Romance and Women’s fiction: What’s the difference (and why it matters)

Posted March 21, 2019 in Discussion Tags:


I see lots of people saying things like “Nicholas Sparks is my favorite romance author” and I actually feel a blind rage come over me. Let me tell you what the difference is between the Romance genre and the Women’s Fiction genre why I think its important to know the difference (reason number one so I don’t kill you when you say you love Nicholas Sparks).

What’s the difference?

1. Romance has a love story as the central theme. The relationship between the hero and heroine is not only necessary for the story, but often is the center of the story. Sure, other things can happen (danger, drama, etc), but the love is the focus. Women’s Fiction might have a romantic thread, but the focus is more on the main character, not her love life or on building 1 relationship with one man during the story.

2. Romance has an HEA or HFN. I will NOT budge on this one and its why I feel Nicholas Sparks is NOT romance. In Women’s Fiction, the story ends with the main character in good place in her life-personal or professional growth, repaired familial relationships, etc. In Romance, the story ends with the hero and heroine riding off into the proverbial sunset together. There are some authors out there who don’t feel an HEA is necessary; I say those authors are not romance writers, they are women’s fiction or literary fiction writers. There is NOTHING wrong with those genres but don’t market a book as romance if it doesn’t end with the main couple together.

Outside of that, romance and women’s fiction have a lot in common sometimes. There might be sex scenes in a women’s fiction book. There might be a romance that focuses more heavily on the female main character and her relationships with her family and/or friends. There can be a lot of cross over between these two genres, but the differences are crucial.

Why does it matter?

If you want to make a romance reader bash your book on twitter, IG, and goodreads, market it as romance when it really is women’s fiction or literary fiction. If the romance doesn’t end happily for the hero and heroine, it’s not romance and readers will put an author on BLAST for this kind of deception. Again, there is NOTHING wrong with any genre. There is a LOT wrong with misleading readers. I know what I like to read. I know I am a mood reader. If I crack open a book expecting romance, and get slapped with a main character who dies or doesn’t have a love story or ends up alone, I’m going to be disappointed because I wanted to read romance. It matters because readers deserve to know what they are getting. Can there be surprises in books? Of course. But, if you are going to call it a romance, you better meet the 2 criteria above. If you don’t, well, just spend some time on goodreads checking out reviews for books people thought were romance.

Tell me: Do you agree? Are there other things that you feel are a MUST for a romance (or a MUST NOT)? Comment!

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4 responses to “Romance and Women’s fiction: What’s the difference (and why it matters)

  1. I was just talking about this with one of my co-workers today. I hate when they try to pass women’s fiction off as romance, because I agree with your requirements for a romance. I expect a LOT of time dedicated to the romance and an HEA when I read a romance. Case closed.

    SAm@wlabb recently posted: #AmReading YA
  2. I have thoughts! What actually irks me is that people (and I mean the non-romance reading people), scoff at romance and think it’s beneath all other genres.

    I’ve only read a few women’s fiction books and some I like but it’s really not a genre that I read. That is WHY it pisses me off when I open a book and expect a romance, everyone dies in the end! Gaaaaah! Again, nothing wrong with that, just don’t call it romance.

    I also hate that they use romance as a marketing tool to get more sales because romance readers read a lot. So using romance as a marketing tool is a no-no IMHO and it drives me to ????.

    We’ve since this time and again, especially on Twitter. If it’s not romance, call it like it is!

  3. I enjoy both women’s fic and romance but there’s definitely a difference. The basic one being (like you said) the focus in romance *IS* the romance. That is the central theme to the story. There may be romance in the women’s fic but it’s not the sole focus of the story. I think mislabeling them does a disservice to both genres. I see women’s fic get labeled as romance and is so misleading. A romance reader is likely *not* going to get what she expects from that novel. And when a romance is marketed as women’s fic, that reader is going to be annoyed and keep waiting for the “real” plot line to develop.

    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books recently posted: Blogoversary: Girl Plus Books Turns 4!

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