What makes a good romance novel?

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SWPelzer

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For me, it is a combination of believably (do the characters belong together?), realism (do I believe the characters would do that?) and likability (do I like the characters in this story? I don't have to like everything about them, but in general, I have to find something to make me root for them.). If the story makes sense and the characters are acting in a way that moves both the story and the romance along, and makes sense within the confines of the plot, then I will keep reading. I don't need on the page sex to see that the romance is growing, but I am not against it either as long as it is tasteful.
 

Lirien

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My favorite love story (it's not considered a romance because of the tragic ending) is Wuthering Heights. Romance or not, this is my favorite romantic story. It was touching and brilliant.

I just have to ask about this. I recently re-read it, it is one of my favourite books, that Kate Bush song is constantly in my head, but... How is that love? It is touching but not in a positive way. Every single character in that book is a life wasted and that saddens me. Don't take this negativelly, I'm truly interested in your reasons why you consider it to be a love story, because this book makes me angry and sad (and I like to re-read it every five years or so).
 

SnugglePuggle

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For me, a romance that is good is that it the couple must go through some kind of trail in the middle of their relationship before a happy ending comes in to play. That, as well as the characters are likeable, then its a good one in my book.
 

Roxxsmom

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For me, it's interesting characters who change and evolve to become better people because of their relationship, and of course their finding solutions to obstacles that seem insurmountable at first, stories where that path to the HEA isn't clear. I tend to like stories where the characters are walking wounded in some way, and their relationship helps to heal them, and also where both partners have interests and passions that go beyond sitting around being rich.

I have a preference for historical settings over contemporary. Not sure why. Maybe it's because there were more obstacles to togetherness in previous time periods.

I also tend to prefer romantic stories with a fair amount of heat and for male main characters who aren't the traditional take on alpha males. Not saying I want wimpy heroes, but I don't much care for guys who are overly possessive or stalkerish or rapey or who have a general contempt for women until they meet the FMC. And I prefer the FMC be of an active and someone outrageous or rebellious bent, rather than passively waiting for rescue.

I've enjoyed romances that turn traditional tropes on their heads, such as stories where the guy is the virgin (or at least not a serial womanizer prior to meeting the FMC), or where the guy is the one who has the "sub" fantasies, or where the two characters are close to the same age (or the woman even a bit older).
 
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For me, personally, as a reader:
1. I like flawed characters.
2. I like the two characters to complement each other, to have differing strengths and weaknesses.
3. I hate when two characters hate each other, and are a really bad fit personality-wise in the long run, and the only thing going for the relationship is sexual chemistry. Because I find it hard to believe they'll have a HEA. It can work for a HFN, I guess.
4. I like romances where the reason that they 'can't' get together isn't some stupid misunderstanding that runs for 300 pages but could've been cleared up if one or the other asked a simple, logical question.

Against all my expectations, the romance/relationship that I most enjoyed and that has probably stuck with me most strongly over many years is the one in Stacia Kane's Downunder series. They were characters I didn't think I'd like, but -- gosh, was I ever wrong. The storyline was just stupendously well done.

Editing to add: ooh, yeah, and what roxx said. Rapey stalky alpha males squick me out.
 
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Roxxsmom

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For me, what makes a good romance is when the heroine and hero don't start out hating each other.

this is a good point. I've read a few hate to love romances that work, but it's such a cliche, especially when the hatred is based on a big misunderstanding and no one actually talks to anyone to figure out what really happened.
 

Sonya Heaney

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I also tend to prefer romantic stories with a fair amount of heat and for male main characters who aren't the traditional take on alpha males. Not saying I want wimpy heroes, but I don't much care for guys who are overly possessive or stalkerish or rapey or who have a general contempt for women until they meet the FMC. And I prefer the FMC be of an active and someone outrageous or rebellious bent, rather than passively waiting for rescue.

I've discovered I can't write alpha male-type heroes. It's going to be interesting with the book I'm currently working on, because I imagined him as quite alpha-ish!
 

Raul_Sterling

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HEA and HFN necessary?

Hi all!

I'm working on an urban fantasy featuring vampires and whatnot. The story will have a clear romantic/emotional/sensual leaning, but the plot of the story is not to bring the two main characters together as a couple (that might happen in a sequel, though).

I have heard that an HEA, or at least an HFN, is all but expected in romance stories, and that many readers will feel let down if I don't provide one. Is this the case? Should I avoid labeling my story as a romance and go all out on the urban fantasy angle?

I hope my question made sense. If not, please forgive me: I'm a guy, and I'm new to the genre and to this board! =)
 

amergina

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Hi all!

I'm working on an urban fantasy featuring vampires and whatnot. The story will have a clear romantic/emotional/sensual leaning, but the plot of the story is not to bring the two main characters together as a couple (that might happen in a sequel, though).

I have heard that an HEA, or at least an HFN, is all but expected in romance stories, and that many readers will feel let down if I don't provide one. Is this the case? Should I avoid labeling my story as a romance and go all out on the urban fantasy angle?

I hope my question made sense. If not, please forgive me: I'm a guy, and I'm new to the genre and to this board! =)

Your best bet is to market it as an urban fantasy if the heart of the story is *not* primarily about about the romantic relationship between MCs and doesn't end with an HEA/HFN.

As long as you're not billing the story as a genre romance (that is, as primarily a romance novel with vampires), you don't need to have an HEA/HFN ending to the romantic arc. If you're billing it as an urban fantasy, not having the couple end up together is fine. Love stories or sub plots with love interests (or sex or whatnot) don't have to have an HEA. But if you're going to call it a romance novel, it does. Many romance readers are savvy and read outside the genre all the time and are fine with non-HEA books.

Now, if later down the line in a couple books, the people do end up together and have an HEA/HFN, you can say the series has a romantic subplot. But I'd probably just stick to calling it an urban fantasy for now.
 

Raul_Sterling

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Your best bet is to market it as an urban fantasy if the heart of the story is *not* primarily about about the romantic relationship between MCs and doesn't end with an HEA/HFN.

As long as you're not billing the story as a genre romance (that is, as primarily a romance novel with vampires), you don't need to have an HEA/HFN ending to the romantic arc. If you're billing it as an urban fantasy, not having the couple end up together is fine. Love stories or sub plots with love interests (or sex or whatnot) don't have to have an HEA. But if you're going to call it a romance novel, it does. Many romance readers are savvy and read outside the genre all the time and are fine with non-HEA books.

Now, if later down the line in a couple books, the people do end up together and have an HEA/HFN, you can say the series has a romantic subplot. But I'd probably just stick to calling it an urban fantasy for now.

Thank you, that was excellent advice. Kudos! :)
 

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