We know why we read romances. It isn’t just for the sex. We want to feel warm fuzzies, or we need a space where the world is good for just a little bit, or to escape into a small town where everyone is known and seen.
Rule 1: Romance isn’t just about the romance.
I learn when I read romances. Historical romances often give me a glimpse into life during an era of history I am unfamiliar about or glimpse through the window a culture I am not a part of. I build empathy and understanding when I read.
Rule 2: Romance is escape and confrontation of self
Romance is escape and it helps me confront issues in my own life. Times that I felt unworthy, or lost faith and trust. The best romances go deeper than the will they or won’t they. It’s a romance….
Of course they will.
Rule 3: It isn’t a romance if it doesn’t follow a tried and true trope.
A good romance follows a trope in an innovative or fresh way. As a reader I come to a story because I love second chance romances or enemies to lovers or opposites attract. But it can’t be the same story over and over, or why would a reader seek a book out among all that’s out there?
Rule 4: Romances start with broken heroes and end with a new person
As I read romances, I learn as a writer what makes a book click for a reader. Always a good HEA starts with a hole in the hearts of our heroes and ends with healing. Every.Single.Time.
Without that journey would we even get past the first page.
Rule 5: Romances declare the stakes of the heart
We need to know what our heroes stand to lose if they don’t heal themselves, and it can’t be simple. Complex and angst filled problems make the inevitable happy ending spectacular. The more our characters hurt, the more the reader cheers them onward.
Rule 6: Romance has sexual tension
Romances can be as chaste or spicy as a reader likes. But it is different than erotica. A book that focuses on the sex, isn’t a romance. A reader doesn’t come to the romance for the sex, they come for the story.
Rule 7: Romances have strong women and sensitive men
Romance novels are stigmatized as being silly and only for women. What I read in romances are strong women who fight against a misogynistic society controlled by men. Yes, they are hurt by this society, and they find ways to persevere. No longer are alpha male type heroes the expectation of the genre. Give me a sensitive guy and you will have me drooling over the pages.
Rule 8: Romance is not just straight love
My favorite book this past year was Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. I LOVED THIS BOOK. The characters, the setting, the love story. I stayed up way too late reading this book. I am thankful the book industry is producing more LGBTQIA books and we need more.
What do you think? What makes a strong Happily Ever After?
But these are my opinions. What makes a good romance novel for you? What do you look for in the books you select? What books make you say no way and what books make you say give me more?
Comment to start the conversation