes, David, we should be able to be up front about what we read. Although I'd hesitate to read some of these books on the train when the covers are so ..um... lushly sensual!

Unknown said...

I do have issues with silly book covers, but that's cross-genre. I can't imagine how many hapless souls were turned off of SF (and still are by Fantasy) by blatantly terrible covers.

Although the three-armed woman? Man, that's a great cover. I love that the author took full advantage.

MataPam said...

I've got to be in the right mood to read lushly sensual stuff. And there's no substitute when the mood strikes.

But how do you pigeon hole Jim Butcher? I shoved Lush and Sensual at it a couple of times and it didn't stick. Urban Fantasy Mystery?

Anonymous said...

I've read A LOT of DUF over the last few years, and some of it does cross over into the paranormal romance, I guess. My favorite DUF series is Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series. I did read Singh's first in the Guild Hunter series, and while I enjoyed it, I did find the emphasis on romance too much. It's not that romance embarrasses me to admit that I enjoy it sometimes, I just don't enjoy it as much as DUF. I've tried to figure out why and the closest I have come is that I really don't care "that" much to read about why this woman wants this man or vice versa. I'd rather read about other things in her life. I don't mind it being deftly woven into a story alongside other important stuff though.

I recently read Fairies Gone Wild, a romance fantasy anthology and I enjoyed all but one of those stories, that one being ALL about her lust for him. I found the fantasy in it not important or interesting to the story.

I've read quite a few UF books this year. I do like the Jim Butcher series, and there are several "first" UF series books of which I'm awaiting sequel books.

As I said, I find the addition of romance to UF a healthy thing, but there is that line where it teeters too much into the romance area for me to enjoy it. Other readers, romance readers especially, love the cross over into the paranormal and don't like hitting that line from the other side.

As a side note, I was checking the Barnes & Noble e-book offerings and so much of it was romance. And a few of those covers...PHEW! They were distinctly marketed as erotica, but that's a whole different line we're talking about there.


Sarah A. Hoyt said...


Actually these days there's no stigma to romance reading or writing. Ten years ago, sure. But these days, romance is THE genre still selling -- so, like the stigma of listening to country is gone and everyone is trying to be "a little bit country" the stigma of Romance is gone, and you are often outright told "you can't sell this without a strong romance plot."

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Matapam, Jim Butcher is Urban Fantasy. Only he has taken the film noir of the 1940s and set in contemporary urban fantasy.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Linda, I haven't read Morgan's work.

I couldn't connect with Singh's Guild Hunter series either. But I liked the Changeling Psi series because although each book offered a HEA (and don't we all want one in our own lives) there was an over reaching story arc about the different races and their struggle for supremacy.

Also the prime motivation of the changelings was to protect their extended family and I'm big on family.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


Maybe the publishers have come over to the 'romance' side, but the general population reaction is still, Romance? Snigger.

I belong to RWAustralia and one of the morning TV show hosts wanted to come along to the national conference, but his attitude was so, teenage boy sniggering at a couple kissing, the committee turned him down.

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, that sniggering and negative attitude may be what you see in Australia, but here it has been changing for awhile. Sure, the books with the Fabio-type covers still get joked about but the blending of genres have brought about a lot more readers of romance than before. As for UF, and DUF, there is more of a delineation between them and paranormal romance. Most publishers of UF don't particularly look for romance or steam. A little is okay, but it's not the key. That said, there are some publishers who have taken a more romantic bent to all their books. So, basically, it just depends on who you're submitting to (I ran into this last week with one of my submissions which is why I know about it.)

Chris L said...

Romance? Ewwwwww. You mean like kissing and stuff...?

I think Rowena is right. Aussie guys are too immature for romance (or perhaps it's just me). I'm a slow reader, which makes it even more painful.

Loved 'Death Most Definite' though. I think Trent got the balance right, for me anyway. Just enough tension to keep things interesting.

Brendan said...

I have read the Brontes and Jane Austen. Do they count?

Kate Paulk said...

Actually, the "Eww ROMANCE!" factor is a cultural thing. There's a lot less of it in the US than in Oz. I'm not going to try to speak to any other culture.

As for dark urban fantasy, the ones I've read there's more steam from entrails where they shouldn't be than from sex/romance.

Just saying.

Synova said...

I just read one of Susan Krinard's books, _Bride of the Wolf_. I thought it was really great, actually. I'm still not sure if I'm sold on the sub-genre though.

To me it feels a little bit like a Marvel Mutant problem.

You know... how there quickly ends up being more superheros than regular people?

Synova said...

Maybe I should clarify that the Marvel Mutant Problem isn't Krinard's book. I mean the paranormal thing in general.

I thought that Sarah's reason that so many shapeshifters turned up in one place (and will continue to do so) was completely brilliant. It helps me suspend my disbelief.

And *obviously* very few other people of any sort think that an overabundance of vampires and werewolves and what-not is a problem. On the contrary, it's probably a feature.

I'm reading Jeanne Stein's book _Retribution_ atm (Stein and Krinard were at Bubonicon and I got signed books, yay!) and it's very good. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who likes vampire novels. It pulled me in despite the fact that I'm not excited about the sub-genre. (IMO, the BEST vampire and werewolf books out there are Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon, Dog Warriors books... and they don't have vampires or werewolves in them.) But again... everyone and their cousin is a vampire and there doesn't seem to be any *particular* reason not to want to be a vampire. And I'm about half-way through and I'm thinking... stronger, faster, cool powers, no apparent drawbacks not even sunlight, and no humans need to be harmed so... how angry should people be that everyone isn't turned into a vampire on their 30th birthday after they've been a food source and had a few kids to keep it going?


But I tend to find a way to take all the fun out of Scottish Historical Romances, too. In the back of my head is this little voice whispering, "Yes, but doesn't this all turn out very very badly?" Bah humbug.

I very much like the Romances with the lewd covers. I will admit it. I even really like the Scottish and Highland ones, no matter the voices in my head. And I've purchased Blaze and Desire books at the grocery store *because* of the cover art... granted, it's usually a sort of self-dare to go through the check out with it.

Chris McMahon said...

OK - I'll come out. I enjoy romance. Can't say I've every deliberately sought it out, but yes, I enjoy it. And I have included strong elements of romance in a few of my novels.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


There you are. I never thought there would be a different attitude towards romance in the US.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

LOL, Chris L.

Loved Trent's book. The developing relationship between Trent's protagonist and the dead girl was excellent.

But I also loved it that the protagonist had no idea how to use a gun and was a bit of a loser.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


Austen and the Brontes have the advantage of being 'literature' so they don't count as romance.

Just as Margaret Atwood doesn't write SF, she writes literature. LOL

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


It must be Australian men. When the guys in the Vision writing group heard that I belonged to RWAustralia they used to tease me with a snigger or a twinkle depending on the guy.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

LOL, Synova.

I know what you mean. Everyone has super powers.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

More LOL, Synova.

Yes, if there are no drawbacks to being a vampire, why wouldn't we all want quick healing powers, long healthy virtually immortal life etc.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris Mc,

What's a book without some sort of a love story running through it?

Love is a powerful motivation.

Chris L said...

'But I also loved it that the protagonist had no idea how to use a gun and was a bit of a loser.'

Loser? What? I thought that guy was a total legend!

Back on romance, my 10yo son worries about girl cooties, and so do I, but I've discovered a great deterrent - garlic bread followed by seafood chowder. Works every time!

Unknown said...

Rowena, you need to ask this lot just who introduced them to Georgette Heyer.

Some romance doesn't work for me and never will. On the other hand Grace Ingram / Doris Suttcliffe Adams for example wrote better romances than most people write anything.

I'd actually like to write one. Got a proposal out there: But it's a hard sell as male author.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris L, LOL

Girl cooties?

I'm sure guys have a magic mirror that makes them think they're adorable no matter what they wear or eat.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Dave, you could always be
D. Freer, or Davina Freer.

Or you could be Barbara Freer and co-write with your wife, under her name.

Unknown said...

I cheerfully made that offer Rowena. I don't mind a psuedonym or intials. But either they don't like the story or the editors are scared of boy-cooties ;-).

Anonymous said...

Romance done right is a joyous scifi experience. The Miles in Love sequence by Lois Bujold is some of her best storytelling, even throwing in a dinner from hell scene that could appear in a regency farce.

I have read a couple of Linnea Sinclear books http://www.amazon.com/Accidental-Goddess-Bantam-Spectra/dp/0553587994 and while there are major problems with characterizations, they are reasonable sci-fi.