Romance novels are the highest-selling genre of books in the world today. Yet, they are also unique in that the major plotline of their stories isn’t driven by a series of actions or events. Instead, love stories revolve around the building of a relationship. These books are written across all settings and time periods, and can be flavored with elements of any other genre on the market (sci-fi romance, paranormal romance, western romance, historical romance, contemporary romance – the list goes on and on). But at the end of the book, the focus is solely on whether or not the characters in question get their “happily ever after.”
I’ve done posts before that cover my opinions on certain types of romance novels; in particular, I recall some two-parter posts that centered around Katie MacAlister and her supernatural stories versus her contemporary novels. Recently, I finished Charlie N. Holmberg’s Numina Trilogy (see separate post for details!) and I found myself reflecting on the specific ways in which she develops her romantic subplots. Now, Charlie N. Holmberg doesn’t write what I would label as “romance.” Her genre is much more fantasy. But every novel of hers that I’ve read has had an underlying love arc. And perhaps it’s because the romantic angle isn’t her main focus that the relationships she builds between characters are so intriguing.
I think my favorite love story of hers will always be Followed by Frost (there’s always something about that first book you read by an author you love). The relationship between Smitha and Lo was so subtle that it actually surprised me! I really and truly didn’t see it coming until the very end. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet had a similar feel to it – you don’t realize how Fyel and Maire are connected until almost the end of the novel, when the truth of their past finally comes to light. The Paper Magician series was much more obvious and probably my least favorite. The love plotline for The Fifth Doll was almost nonexistent (I changed my mind – that one is probably my least favorite) and Veins of Gold was sweet, with a lot of learning to trust, both in another person and in one’s own heart. The Numina Trilogy by far took the longest, but that length, coupled with the breaking and rebuilding of faith in one another, made their love feel very strong by the time they reached the end. All in all, these books are wonderful examples of how to create love without sex.
Now, romance is definitely a main part of my genre. I can’t pare down to a bare-bones approach on the love angle, because that is certainly a major part of my stories! But perhaps I can take a page from Ms. Holmberg’s books (metaphorically, not literally) when it comes to how I build those relationships. Bigger is not always better. It’s amazing how much you can do with a simple kiss, a single lingering glance, or even just the brush of two hands. And jumping into bed together doesn’t make the relationship stronger; building trust does (it’s kind of like real life in that way). I can’t be so subtle that you miss it for the first half of the book (or the story will probably feel rather empty), but I can keep my readers guessing. There’s something to be said for not giving it all away at once, and that applies to many different levels of romance! Going forward, I may try to take the long road when it comes to creating love – it may not be as flashy or exciting as other novels in this genre, but I can guarantee it will well be worth the wait ;-).
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Until the next time, keep reading!
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I have two passions: reading and writing. You can't write good stories without first reading good stories - that's my theory, anyway. So this is where I'll share with you the depth of those passions: background on what and why I write, as well as talking about the books that I read and how they impact my writing.