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Established Relationships in Romance

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morngnstar

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I think it depends on what the story is about. Is the main plot of the story about how they fall in love again? Then yes, I'd say that's a romance. But if the main focus of the plot is on the established couple dealing with other things, as the OP described in her post, and not on the re-evolution of their relationship, then it would not be a romance.

Sure, sure. If it's about a husband and wife crime solving team, then it's a mystery, even if maybe they work through some relationship issues along the way. And I re-read the OP and see she was talking about a romantic subplot in a fantasy novel.

But I think this answers some of bombergirl's issues about whether the romance genre can deal with keeping the passion alive as well as kindling it. The answer is yes it can. As long as the end result is an eternal flame (well, at least a flame for now).
 

LJD

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But I think this answers some of bombergirl's issues about whether the romance genre can deal with keeping the passion alive as well as kindling it. The answer is yes it can. As long as the end result is an eternal flame (well, at least a flame for now).

For a "marriage in trouble" trope in romance, though, it's not about keeping the passion alive. It's more like...the couple is no longer on speaking terms, living on separate continents, etc, but are still married for one reason or another. It seems like a subtype of "reunion romance" to me, except they just happen to be married. They have to fall in love all over again.

A slightly different example I can think of is Making It Last by Ruthie Knox, which revisits a couple in a previous story, 10 years later. But that's rather unusual.

ETA: I think romance novels in which the couple is already in a quasi-functional romantic relationship at the beginning of the book are rare, though in the past few years, it seems that series that follow a single couple (rather than standalones set in the same world) have become a little more common.
 
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ElaineA

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If I picked up a book thinking it's a Romance and it turned out to be an established couple rekindling their romance I'd ask for my money back. That's WF in my mind, and I don't read Romance to have my own life reflected on the pages. I want a fantasy, an escape. If I want accurate, realistic depictions of married life I read lit fic or WF or NF for that.
 

Marian Perera

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If I picked up a book thinking it's a Romance and it turned out to be an established couple rekindling their romance I'd ask for my money back. That's WF in my mind, and I don't read Romance to have my own life reflected on the pages. I want a fantasy, an escape. If I want accurate, realistic depictions of married life I read lit fic or WF or NF for that.

Exactly. When I pick up a romance, I'm not interested in


  • an established (meaning : committed to each other, in love, etc) couple rediscovering the spark
  • an established couple solving crimes
  • an established couple dealing with their children's issues or other family-related matters

Romance is always about the "(how) will they fall in love" or "fall back in love", if this is a couple that are reuniting. It's not about how an established couple does anything.
 

CEtchison

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I think romance novels in which the couple is already in a quasi-functional romantic relationship at the beginning of the book are rare

**Emphasis is mine. Whether their marriage is functional is the key. There have been plenty of romances, historical in particular, where the married couple are estranged and have been separated for months, perhaps even years, and the romantic arc is finding their way back to love or finding love for the first time. Sherry Thomas and Sarah MacLean both have titles with this trope.
 

Twick

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It strikes me that this boils down to "Romance Novels sell really well. I have a story with a romantic plot, but doesn't quite fit the genre. Why can't I sell it as a Romance Novel anyway? It would be so much easier than marketing it as Women's Literature or (gasp) General Fiction?"

You can sell any sort of story. Lots of stories have been incredibly successful without falling into the parameters of the Romance Novel. But one of the biggest takeaways from them? They weren't *marketed" as Romance Novels.
 

lizmonster

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It strikes me that this boils down to "Romance Novels sell really well. I have a story with a romantic plot, but doesn't quite fit the genre. Why can't I sell it as a Romance Novel anyway? It would be so much easier than marketing it as Women's Literature or (gasp) General Fiction?"

A brief PSA in support of the rest of Twick's comment:

Do not do this.

If anyone else suggests you do this, fight them with everything you have.

Romance readers have no patience for this sort of nonsense, and they have long memories.

You can't tap into the monetary vein of genre romance unless that's what you've actually written, and if you try with something else, it will hurt you. Readers aren't stupid, and they'll resent you for treating them like they are.
 

Marian Perera

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Romance readers have no patience for this sort of nonsense, and they have long memories.

You can't tap into the monetary vein of genre romance unless that's what you've actually written, and if you try with something else, it will hurt you. Readers aren't stupid, and they'll resent you for treating them like they are.

Agreed.

And here's another thing about romance readers. They're not trapped within the rigid confines of their restrictive genre, longing for stories which end with horrible tragedy, or which are realistic depictions of committed couples working through family issues together. They already know where to go to find those.

So it's best to understand genre requirements and to label appropriately (and to avoid dumping on the romance genre, if at all possible).
 

Evelyn_Alexie

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I'm also of the opinion that if your characters start out in an established relationship than it's just not really a romance. Now you could take that couple and throw huge problems at them and make the book about how it either strengthens or crumbles their relationship and not have to deal with how their romance actually begins...but then whatever problems you throw at them could be the main story arc as well.

Tamara Morgan has written a series (Penelope Blue) and the first one (Stealing Mr. Right) definitely qualifies as a romance even though it starts out with the hero and heroine not only married, but enemies.

It can be done. But it's tricky. In this case, Morgan uses flashbacks a lot, weaving them in with the current story.
The second and third book in the series are more capers with romantic elements thrown in.
 

chompers

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A brief PSA in support of the rest of Twick's comment:

Do not do this.

If anyone else suggests you do this, fight them with everything you have.

Romance readers have no patience for this sort of nonsense, and they have long memories.

You can't tap into the monetary vein of genre romance unless that's what you've actually written, and if you try with something else, it will hurt you. Readers aren't stupid, and they'll resent you for treating them like they are.
Though to be fair, a lot just don't seem to understand what actually constitutes a Romance. A lot tend to think just because it has romance it can be categorized as such. A LOT of Romance authors even have trouble with this. On their descriptions on the sale page they go so far as to include "ends in a happily ever after". And then there are others that don't even have that. Just because there's a relationship they think it's a Romance.
 

ElaineA

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Though to be fair, a lot just don't seem to understand what actually constitutes a Romance. A lot tend to think just because it has romance it can be categorized as such. A LOT of Romance authors even have trouble with this. On their descriptions on the sale page they go so far as to include "ends in a happily ever after". And then there are others that don't even have that. Just because there's a relationship they think it's a Romance.

I'm not as charitable as chompers. Non-romance writers frequently test to stretch the definition of Romance. Perhaps some of it is ignorance, but a lot of it is just mercenary hope that people won't ask for their money back. Any "Romance writer" who tries to slip one by knows very well if they haven't written a romance.

The reason you see the "ends in a HEA" becoming more and more frequent in Amazon descriptions is because so many people are trying to slide into the genre tags for visibility. The "ends in a HEA" is overwhelmingly a description on indie books, since books from well-established trade pub Romance imprints wouldn't be allowed on the "shelf" without the HEA/solid HFN. (I say this as someone who had to rewrite an ending I [and my betas/CPs] thought was definitely HFN, but the editor wanted it to be even more solid.)

Indie writers don't have that layer of certainty until they develop a readership. No one can stop someone from including "romance" in their tags, and that only makes it harder on people who do actually write romance. IMO, the "contains a HEA" isn't because a romance author has trouble with what a romance is, it's the outgrowth of others mis-tagging a book's category.
 

B.G. Dobbins

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Eve and Rick do have a kind of enemies-to-lovers romance subplot in the first movie, though. She thinks he's barbaric. He thinks she's sheltered and frivolous. They make jabs at one another. I personally like that trope when done well. An established relationship works well, too. For it to be a romance, though, the conflict would have to be centered around the relationship. Otherwise, it's a romantic subplot, which is fine, too. It's all about execution.
 

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