According to Romance Writers of America , Romantic Suspense as a subgenre is defined as:
Romance novels in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.
If you read romantic suspense regularly, you’ll know that like every genre, there’s room for wide interpretation of what that means, and often even readers won’t all categorize a story in the same way. I’m kind of surprised though that a more literal definition isn’t adopted, as “romantic” is an adjective that describes the noun, “suspense”. In that vein, a romantic suspense novel would be a “suspense novel with romantic elements”, which is ultimately where I think my books fit at this point. Of course many readers hone in on the fact that my novels have some rather spicy scenes in them, which I think tends to swing popular perspective back into the romance camp. I did have one reader compare Tempest to an Indiana Jones movie, which was both amusing and flattering – but also apt, I think.
I’ve also seen romantic suspense described as having equal parts romance and suspense – which is what I try to do with mine, though again, some readers have a different perspective. And really that’s the thing about genres – readers are all approaching stories through their own filters and experiences, so while some readers have tagged Tempest as “erotic romance”, others have tagged it “literary”. I don’t really consider it either personally, but that doesn’t make those tags any less valid, it just brings home the point that every reader sees things differently. I find that fascinating and wonderful.
So why label books at all? In my mind, it’s simply a starting point that tells the reader what basic, overreaching elements the story contains that might appeal to them. By calling my books romantic suspense, readers know that there will be some sort of adventure with high tension involved, and there will also be romance involved, so if they like those two things, they might like my books. The lovely thing about publishing on Amazon and other etailers is that books don’t have to be just one thing – Tempest is tagged with several descriptors that fall outside the boundaries of romantic suspense.
In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be deconstructing romantic suspense and discussing popular elements in the genre, along with different types and styles of books included therein.
Do you read romantic suspense regularly? What does “romantic suspense” mean to you when you see a book labeled as such?
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