One of the ongoing discussions surrounding the romance genre is what, exactly, constitutes a romance. For those who publish romance, and for most authors and readers, the answer is clear: a romance is a story that focuses on a romantic relationship that has a happy ending. For many years, that meant a “happily ever after” ending, with marriage and babies and all that, though that’s been scaled back over time. “Happily for now” endings, with the couple together and committed to each other but not necessarily headed for an altar, qualify as well. In particular, until recently, legal marriage wasn’t even an option in same-sex romance.
The “official” guidelines for what makes a romance are very general, and yet, there are quibbles. Setting aside those who want to expand the definition to include love stories without happy endings (that’s a topic for another day), what if the story focuses on more than just the romance? After all, there are all sorts of subgenres in romance—romantic suspense, mystery, paranormal, sci-fi. Where does a story cross the line from “Romance” to “Novel with Romantic Elements” (a designation formerly used by the Romance Writers of America)?
I don’t think there’s a clear answer to that question. It’s in the eyes of the publisher, the author, and the reader—and those perspectives don’t always agree.
The Sons series is contemporary romance, but each book handles the romantic plot different. Unfortunate Son shows a slow-build romance between the main characters, Evan and Riley. It fits the basic definition of a romance: a romantic relationship that ends happily (that is, with the couple together). But much of the book focuses on other aspects of Evan’s life: his discontent with his career, his friendships, his conflict with his family.
Wayward Son had more focus on the romance than Unfortunate Son, but again, it was atypical, because the relationship included three men instead of two. The story had to find a balance between all three perspectives, plus deal with Mikey’s legal problems and his family situation. Still, the relationship ended with all three men happily together.
The final book, Nobody’s Son, is the closest to the progression of a traditional romance: two people are attracted to each other when they meet, develop a flirtatious friendship, and gradually take their relationship to the next level. Shaun and Con also deal with personal struggles and external pressures, but those tie back into how their relationship develops.
Part of the discussion regarding romance—in many cases coming from those outside the genre—is that the books follow a “formula,” and that there’s somehow something wrong with that. Yes, romance has a formula: see the first paragraph above. Every book in the genre features a romantic relationship that ends happily. But that’s an incredibly general “formula” to follow. It’s like saying that mysteries are “formulaic” because something happens and by the end of the book the readers learns whodunit. Each story is unique in how those elements are addressed.
Some specific romance lines do have more specific guidelines covering content (contemporary, historical, paranormal, etc.), heat levels (sweet to blazing), length, and so on. But even within those lines, each book is different. Authors bring different things to their stories, and that shows in the final product. The three books in the Sons series take very different paths to the happy ending. The places where the three relationships end up are miles apart, and yet they all still fall within the bounds of what makes a romance.
Since I started reading and writing romance again five years ago, I’ve read literally hundreds of romances, most of them between men. I’ve very, very rarely felt as if I’ve read anything that’s been shoehorned into a “formula.” Stories may have the same basic setup, but each has unique characters who approach events in their own unique ways.
My feeling is that there are as many romance stories as there are authors to tell them and readers to enjoy them. As both an author and a reader, I’ll keep writing and reading about romance as long as the stories keep coming.
Who wouldn’t want a nice cup of tall, dark, and gorgeous? Shaun Rogers does. He’s working at the front desk of a clothing-optional gay resort when Conrad “Con” Brooks walks in. The sweet, funny, and smart IT guy is there to install a new network and security system, and sparks fly between the two men from the start. Trouble is, Shaun’s hiding his sexuality from his grandmother, the only family he has left, and that makes him reluctant to take the leap with Con.
Then a man claiming to be Shaun’s absent father shows up out of nowhere, throwing Shaun completely off balance. His life spiraling toward chaos, Shaun soon discovers that his “father” is hiding secrets of his own. When things come to a head between them, it’s Con who comes to Shaun’s rescue—but the incident could force Shaun into a decision he’s not sure he’s ready to make.
GIVEAWAY: One lucky winner will receive a $25 Dreamspinner Press giftcard and ebook copies of Unfortunate Son and Wayward Son, the first two books in the series.
Shae Connor lives in Atlanta, where she’s a lackadaisical government worker for a living and writes sweet-hot romance under the cover of night. She’s been making things up for as long as she can remember, but it took her a long time to figure out that maybe she should try writing them down. She’s conned several companies into publishing her work and adds a new notch on her bedpost each time another story is unleashed onto an unsuspecting universe.
Shae is part Jersey, part Irish, and all Southern, which explains why she never shuts up. When she’s not chained to her laptop, she enjoys cooking, traveling, watching baseball, and reading voraciously. You can find her hanging out on Twitter most any time, or visit her on her website.