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Just what is "romance" fiction
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2511

PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

to linda in sw va: I confess I'm not sure. I'm somewhat in the position of the protagonist in Persig's "The Art of MOtorcycle Maintenance" when he speaks of "quality": I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.

I do think that RWA's definition might be more accurate if it were it to include the word "romantic" before love story, for I think it's in that word that the crux of whatever definition I would come up with resides--as does this discussion, I think.

If asked whether one person in a relationship being unfaithful to the other half were romantic, I think most people would reply "how could it be?" In romance fiction, wherein the relationship is in the greater majority of instances, more passionate, more compelling, more intense, more all-consuming than is commonly encountered, staying within the constraints of what is considered "romantic" by most people surely requires even greater attention to excluding things which aren't romantic.

I think the majority of romance authors recognize that. Not too many romance fictions--if one excludes the bodice rippers--include instances of the hero being unfaithful to the heroine once the relationship has been established: The hero finds his mistress no longer appealing; the heroine begins to doubt her engagement; many even go so far as to make a previous marriage unconsummated; or, as in Balogh's "One Night for Love," the occurrence was unwitting. Nicole Jordan removed the hero's infidelity when "The Lover" was re-issued.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
If asked whether one person in a relationship being unfaithful to the other half were romantic, I think most people would reply "how could it be?" In romance fiction, wherein the relationship is in the greater majority of instances, more passionate, more compelling, more intense, more all-consuming than is commonly encountered, staying within the constraints of what is considered "romantic" by most people surely requires even greater attention to excluding things which aren't romantic.


Additionally, things which are "neutrally" not Romantic, like smelly socks or morning breath, are already excluded as a matter of course. So what if something which really is not Romantic, like adultery, were suddenly thrown in? Even those Bodice Rippers which Dick mentions have to balance a hero's adultery with a grovel of epic proportions and an ending which convinces the reader that he will never cheat again. (I remember one book that sealed the deal by having the other woman die. It was clear that the hero would always love her a little. Rolling Eyes )

Moreover, keeping with the theme of heightened feelings . . . if what is romantic in a Romance can be "more passionate, more compelling, more intense, more all-consuming" than they normally would be, then surely what is anti-Romantic, like adultery, would be more hurtful, more devastating, more destructive, etc.
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 12:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:

If asked whether one person in a relationship being unfaithful to the other half were romantic, I think most people would reply "how could it be?"


I don't understand why you believe we're expected to find John's infidelity romantic, merely because it exists within the pages of a romance. (Though in fact, IIRC it all happens previous to the actual story.) The romance in the story, as with all romances, happens in the characters falling/refalling in love.

You could name dozens, probably hundreds, of plot elements commonly found in romance that aren't remotely romantic. I'm reading Book of Scandal right now, so the death of a child immediately springs to mind. How about marrying for money, forced marriages, rapes, child abuse, torture? All fairly common, especially in historical romance, all generally accepted as plot elements by a great many romance readers. Are we expected to find them romantic simply because they exist within a romance?
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:

Moreover, keeping with the theme of heightened feelings . . . if what is romantic in a Romance can be "more passionate, more compelling, more intense, more all-consuming" than they normally would be, then surely what is anti-Romantic, like adultery, would be more hurtful, more devastating, more destructive, etc.


Well, speaking only for myself here, but I don't think I'm completely alone - I like that. Not that I'm a particular fan of adultery stories, but most of what I read romance for is big feelings, especially painful feelings. We had a discussion elsewhere about generic favorite moments in romance and mine was "the moment when their hearts break." Laughing Of course, I need a happy ending too.
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cawm



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 210
Location: Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

willaful wrote:

I don't understand why you believe we're expected to find John's infidelity romantic, merely because it exists within the pages of a romance. (Though in fact, IIRC it all happens previous to the actual story.) The romance in the story, as with all romances, happens in the characters falling/refalling in love.


John never demonstrates anything remotely resembling love, and I'm sure he will be unfaithful in the future and feel no remorse whatsoever.
Mary Balogh has done several books with adulterous heroes, but in each case the hero came to understand that his behavior was wrong, and made a genuine effort to change. John, however, sees no problem with his behavior, and his temporary faithfulness will never last.
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
to linda in sw va[/b]: I confess I'm not sure. I'm somewhat in the position of the protagonist in Persig's "The Art of MOtorcycle Maintenance" when he speaks of "quality": I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.

I do think that RWA's definition might be more accurate if it were it to include the word "romantic" before love story, for I think it's in that word that the crux of whatever definition I would come up with resides--as does this discussion, I think.


Dick, fair enough!! It wouldn't hurt to have the word 'romantic' placed in there before 'love', though coming from the romance writers association I wonder if that would be a bit redundant.

Quote:
If asked whether one person in a relationship being unfaithful to the other half were romantic, I think most people would reply "how could it be?" In romance fiction, wherein the relationship is in the greater majority of instances, more passionate, more compelling, more intense, more all-consuming than is commonly encountered, staying within the constraints of what is considered "romantic" by most people surely requires even greater attention to excluding things which aren't romantic.


I don't know Dick, lots of things that go on within a romance novel are not actually romantic - fighting, misunderstandings, fear, suspicion, mistrust, power plays, betrayal, etc. Not to mention of course the more controversial forced seductions, kidnapping, forced marriages along with infidelity. I don't think any of these aspects should be excluded from the romance genre with the reasoning that they're not romantic. If you were to rule out one based on that reasoning you'd have to rule out all of them- and more. These may be deal breakers for some readers, but not all.

I remember Linda Howard's A Lady of the West - vividly. I am generally a LH fan - especially of her older books but in this one the hero smacked the pregnant heroine so hard he slammed her up against the wall. It made me so furious I couldn't get past that and to this day I remember it as one of the most rotten things I've ever read a hero do. However, there are readers out there that thought the author resolved this issue well within the story and were satisfied with the HEA. Even though it absolutely did not work for me and that action wasn't the least bit romantic the book was very much a romance novel, from beginning to end.

I have not read The Marriage Bed and have no desire to - but not because of the infidelity, but because from what I've read I don't think I'd find either the hero or heroine all that likable. *shrug*

Quote:
I think the majority of romance authors recognize that. Not too many romance fictions--if one excludes the bodice rippers--include instances of the hero being unfaithful to the heroine once the relationship has been established: The hero finds his mistress no longer appealing; the heroine begins to doubt her engagement; many even go so far as to make a previous marriage unconsummated; or, as in Balogh's "One Night for Love," the occurrence was unwitting. Nicole Jordan removed the hero's infidelity when "The Lover" was re-issued
.

You're right, this is usually the way a romance novel goes! But that's not to say that an author shouldn't present us with a different approach, that it must not be allowed at all.

Linda
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cawm wrote:


John never demonstrates anything remotely resembling love, and I'm sure he will be unfaithful in the future and feel no remorse whatsoever.
Mary Balogh has done several books with adulterous heroes, but in each case the hero came to understand that his behavior was wrong, and made a genuine effort to change. John, however, sees no problem with his behavior, and his temporary faithfulness will never last.


[shrug] That's your opinion. I could go through the novel and find plenty of textual evidence to support my opposite opinion, but there's not a whole lot of point. People are entitled to their own interpretations. Obviously TMB is not a successful romance for you; that doesn't mean it isn't successful for everyone.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

to schola: Great points!


to linda in sw va: But those things still engage the hero and heroine in some way; they are still a unit, so to speak. Even the instance you cite from Lady of the West, (I too found it unacceptable and boring as well) is nonetheless an instance of the h/h acting one with the other in some kind of relationship, violent though it might be; there is connection of some kind--the course of true romance running rough, perhaps.
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:



to linda in sw va: But those things still engage the hero and heroine in some way; they are still a unit, so to speak. Even the instance you cite from Lady of the West, (I too found it unacceptable and boring as well) is nonetheless an instance of the h/h acting one with the other in some kind of relationship, violent though it might be; there is connection of some kind--the course of true romance running rough, perhaps.


But these actions were not romantic, correct? :)

Linda
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
So there is my glass castle. Feel free to catapult boulders at it. But I'm not saying that these are poorly written or unromantic books, just that they push the envelope beyond the genre.


Schola, I do not think you are a troll, in fact I think I poised the question to you so it's perfectly acceptable to answer :)

I agree with you that these books push the envelope, just not that it necessarily extends outside the genre.

I am able to enjoy a good dose of realism in my romance, it makes it more believable for me. In fact I prefer this over characters that are written so ridiculously unreal that I just sit there and roll my eyes. When I read I don't like to be reminded that I am reading fictional characters - if that makes sense. I tend to become really engrossed in the story and in that moment they are real to me. If the author validates this by bringing a humanity to them, even the flaws and sometimes ugly side of human behavior to balance out that larger than life or fairytale aspect than it usually makes it a much more enjoyable read. Some authors are more successful at this than others and sometimes I am simply in the mood for fluff. It's nice to have a variety of both I think.

Linda
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 12:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

willaful wrote:
Schola wrote:

Moreover, keeping with the theme of heightened feelings . . . if what is romantic in a Romance can be "more passionate, more compelling, more intense, more all-consuming" than they normally would be, then surely what is anti-Romantic, like adultery, would be more hurtful, more devastating, more destructive, etc.


Well, speaking only for myself here, but I don't think I'm completely alone - I like that. Not that I'm a particular fan of adultery stories, but most of what I read romance for is big feelings, especially painful feelings. We had a discussion elsewhere about generic favorite moments in romance and mine was "the moment when their hearts break." Laughing Of course, I need a happy ending too.


Arrrrggh! I like "the moment when their hearts break," too! Laughing

In fact, I can think of several really memorably written instances right now . . .

However, going back specifically to The Marriage Bed, I honestly cannot pinpoint the moment when John's heart was broken--which is probably why I doubt it.

Wait. That's not quite accurate. I can remember where John was touched--and I mean truly emotionally seared--but it wasn't because of Viola. For me, the most gut-wrenching scene is when he apologises to his last mistress and realises just how much he has hurt her and will continue to hurt her because she will never see her son again. His heartbreak was entwined more with hers than with Viola's--and we already see him planning to make reparation to her for the rest of his life by telling their son about her.

(Gosh, Willa, I'm getting choked up just writing this!!! Crying or Very sad . . . Okay, I'm all right again now. Very Happy )

Linda in sw va wrote:
I agree with you that these books push the envelope, just not that it necessarily extends outside the genre.


Ah, fair enough! The prosecution rests now . . . at least on that issue. Wink
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 10:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

to linda in sw va: Yes, in some ways, they are romantic; they reinforce the romantic love story by raising barriers or questions, which in turn force insights on the part of the h/h--but they don't sever.

I don't think I've suggested in past posts that nothing without positive romantic overtones can occur in a romance. I've insisted rather that some things are so non-romantic they lift a book right out of the genre when they are included. The stories including them may be manipulated in such a way that the book succeeds as a love story--such as Putney's Dearly Beloved or Howard's Lady of the West or Balogh's Dancing with Clara or even The Marriage Bed--but fail as romance, because the inclusion of those things has a deleterious effect on the HEA.

Most would agree, I think, that the most fantasy-filled and yet most necessary ingredient of the recipe for romance fiction is the HEA, which in most instances, as suggested by epilogues and subsequent appearances of the couple in later books, is something far more than the common run of ever afters --and nearly always presumes almost perfect marriage and family. When one of the things of which I speak is included (after the relationship is once established), that "far more-ness" is diminished to the point of extinction and the presumption of near-perfection is dead or nearly so.
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:

Most would agree, I think, that the most fantasy-filled and yet most necessary ingredient of the recipe for romance fiction is the HEA, which in most instances, as suggested by epilogues and subsequent appearances of the couple in later books, is something far more than the common run of ever afters --and nearly always presumes almost perfect marriage and family. When one of the things of which I speak is included (after the relationship is once established), that "far more-ness" is diminished to the point of extinction and the presumption of near-perfection is dead or nearly so.


And yet you will find plenty of comments, if you read around the romance boards, from people who find such a deluge of epilogues and appearances really tiresome and phony and unrealistic. You also find counter examples, such as in the related books of Suzanne Brockmann in which couples who got their HEAs are finding things a wee bit rocky--which irritates some readers, yet she's still selling like gangbusters. (If she ever completely destroys a former HEA though, that's it for me! That is the one thing up with I will not put!)

I don't see how we can ever get past the basic fact that this is all just a matter of personal taste. You can argue for what you like as long as you want, but I'm still going to like what I like, and vice versa. Happily, the field of romance is big enough to accomodate both points of view. I'm not trying to toss out the books you like.
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Gail K.



Joined: 19 May 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:

I've insisted rather that some things are so non-romantic they lift a book right out of the genre when they are included. The stories including them may be manipulated in such a way that the book succeeds as a love story--such as Putney's Dearly Beloved or Howard's Lady of the West or Balogh's Dancing with Clara or even The Marriage Bed--but fail as romance, because the inclusion of those things has a deleterious effect on the HEA.


But it is the author's JOB to convince us of the believability of the HEA. Granted she isn't going to convert all readers (case in point: THE MARRIAGE BED). But I think it is dangerous to argue, a priori, that anything non-standard cannot be included in the premise of romance fiction. What, then would be the point of becoming invested in a story?
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I don't think I've suggested in past posts that nothing without positive romantic overtones can occur in a romance. I've insisted rather that some things are so non-romantic they lift a book right out of the genre when they are included
.

While I agree that these scenarios can and often do turn a reader off to the point that the story definitely did not work for them, that doesn't mean they are 'lifted out of the genre'. What you are speaking of is a matter of your personal preference because these very same stories can and do work well for other readers as a romance.

Quote:
The stories including them may be manipulated in such a way that the book succeeds as a love story--such as Putney's Dearly Beloved or Howard's Lady of the West or Balogh's Dancing with Clara or even The Marriage Bed--but fail as romance, because the inclusion of those things has a deleterious effect on the HEA.


I'd call A Lady of the West a true blue romance novel before I'd call it a 'love story' and yet calling it either would not change the fact that the book did not work for me. You could boot it out of the romance section and into straight fiction, perhaps to much dismay of the readers there, and that wouldn't change a thing.

Linda
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