Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking for the words

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but for years I stayed ‘in the closet’ so to speak as to my reading preferences. I didn’t tell many people that I read romance almost exclusively. I didn’t want to be sneered at. But as time has gone on, I've become a lot bolder on sharing my love of the romance genre. There are a lot of people I work with now who know how much I love a good romance book. In fact, I've started sharing my 'library' books with them. One has been reading the In Death books and she is ripping through them at warp speed.

I happened to be talking to another coworker just yesterday. I don't know if she was aware of just how deep into them I am. She is quite a reader too it seems and received some books for Christmas but after she's finished those ones, she is open to reading some I have to offer. We had a lengthy discussion at which time I tried explaining the difference between women's fiction and romance. And I couldn't come up with a good explanation as to the difference between the two. I know there is a difference and the only thing I could think of to say was you know the difference when you read it.

But I'm hoping to get a better explanation than 'you'll know it when you read it'. She seemed quite interested when I was telling her about my blog and I gave her a business card today so I think she might drop in. So I could use some help just in case she does.

How would you go about explaining the difference between a romance novel and a women's fiction novel? I've also been trying to think up books I can lend her. The ones I thought of right off the bat were Sugar Baby, Blue Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas. Any other author ideas? For right now she seems to be most interested in contemporaries. If it's a romance, chances are I have at least one book by the authors. Now that I've had some time, I've also thought of Rachel Gibson, Susan Anderson, Susan Donovan and SEP (if I can find any of them). But I can also use other author suggestions. I just love the idea of sharing the genre I love so much with fellow readers!!


CindyS said...

Maybe Open Season by Linda Howard?

There is such a difference for me between women's fiction and romance to me. Romance to me is about two people falling in love while women's fiction has other relationships it can and will focus on. I haven't read enough women's fiction to make a good comparison. The WF I've read is more about the heroine and how she 'grows' within the story and it can end with ambiguity.

I love my HEA!

Oh and Robin Carr books - has more characters and not just about two people falling in love.


Rosario said...

I think it's exactly what Cindy's just said. It IS a judgment call and a bit of a you-know-it-when-you-see-it, but what you're looking for is what the book is about. If it's about the romance (and has a HEA) it's a romance novel, if it's about the heroine, it's WF, even there's a romance there.

It's the same thing with other genres, I suppose. I just finished a Ruth Rendell book which said mystery in the spine, but while there was a mystery, the book wasn't really *about* it. To me, it definitely wasn't in the mystery genre.

Kristie (J) said...

Cindy: Open Season!! And I have that one in hardcover!! If I'd had more time I could have come up with a better answer but seeing as the older I get, the more and more I work on a time delay *g*, I couldn't up with a good explanation right away and then we had to get back to work.

Rosario: When I was talking to her, I had Sugar Daddy in my mind - which to me is more women's fiction. BUT it's also romance - so I know that we romance readers know the difference - and that's why I was thinking you know it when you read it - but I just couldn't figure out a definition at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Ditto to what others said. The biggest difference to me is also the HEA. I haven't read enough women's fiction to form a solid opinion but from the women's fiction I've read the main couple forming throughout the book can get together or split, a HEA is voluntary unlike with a romance. There is no guaranteed happily-ever-after. There was one I remember where the heroine even got with another guy, which was disheartening after rooting for the main couple who split near the end. Another one the heroine never even made a choice between two guys, a very sad read since I was hoping for a HEA.

How about the Mackenzie series by Linda Howard? That was one of my first romance series and it made me an instant fan of LH's work and definitely had me looking more into the romance genre. Lori Foster's Buckhorn Brothers series is good too, though I haven't read all of them yet. For laughs there's also Sandra Hill's Cajun series! I haven't read enough contemporaries so those are just the few I know. :)

farmwifetwo said...

Woman's fiction/chick-lit is like reading someone's diary. It's usually always in first person. There doesn't have to be a HEA. A quite often the whining, drives me batty.

Romance usually has more of a story. Told in 3rd person. There's usually an HEA. And usually drives me batty with the "I'm unlovables" as well.

I'm a VERY fussy reader... I don't do the "returned after 3mths and had sex on the desk" kind of books. Truth is I've read few romances lately, most of them have been RS. The only romance I've re-read in a long time is Jen Crusie's "Bet Me".

Kara said...

I don't know who said this...but I read somewhere that Women's Fiction is about Women's empowerment. It center's on the woman or on primarily women's issues.

This is a great topic. This is one thing that I have a hard time defining when I am writing my reviews...picking the right genre.

Katie Mack said...

Here's how I personally distinguish between women's fiction and romance. Romances have a central love story and an HEA. The couple's romance is the core of the book, not a subplot.

In women's fiction, the core of the story is the heroine who is at a crossroads in life, and the book is told from her perspective. There may or may not be a romantic subplot, there may or may not be an HEA, but even if those elements are present, they are not the core of the story.

For women's fiction with romance subplots, I recommend Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar by Pamela Morsi, Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews, and Robyn Carr's Grace River Valley trilogy. (Most books in her Virgin River series classify as romance, but the Grace Valley books are definitely women's fic.)

Also, Kristan Higgins' romances are very popular with readers who like Chick Lit.

Jill Sorenson said...

I learned this from a WF author at one of my RWA meetings:

In women's fiction, the romance (if present) is more of a subplot. The interactions between the hero and heroine make up a smaller portion of the book (maybe25%). The main story is the woman's personal journey.

In a romance, the hero and heroine are together (or thinking about each other) more than 50% of the time. The main story is the relationship between them, and the journey is theirs as a couple.

Sugar Daddy leans toward women's fiction, IMO. Blue Eyed Devil is def romance. Either would be a great book to start with.

Good luck!!

Nicole McLaughlin said...

I think Sugar Daddy is the perfect start. Just gave it to a friend the other day and she went crazy!! :) It was my little sisters "first" also! lol And I'm sorry, but lets all be honest...the difference is the frequent sex scenes. ;)

Nicole McLaughlin said...

And yes, also the that!

Statch said...

For contemporary romance, anything by Jennifer Crusie! Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard is another possibility, or maybe Match Me If You Can by SEP. Or how about something by Nora Roberts?

Wendy said...

What Jill and Katie already said. In romance the love story is front and center. Women's fiction CAN (and often does) feature romantic sub plots, but it's not the core focus of the story.

Recommendations? Maybe Susan Wiggs' contemps? Also, Deborah Smith would be great. When Venus Fell and The Crossroads Cafe immediately leap to mind.

nath said...

Well most people have offered you an answer :D To me, women fiction can have a romance story, but it's not the focus. Also, you read almost exclusively from the heroine's POV... while in romance books, you get POV from both the heroine and hero :)

Oh, as a recommendation - Jennifer Crusie is a good author to start with... Judith McNaught as well :)

azteclady said...

(what the hell happened to my previous comment? *sobs*)

[this has nothing to do with the post, btw]

Kristie, it was wonderful to finally meet you in DC at RWA this year. I'm hoping it won't be the only time!

In the meantime, here's wishing you a wonderful 2010. *raising water bottle* Health, joy and prosperity, m'dear!


farmwifetwo said...

Red's Honky Tonk Bar was excellent. I got it via the library, I need one for the keeper shelf.

orannia said...

I'm with Anna - Mackenzie's Mountain was the first romance I ever read and it is one of my all-time favourites.

Hmmm. What about some of Jennifer Cruise's books? Bet Me perhaps?

Carolyn said...

Looking at my shelves, I find I'm more into historicals than contemporaries, but you can't go wrong with SEP or Crusie. Two authors that are auto buys for me.

As for WF, I've read some books where any men are tertiary characters. You know the type - Three (or four) women who were in college together meet ten, or fifteen or twenty years later and redefine their relationships and why they lost track of each other and blah, blah. First Wives Club was WF, I think; I was SO pissed when Annie went off to Japan and left Miguel behind!

Jill D. said...

Okay, I know I am late to the party, but I thought I would just chime in here.

Women's fiction to me focuses on one woman and her relationships with others, albiet a romantic relationship with a man, or relationships with her girlfriends, or familial relationships. Usually, they are written in first person - or maybe that's chick lit?

Like everybody else said, romance focuses more on the relationship between one couple. And of course you get the requisit HEA! A HEA might not necessarily happen in Women's Fiction.