Love Story vs. Romance

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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 accept a happily-ever-after ending.

So what are the differences between them? These are broad generalizations, but I’ve come up with a few reasons why love stories command respect and romance tends to inspire derision.

If written well, a love story can be considered literary fiction. If we’re going into the classics, a couple of examples are Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” is a love story, as is “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte. For film, “A Star is Born” is definitely a love story, and so beloved it has been remade over and over again and still makes an impact.

Romance follows a formula and that makes it commercial, even if it is beautifully written. 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. 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 to me the greatest distinction between a love story and a romance is in the ending.

Romance novels, by their very nature of romantic escapism, have a formula and that formula 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 of what the writer, Jane Austen, actually experienced. Marrying within your social class and with an attention to money was a very insurmountable obstacle in Regency England and 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, and made them 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. They don’t necessarily have that happily-ever-after. IN
“Bridges of Madison County,” Francesca stayed with her husband rather than leaving for a sexy photographer.

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.