As we hit the very last day of our week-long sub-genre blitz, our final spot is for romance. Romance is both one of the most straightforward to categorize and one of the most complicated. To identify your romance sub-genre, you first need to classify your novel in terms of heat level.
Heat level in romance refers to how intense and explicit the intimate scenes are. Romance novelist Starla Kaye gives an excellent overview of heat levels in romance at her website, including what publisher lines print them and the classifications given to the various levels by different publishers.
Once you know your heat level, you can pick one of the following . . .
Contemporary Romance – As the name suggests, contemporary romances take place post 1960. This is kind of a catch-all category for romance that doesn’t fit in any of the others.
Historical Romance – The line dividing a historical romance from a contemporary romance is, frankly, a little fuzzy. If your book is set pre-1960, you’re probably safe calling it a historical romance, but my suggestion for this one is to find out what your ideal publisher defines as historical and go with their dividing line.
Western Romance – Set in the American frontier, or in a contemporary “western” setting such as the Canadian prairies or Australian outback, western romance readers expect to experience horses, cowboys, and a simpler way of life (though not a simpler plot line).
Gothic Romance – Gothic romance combines romance and horror and often involves a mystery. The darkness and terror should compliment the sexual tension between your main characters.
Regency Romance – Set in regency-era (circa 1790-1820) Great Britian, it takes more than just a location and time period to make a successful regency romance. Readers expect wit and fast-paced dialogue like that found in Jane Austin’s novels. This sub-genre is less likely to include explicit sex scenes (or even open discussions of sex) than the other sub-genres. Marriages of convenience, false engagements, mistaken identities, and large differences in social class are popular elements.
Romantic Suspense – Romantic suspense is the most plot driven of all romance and usually involves a strong heroine who finds herself in a dangerous situation. The key to a successful romantic suspense is to blend both elements so that neither overwhelms the other.
Paranormal Romance – Paranormal romances usually involve a romantic relationship between a human and a ghost, vampire, shapeshifter, werewolf, or some other non-human or quasi-human being. They can also focus around psychic abilities. Unlike with fantasies, the romance rather than the otherworldly elements is central.
Inspirational Romance – Inspirational romances will always fall to the most conservative end of the heat spectrum. If you want to sell an inspirational romance, don’t try to push the envelop. The envelop isn’t going to budge, and you’re just going to end up with a lot of very painful paper cuts. Inspirational romances always end either in marriage or the very strong potential of marriage, and the characters’ faith journeys need to be central to the plot and their relationship.
Inspirational romance can serve as an umbrella category for the other sub-genres as well. For example, you could be writing a romantic suspense that’s also an inspirational romance because of the faith element to it.
If you missed Lisa’s overview post that started off our series, or my earlier posts on fantasy sub-genres, science fiction sub-genre, thrilled sub-genres, or mystery sub-genres, now’s a great time to go back and read them 🙂
Where does your book fit? What do you love about romance novels? What do you hate?