I've been reading of a disturbing trend, books marketed as romances but they don't have an HEA (Happily Ever After) or even a HFN (Happily For Now) And they aren't even part of a series or a planned cliffhanger.
There are so many ways to parse a romance genre-wise, but the one enduring rule, the one thing readers count on--is a happily ever after. It is sacrosanct. Decades in the making.
So if your story does not have the HEA, call it anything you want, a love story, fictional romantic literature, but do not class it as a romance, because it isn't. Not in any way. You can write a mystery or sci-fi with romantic elements, and the couple can ultimately find a happy ending, but if the driving force of the story isn't the growing romance and the intense feelings between the couple but instead a mutant invasion or catching a serial killer, then...it isn't a romance.
Confusing, isn't it? And many people have their own idea of what constitutes a romance, or what is erotic romance or erotica for that matter.
But again, if the the main thrust (no pun intended) of the plot is not romance and they do not have an HEA? It. Is. Not. Romance.
And readers, do read blurbs and look at how a book is categorized. If it's a paperback, look at the spine. If it says 'fiction', it's not a romance.
But even this isn't relevant any longer if pubs and authors are placing books in the wrong categories at Amazon for example. Be vigilant.
If I read a contemporary story about Cupcake Cove, a place where all the men from the plumber, the fireman, and the teacher are six-foot-plus tall gorgeous hunks who are aching to give the heroine their full attention in bed and out of it, I damned well expect a happy ending. Especially if I have to endure all the quirky and sweet characters residing in the small town who work at such places as the Dough-Roll-Me Bakery or the Gumdrop Haven Candy Store. Ending the story with one of the main characters dying of a horrible disease is a swift kick to the cleats and a break in the trust that exists between author and reader in the romance genre.
Cupcake Cove isn't real life. It's fantasy, an escape, and the romance reader reads this particular genre for these very reasons. To forget for a time how harsh real life can be, to immerse themselves in another world or era, to follow a couple of whatever gender through the passionate, potent journey of falling in love. And at the end of that road? The happy ending.
Not sure who is contributing to this new trend, whether it's publishers wishing to draw in romance's bigger market of readers, or whether its authors, or both, but please...just stop it.
Everything else is NOT a romance. At least to me. #Opinion.
by Karyn Gerrard, author of Contemporary and Historical romances with HEA's