So what distinguishes a love story from the romance genre?
Although I’ve gained a new respect for romance novels – which you can read about here - I’m more than a little frustrated that my former assistant put “romance” all over my META data and keywords.
I don’t write romance, and to put that in my META data to increase SEO is false advertising.
Anybody who stumbles across my work and mistakenly buys it is going to be really pissed off when they encounter a predatory seductress who’d rather eat the hearts of her conquests than live happily-ever-after.
So what are the differences between love stories and romance?
There are broad generalizations, but I’ve come up with a few reasons why love stories command my respect and I struggle with romance.
If written well, a love story can be considered literary fiction. Romance follows a formula and that always makes it commercial, even if it’s beautifully written.
If we’re going into the classic love stories, a couple of examples are Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” as is “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte.
“Pride and Prejudice” ends nicely, but not in a smarmy way. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy had to earn their happy ending. “Wuthering Heights” has a morose aura of tragedy and does end well with Catherine and Heathcliff together.
For film, “A Star is Born” is definitely a love story, and so beloved it has been remade over and over again, yet still makes an impact. And it ends sadly.
Since I don’t read romance novels, I don’t know who the latest prolific romance novelist is after Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts, but I do know both of those women made a fortune off their genres. In movies, there are too many rom-coms to list.
A love story often has a slower pace without too many plot twists. Romance is all about the drama of obstacles to these star-crossed lovers.
A love story can be set within an ordinary life, or an extraordinary circumstance in an ordinary life; whereas romance tends to be set in exotic times and places.
But I think the greatest distinction between a love story and a romance is in the ending.
Romance novels, by their very nature of romantic escapism, must have a happy ending. Romance always ends with the man and woman are together against all odds.
Since love stories are closer to life, sometimes they end happily – as was the case for Jane and Elizabeth Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice,” but not always.
It could be argued that “Pride and Prejudice” was an early romance novel because the happily-ever-after ending was not true to life. This also wasn’t what the writer, Jane Austen, actually experienced in her life.
Marrying within your social class and with an attention to money was an insurmountable obstacle in Regency England. Jane Austen did not get the guy because her family, although respectable, was not moneyed.
Perhaps that aura of loss and disappointment lent itself to the happy endings of her novels. But they still qualify as love stories, not romances. On the other hand, “Northanger Abbey” was silly enough to be a romance.
In “Wuthering Heights,” Catherine Earnshaw married somebody stable and died young. No happily-ever-after for her.
In the “Bridges of Madison County,” Francesca stayed with her husband rather than leaving him for a sexy photographer/soulmate.
Love stories can end happily, but they don’t have to. This is probably why they command respect that romance doesn’t. Here’s another blog on the differences between love story and romance here.
One of my early reviews on Amazon about Ella Bandita and the Wanderer declared that theirs was a love story. Not a happily ever after love story, but a love story nonetheless. That is why I’m kind of pissed about romance being in my META data.