So how am I going with the question of historical romance? Sure myself that my definition of historical is correct but I am out of step with the world I turned my attention to the next question. Have I written a romance? Well I wasn’t immediately sure; being an old woman my definition of romance is a little broader than seems to be the case these days – and it doesn’t start with love affairs. Thinking I may be wrong I went back to the dictionary.
Romance is defined thus
1 a: Latin derived languages
b:Medieval vernacular verse or prose narrative relating to legendary or extraordinary adventure of hero, of chivalry
c: Extravagant fiction – wild exaggeration
d: Historical ballad, short epic poem (in Spanish context)
e: Fictitious narrative depicting setting and events remote from everyday life especially 16th & 17th century
f: Literary genre with romantic love and highly imaginative events or adventures forming central theme
g: Romantic or imaginative character – prevailing sense of wonder or mystery surrounding mutual attraction in a love affair and/or suggestion or association with adventurous or extraordinary events.
2 a: Narrative etc having the nature or qualities of romance in the form or content
b: Tending towards or characterised by romance in stylistic basis
c: Pertaining to movement or style of late 18th and early 19th century in
Europe - marked by emphasis on feeling, individuality and passion
d: Of a story, novel, film etc having romance or love affair as a subject
e: Characterised by idealised fantastic or sentimental view of life, love or reality appealing to imagination and feelings
f: Influenced by imagination
g: Fantastic, quixotic, impractical project
Romantic love between unmarried man and woman does appear in the list, but it is not the first or even the second definition. The definition of romance that I grew up with is the wide one. It is the epic narrative, the natural, emotion and feeling driven; fantastical, wild and adventurous. I cut my reading teeth on novels of a hundred or more years ago. I read and thrilled to Sir Walter Scott and Herman Melville later reading James Fennimore Cooper and Washington Irving and, of course, all those wonderful epic narratives such as Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Arthurian legends. These merged effortlessly into works from Dante and Spencer. Romance, but not I fear in today’s terms
I discovered historical romances with the likes of The Scarlet Pimpernel and, as I grew, discovered the newer definition of romance in William Makepeace Thackeray, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens, with their huge sweeps of life. Then George Elliot, the Bronte’s and Jane Austin. If I had realised it at the time the definition of romance was growing ever narrower.
I realize that romance is now equated only with love between man and woman although it means I have to re-file all those great novels and epic narrative poems I grew up with to different areas, a little sulkily I admit because the very word romance conjures up to me wonderful vistas of excitement and adventure, larger than life heroes and heroines, amazing deeds and splendid sweeping tales straddling every known emotion. Feasts indeed.
But reading, on the advice of many, the guide lines of Romance Writers of America I also realize that the world has not only captured and caged the bird of romance but has clipped off its wings and de-beaked it as well.
Plot must revolve around two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship with each other.
Both conflict and climax should be directly related to that core theme, developing romantic relationship.
Must have emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. Although they have allowed, for instance, that Romeo and Juliet is a romance because the focus of the story is romantic love.
As long as these basic guide lines are followed there are many sub genres allowed into ‘Romantic Fiction’. They include amongst them:
I’m thinking these ones should be in the main genre and the romantic love between man and woman, not married, should be a sub genre – but hey, that’s this old woman wondering where the excitement in romance has gone!! My, what a straitjacket romance and romantic writing has been tied into.
Well the first two of my series could just about be shoe-horned into this definition , just about because I hope they are more than romantic love.
My books need something else, they I suppose belong to a sub genre - dreadful expression! So it seems I must turn my attention to Science Fiction which many of my readers say is what I have written. This turns out to be more sub genre divided than romance.