Writer & Reader Expectations and Some Ramblings About Romance

It’s funny, when I set out to write Exposed I was worried about a few things. One, that I would weird people out by using a great Welsh word as a safeword. Two, that my usual readers would find it too lighthearted, compared to my usual stuff. Three, that Emyr calling Greg “Daddy” would bother people. That’s what I expected…. and then the unexpected happened: it never once occurred to me that I’d be reading reviews with the words “BDSM”, “Dom”, or “sub” in them. What’s up with that? Did I market the book wrong? I never tagged it as BDSM, never mentioned any kind of D/s relationship, said that it was a little kinky, and told folks it was just a cute love story. What happened?

Just reader expectations, I believe, and ones that I couldn’t predict because I don’t know what they are. I was just saying to a friend that I have a distinct disadvantage when it comes to writing books that are included in a genre I didn’t even know existed until after I published my first book.

The B/l (or Daddy/lg or Daddy/lb) relationships I’ve witnessed in my life were just sweet, loving, and devoted… really nurturing things (with some really silly play …and, yes, occasional spanking thrown in for good measure) and I set out to capture that lovely fondness I’ve admired so much. (And I often mentally hug Greg and Emyr for really getting there!)

But, there were reader expectations with the words “Daddy kink”, (something I tagged it for just as a warning) that I did not know about. And… now I know (and knowing is half the battle! GI Joe... ahem sorry, I’m on cold meds)

So, anyway, next book I write, I’ll see if I can word the blurb a little more clearly to reflect what the book is actually about (or maybe not about?)

Which brings me to Romance in general…

Folks reading Caged keep saying “this isn’t really a Romance” to which I sit there, scratching my head, wondering where they got the idea that it was a Romance. It has romantic elements, for sure. Life does in general, doesn’t it? But Caged? A Romance? Max? A Romance? I don’t even know if Exposed is a Romance. I keep squinting at definitions and wondering what this whole Romance thing is about (disclaimer: I’m aromantic1). It feels far more nebulous a genre than what I read: Has robots? Sci-fi. Has dragons? Fantasy. Has robot dragons? Sci-fi/fantasy. thumbs up

With Romance, well… the requirements seem to depend on who you talk to.

I did read two books that are considered Romance when I was younger. One was called Sea Star: Private Life of Anne Bonny which was pretty rapey if I recall, and the other one was about um… the wild west? I think? Maybe about a doomed love triangle? Also rapey. So, my young adolescent self drew the conclusion that “Romance Novels” equated “rapey”. However, another thing they both had in common was a lot more plot circling around love and sex than I had ever previously read before.

Hey, all my books have plots that focus primarily on the relationship between the protagonists. So… Romance?

And… Novelist Walter Scott defined the literary fiction form of romance as “a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents.” 2

My characters certainly encounter uncommon incidents. So… Romance?

Also from Wikipedia:

According to the Romance Writers of America, the main plot of a romance novel must revolve about the two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship. Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship, although the novel can also contain subplots that do not specifically relate to the main characters’ romantic love.

Furthermore, a romance novel must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” Some romance novel authors and readers believe the genre has additional restrictions, from plot considerations (such as the protagonists’ meeting early on in the story), to avoiding themes (such as adultery). Other disagreements have centered on the firm requirement for a happy ending; some readers admit stories without a happy ending, if the focus of the story is on the romantic love between the two main characters (e.g., Romeo and Juliet). While the majority of romance novels meet the stricter criteria, there are also many books widely considered to be romance novels that deviate from these rules. Therefore, the general definition, as embraced by the RWA and publishers, includes only the focus on a developing romantic relationship and an optimistic ending.

All of my books, including Devil (if you look at it the way I do), focus on the relationships of the MCs and have HFN/HEAs…. So… Romance?

I think, maybe, in the end, that my books are Romance books, but only to folks who don’t have too rigid expectations. When it comes to meeting more stringent do’s/don’ts and customary story development… I will definitely fall short, because I just don’t know what those expectations are. But that’s a-ok! Despite the fact that I write and will continue to write entirely for myself, plenty of other people do enjoy my books, and that is absolutely amazing.

And… for those of you who have actually made it this far in my ramblings, you get a special something because I’m in a great mood today :)


1I’m the kind of aromantic who’d actually like to feel deeply about someone, hence my exploration of love in my books. Heh, it’s like I’m finding love through writing :)

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romance_novel

2 thoughts on “Writer & Reader Expectations and Some Ramblings About Romance”

  1. Bey your stories are definitely ‘romance’ books. Watching Sarge fall in love with Murphy was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read.

    1. Oh they’re all definitely love stories :D

      Heh, you know there are a fair number of people who’ve read Sarge who would be utterly bewildered by your comment?

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