Jennifer's Journal


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What is a Romance?

A schism seems to be growing among romance readers and authors these days over what does or does not constitute a romance.  One side of this discussion adheres to the traditional definition, which is that a romance is a tale involving a man and a woman in events which lead to adventurous happenings and culminates in a happy ending.  The opposite view, one that has evolved in the last ten years or so, is that a romance is a story which concentrates solely on the emotional involvement of the hero and heroine.  The first allows for creation of setting, character and complex action while building a relationship that progresses to sensual accord and, finally, love.  The second requires constant association of the hero and heroine and the exploration of their intense sexual rapport.  Readers of the first type enjoy the mental stimulation of a plot which may include well-researched historical or contemporary incidents and political machinations against a backdrop of authentic sights and sounds.  Readers of the second care little for accurate depiction of settings or events but enjoy the emotional stimulation of high dramatics and titillating and/or explicit love scenes.


The inevitable result of this difference of opinion is that many of those judging contests or writing critiques for other purposes are raising the cry of, “This is not a romance!”   The question I ask is: Who says it isn’t?  By whose standard are they judging?


A romance is a story wherein the main focus is the relationship between the hero and heroine--be that relationship social, political, historical, emotional, physical or any and all these things.  Within these parameters, the events which carry the story forward can be as different as the writer creating it.  Attempting to narrow the definition of a romance to suit one’s own preference is a good way to kill off the genre completely.  The best romances, best stories of any kind, are written by those who are freest to make them what they will.


“I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
--Anne Lamott



Blogger Mariad said...

You know, I didn't even know there was such discourse over "what a romance is". I enjoy both versions but if I have a preference I like the first where the story has a plot and is pretty much accurate in the setting, history, and politics of whatever time period it is set in. It gives the characters far more motivation if there is some intrigue outside from themselves.

As for the sex, maybe I’m a prude, but I love the build up to one grand love scene instead of having sex scene after sex scene through out the book. Normally, and I hate to admit this, if there is more than one of them I tend to read the first encounter and just skim over the rest of the sex scenes. To me falling in love is about more than just sex and sexual tension. It is about the two characters connecting on an emotional level. Preferably through hard circumstances that throw the two together kicking and screaming at first. I don’t know but the love at first sight sort of thing just isn’t as fun for me. LOL

Some of the best stories and movies are not even considered romances but they have the elements of romance in them.

It’s a shame that people have preconceived notions to what a romance is and are trying to wipe out one kind or the other. The judges and groups should just leave the authors alone so their imaginations can soar and thrive. By forcing them to conform to their wishes they are forcing people into a box and taking away a lot of stories that “could” have been written.

Sorry so long winded but one of the things that really gets to me is when groups of people get together and complain and harass to get others to conform to what they believe is the best. It might be best for them but what about the thousands of us who don’t normally have a voice in matters? We sometimes like things a bit different. Whatever happened to diversity is good?

I’m shutting up now. LOL

10:24 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Blake said...

Please don't shut up, Maria. What you have to say is important! As with any movement with freedom as its goal--in this case freedom of expression--those with a strong view need to be heard.

I'm so glad to know that you enjoy the long build up to a single love scene since I’ve been leaning that way of late. It’s a little like Hitchcock’s view on terror: An explosion isn’t that exciting; it’s waiting for it to happen that makes your heart pound. And I do get bent out of shape over romance novels, particularly in historical context, where characters leap into sexual intimacy as if they can't think ahead, are so in lust that they have no self control or lack all concern for the conventions of the time period. This isn't exciting; it’s plain stupid. If they consider all the problems then make love anyway, for good and sufficient reason, that's another thing altogether. But don't get me started...

Yes, diversity is necessary for evolution in the romance genre. And evolution is necessary for its survival. If romance novels can’t, or don’t, change enough to hold the changing interest of readers, then they will be doomed

Best, Jennifer

11:49 AM  
Blogger Mariad said...

I am glad you commented. I was thinking I can be a big mouth and then I was thinking perhaps I shouldn't comment. I seem unable to help myself sometimes and can get carried away.

And you're right the freedom of expression is something to fight for. Even if I get myself into trouble. hehe

It feels like lately that there is a big movement toward stopping the freedom of expression, just not in writing. Maybe it's just the way I precieve things. But it seems that groups of like minded people have the stronger voice and shut out the softer more timid voices of those who dare say anything against them.

Anyway, I do hope that we're heard. I really enjoy reading. I'm pretty much happy with any happy ending. LOL The worst thing in the world for me is when I read a book or watch a movie and the ending is sad and I end up weeping. LOL Those I never watch again or read again, not because I don't like them just because I always get attached to the characters.

Recently I watched the third and final Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith and I have to say, the ending was so tragic and sad I will never watch it again. I know it's make believe but I was devistated. LOL I actually liked Anikan aka Darth Vadar and couldn't help secretly wanting him to listen to his wife and give up the dark side. His reasoning was to save her from dying during child birth. In the end she did anyway but from a broken heart. weep weep weep LOL To me the part where he's power hungry was overshadowed by his great love for his wife.

Doomed love is just to hard for me to handle. I guess I like the happily ever after kind.

I watched the movie because my son wanted to and I knew the outcome would be that Anikan would turn bad. I just wasn't prepared for the deep love he had for his wife, part of it. Now if he'd not been so in love with her I don't think it would have effected me so much... All this said I think it was my favorit in the trilogy. hehe

You put into words exactly what I meant about the love scene. I am so glad you understand. And historical romance is my favorit above any others. I ordered your latest book from and anxiously awaiting it. I did the supersaver shipping so it will be probably next week before I get it, so in the meantime I'm rereading Challenge to Honor. I read it last year when it first came out so I want to refresh the characters and story in my mind and I love it just as much this time around as I did the first.

Thank you for sharing these wonderful stories. I can't wait till the whole series is written. LOL


3:43 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Blake said...

We are such romantics, Maria! I say this because I can't stand to watch movies with sad endings, either. Sommersby? Devastating. Loved Somewhere in Time, but absolutely refuse to watch it again. I watched Phantom of the Opera the other day--after seeing it once live--and agonized tearfully all over again for the poor phantom. Haven't watched Cold Mountain because somebody said it "didn't end right." Never saw Love Story for the same reason. And so on, and so on. I can't even read the scene in my own Dawn Encounter where the poet says good-bye to Lisette before the duel without breaking down, and I killed the young gentleman off myself! But it's my personal belief that sensitivity is a good thing, that the world is better off for people who are able to empathize with fictional characters as if they were real. The problem is in those who are too callous, too unsympathetic to feel anything.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Mariad said...

Jennifer we sure are the romantics! Thanks for the warning about Dawn Encounter. I'll hide in my bedroom with a box of tissues when I read that part. My husband finds it funny when I start crying when reading a book.

He asked me to watch Million Dollar Baby tonight and I said no! I've heard it is really sad. We seem to have a simular list of movies we wont watch or can't again.

What I really love is the old movies with the romantic comody's like Bringing Up Baby with Catherine Heburn or Easter Parade with Judy Garland and Fred Astare. I just adore the musicals and I'm always left feeling happy after. :) One of my favorit movies is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I just love Howard Keal. LOL He was good with Doris Day in Calamity (SP?) Jane too. Something about him I just found really appealing. Maybe his deep voice and rugged looks... I think back then the movies had an innocents to them and their humor was so different, that they just appeal to me.

I remember before my Grandfather passed away going over and watching State Fair and those movies. He used to buy a lot of them. He'd enjoy them a lot. I get my love of reading from him too. He loved to read and he was miserable when he lost his eye sight; he had diebities. Both my parents hate to read. I wondered for a while where I came from.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Blake said...

Oops, Maria, I didn't mean to be a spoiler--I'd forgotten you hadn't read Dawn Encounter yet. Sorry!!! Don't let my comments put you off, however. This duel has a strong point for the story and also sets up the whole situation for book #4, the one I'm working on now. It was included as a cautionary note as well, in comparison to the favorable attitude toward dueling elsewhere.

Thanks for the warning about Million Dollar Baby. I'll avoid that one, too. Don't watch Denzel Washington in Man on Fire without a tissue box handy. I think what kills me is nobility in action, the sacrifice for love--whether it's for a woman, a child or a cause. Hey, I've never seen King Kong, old version or new, but I suspect I'd probably cry for the ape. Pity the poor beast, rather like the phantom of the opera in a way. Another heartbreaker is the "things that might have been." I'm thinking of Message in a Bottle and Bridges of Madison County here. For obvious reasons, I don't read Nicholas Sparks any more. He's the Danielle Steele of male authors, going straight for the tear ducts.

My favorite movies are romantic comedies--love Hugh Grant and will watch anything he does just to hear him throw away lines with that wonderful English style. Pierce Brosnan as well--I just like English actors in general. Despite the mayhem, I always enjoyed watching Brosnan save the day as 007--so I will watch some suspense. But I can't stand prison/convict movies, hit man/hit woman movies, car chase movies, war movies, horror movies, werewolf/ghost/demon movies, movies about snakes or sharks or anything with blood and gore that splashes. You can tell why I read so much...

Howard Keel: ever see him in Show Boat? And Annie Get Your Gun? I think we just may be dating ourselves...:-) He was one of the few guys appearing in musicals who was actually good looking and could sing as well. I mean, Frank Sinatra,Fred Astaire and Dean Martin had great voices and good moves, but were not exactly hunks, at least IMHO. LOL! Of course, they weren't quite my generation either, but we won't go there.

Have a great weekend!
Best, Jennifer

11:22 AM  
Blogger Mariad said...

I'm still going to read Dawn Encounter! I really want to even if there's sadness in it. I'm sure it will be fantastic. You didn't turn me off from it. :)

I love romantic comedies too. Hugh Jackman I find very appealing too, though I believe he's Australian. He was good in the movie with Meg Ryan, it was a romantic comedy, Kate and Leopold. The story is about a nobleman from I think the 1800's (Can't quite remember the time period. I'm guessing here sorry.) who came to our time by accident and he runs into Meg Ryan and they fall into love. Really cute story with some fun.

Did you see Laws of Attraction with Pierce Brosnan? It's so funny and their clients were nuts. Brosnan and the heroin ended up thinking they were married in Ireland when they went to investigate the Castle their clients wanted out of the divorce to find out who it would go to. Very good movie.

Ladder 49 is another tear jerker. It was a really good movie and very touching. I hated the ending though and cried. I won't watch it again. I hadn't realized the ending would be sad. But it as a wonderful tribute to fire fighters.

I saw Message in a Bottle that was very sad. I cried like a baby at the ending. I heard the Note book was another sad one so I haven't watched it.

I wanted to watch Man on Fire. It's on I think Starz or one of them pay stations right now. I thought of watching it because I really like Denzel Washington as an actor. I’m not so sure now.

Braveheart is another one of those good movies with tragic endings. I was horrified and actually angry at the end. I was mad at my husband for convincing me to watch it and mad at how terrible a death they had. They didn’t show them cutting into him but I didn’t need for them too. I had no idea that they were going to kill him at the end. The movie bothered me for days. I don’t know how some people can re-watch some of these movies. Once was quite enough for me. Joan of Arc... another one I won’t watch. I know the outcome.

Children dying in movies or books I find very hard. Its bad enough I cry at the news when something happens to a child. I just can't take it. I have three children so it makes me think of what would happen if I lost one of them?

I don't watch war movies either. I did watch Saving Private Ryan with my husband. :(

There is something about sacrificing for love that really cuts to the heart. It doesn't matter what kind of love, country, woman, man or child. I believe it’s one of the reasons we exist on earth. It’s such a powerful entity and people do miraculous things all for love.

I don't read Danelle Steele. I read her when I was younger but I found her awfully sad. So I avoid her novels now. I know a lot of people like her but everything is so tragic. I just don't enjoy reading her. A lot of my friends love her though. They also like Stephen King novels which I won't read. I did enjoy his book on writing. I liked reading the parts about himself; he seems like a very funny man. I’m not into all the swearing though.

I’ve read swears in historical romances. I’m sure they swore back then but you know when there is swears it actually shocks me. I mean like the “F” word. There was a historical novel I read by Gretchen Genet called Winds of Glory set in the American Revolutionary war and there were a lot of swears in it. I was shocked that we swore back then. LOL Don’t know why... Very good story. I got it from a box of books that my neighbor set out with a ‘for free’ sign on them. They had a yard sale and they were left over. I actually took the whole box, I could not let them be tossed in the trash. Normally I don’t buy from yard sales or used. I had to buy Gretchen Genet’s other book used since the books can no longer be purchased new. I only found two of her books. Maybe she goes by a different name now? Or no longer writes. I’m not sure.

I read Tick Tock by Deane Koontz and he has a funny humor that I like, sort of old fashioned. I wish he’d write a romantic comedy, I think he’d be very good at it. The book was sort of silly and not scary to me. But it is a horror story. LOL I read it for a reading club.

I can watch some horror but to read horror is a whole different beast. I think the imagination can be so much better than the movies and scarier! I’m no adrenalin junky that’s for sure—a romantic junky, yes!

I agree about all those gentleman. Astaire, he was homely but he sure could dance and sing. I think those gentleman all had charisma even if they weren't handsome. They were very likable.

Yes, I saw Show Boat and Annie get your Gun. Howard Keel isn't of my generation but before. LOL I'm 36. I still adore him though and he couldn’t have made enough movies for me!

I’ve really loved talking with you about movies, books and romance. I think I could talk forever and ever on this subject. I don’t watch many TV shows though and don’t watch Desperate House wives or the likes. I do watch the news because I like to know what’s going on in the country and the world.

Were I live in Weare NH, they’re having a rally today against Judge David Souter’s verdict to allow local governments to take homes by seizure (eminent domain) and give them to private developers if by doing so the government will generate more tax revenues and other economic benefits. They managed to get on the Weare election ballet a proposal to take his property for an inn, museum and café. I feel sorry for Judge Souter in a way, but disagree with taking what people have worked hard for or have had in their families for generations just to give to corporations who want to develop it for profit. Hot topic here at the moment! I’m a bit nosy so I want to go up to the rally and see what’s going on. My town’s small so this is a big thing. I don’t know if I’ll vote for taking his property or not. I understand it’s to make a point but he’s just one judge of four. I can’t help but feel sorry for him. It will be interesting come election time; I wonder how our town will vote.

You have a good weekend too. And I do hope that my order from Amazon comes soon! I’m dying to read Dawn Encounter and you’ve made me even more excited to read it. :) I’m actually kicking myself for not running to Barns and Nobles or at least having my husband go for me since I always over spend on books. Much like I do when I walk through craft stores, to much temptation!

Best wishes,

2:57 PM  
Blogger Nicole Reising said...

I couldn't help but glancing right off the bat at what Maria said in her post to you and her first sentence totally summed up my thoughts as I read your post.

And after reading your post I've decided that you're right - there are two different kinds of romance and I love them both. It just depends on the day or my mood. (Imagine that - a woman with differing moods:))

So I guess I'm really glad that there has been a developing or newer section of romance type books. For days that I just want a quick 'fix' of romance I can grab it and go. And for the times that I want to curl up and be there for awhile... I know where to go as well.

Funny thing was, I've been doing this for quite awhile and just didn't realize that there was pattern to it!


1:43 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Blake said...

Very balanced idea, Cole!--reading different types of romances according to mood. I can relate to that with no problem. And I certainly think there's plenty of room for all kinds of romances. Nothing like variety! What gets me are the people who try to hem in the genre with rules and regs advanced according to their own personal preferences. They need brain expansion surgery...

Thanks for weighing in on this discussion!

Best, Jennifer

8:16 AM  

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