Saturday, 13 August 2011

Confusion about Romance

I am not an avid reader of romance novels at all. It’s just not my genre, but I respect people who read them for fun. Yet, a discussion has sprung up at the Diving Bell Pub about forbidden love (which is one of your basic romance topics, after all) and I feel compelled to write more about it. As it is a topic of writing and reading, I decided to do so here at my literary blog.

The main discussion isn’t so much the topic of forbidden love – which is sweet and larger-than-life in many ways – but the question of what kind of novel counts as a romance novel.

For me, a lot of those ‘women novels’ which have sprung up in the fantasy and horror genre are romance stories as well. Every story which mostly revolves around the relationship of the male and female lead is a romance novel for me, no matter whether the backdrop is today’s quiet suburb or medieval Paris or a fantasy world yet to be named. It also doesn’t matter much to me whether the happiness of the couple is threatened by another suitor (with more influence and wealth, perhaps), the war between two kingdoms, the denial of the family (or an arranged marriage) or a vampire lurking in the background (which normally will be another suitor in a different way).

If horror, thriller, fantasy or whatever become a mere background for the love of two people, it’s a romance novel for me.

I’m not completely alone with that view in aforementioned discussion in the forum, but still it is hard for me to make people understand I don’t really care for that stuff – maybe because I, too, find it hard to understand the reason.

I never developed a taste for romance stories in my youth. I always liked reading crime and mystery. When I slipped into my teens, first horror, then science-fiction and finally fantasy were added to my tastes. I read the novels, I watched the movies and I enjoyed myself a lot. I rediscovered the thrill I had experienced with fantasy books and fairy tales for kids when I realized they were my entrance door to fantasy and horror. Science-fiction came with my interest in Star Trek and, of course, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It also came with two anthologies that put Sherlock Holmes into various settings in time and space.

I tried my hands at romance stories during that time, but somehow I could never make it work. Romance stories, melodramatic stories and other ‘normal world’ stuff never really interested me.

A little while ago, I ‘accidentally’ bought one of those ‘women novels’ set in a fantasy environment … and never finished it. I just couldn’t really get my mind around it, the romance was so much in the foreground for me, it simply erased the fantasy part. I’m just not wired the right way to enjoy such novels. Romance as a sub-thread in a crime or mystery story is okay, not a problem with that (both the Coffeehouse Mysteries by Chloe Coyle and the Booktown Mysteries by Lorna Barrett come with romantic entanglements for the female detectives). Romance as a sub-thread in a fantasy, horror or science-fiction novel is okay for me as well. It’s the other way around that troubles me – when the genres I enjoy reading become a mere backdrop for a romance.

Yet I have lately worked on a romance story in a fantasy environment – strange things are happening. Stay tuned for a post about this story, currently dubbed ‘Magical Marriage’ on my computer. I have but a few scenes to do and will take it to Feedbooks once I am finished.

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