Tuesday 18 June 2019

When is Romance not Romance?

This is a follow-up to my post last week, In Which Genre Would You Put These Books?, where I spoke about how difficult "genre" was to define. The title of this one may sound like a brain-teaser, riddle, or joke, but hear me out.

Because all of my books are published and distributed through Smashwords, I like to follow Publishers' Weekly's Smashwords Bestseller list. This list tracks the top-selling books each month, both on Smashwords' own site, and all the retailers they distribute to.

I don't write romance, so I'm often frustrated by the sheer number of Romance titles on the list. Case in point, the April 2019 list. There are 25 books on the list, and literally. the top five bestselling books on that list are all Romance. Then Romance appears again in positions 7, 9, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23, and 24. That's a total of 14 Romance titles, on a list of 25. For those of you who are mathematically challenged, that translates to 56%!

There's no doubt that Romance is a massively popular genre, with loads of devoted readers who devour books at a rapid clip (often reading entire series in a single day), and I've often wondered how we non-Romance writers can possibly hope to break into those coveted top spots. But something someone said to me last month shocked me to the core.

You see, many authors, hoping to capitalise on this enormous popularity, apparently deliberately miscategorise their books at retailers. They create tenuous links in their minds, where if their book happens to have a romantic sub-plot, they can call it Romance. Sometimes, even an incidental love interest will do -- but I'm willing to bet 99% of all fiction has one of those.

No. I was always led to believe that a book can only be called Romance if the main plot depends on the Romance. If the story wouldn't be able to stand without the Romance element. Was I wrong?

I decided to test this theory out. So let's take those top five books from the April list, read through the descriptions, and decide for ourselves whether they're in the right category.

Here we go:

Note: You can click on the covers to find out where you can buy each one. You'll notice that all but one of them are available on Scribd's subscription reading service. If you're not already subscribed, they will give you the opportunity take out a 30-day free trial. Please don't click on that link. Rather use my affiliate link, which will give you 60 days instead (and I'll get 30 days of free time as a reward for referring you). So if you're interested in taking Scribd for a test drive, click here for my affiliate link.

Best I've Ever Had

By Abbi Glines

Summer had returned. The nightlife lit up the coastal town of Sea Breeze, Alabama with scantily clad sun-kissed bodies, live music, the smell of fresh cooked seafood.

Taking it all in, he wondered if coming back had been the best thing. He wasn’t the same man who had driven out of town a year ago on the motorcycle he’d bought after his best friend’s wedding. From the messy blonde curls he’d let grow out, to the tattoos now covering his arms, part of his chest and even the side of his neck, it all represented a part of his journey.

Eli Hardy was back, but he didn’t plan on staying for long.

The Slow Burn

By Kristen Ashley

Tobias Gamble knew from a young age precisely the kind of woman he was going to make his. She was not going to be like his mother. She was going to be like the mother he claimed. 

In other words, she was going to be just right.

And when Toby returns to his hometown of Matlock, Kentucky and claps eyes on Adeline Forrester, he knows she’s the one.

The problem is, his brother Johnny has a new girlfriend. And Addie is her sister. Last, Toby would do nothing to hurt Johnny’s chance at happiness.

Toby hangs around town to get to know the woman Johnny fell in love with. He also hangs around to get to know Addie.

But he’s fallen hard, and he knows the best thing for him—and Addie—is for him to leave.

Addie Forrester is thrilled her sister Eliza found a good, solid man. Johnny Gamble is the salt of the earth. The best guy in the world.

The best except for his brother, Toby.

Toby doesn’t know it, but Addie’s fallen hard too. He’s perfect, except for the fact that he’s hands off and it’s torture, being friends with Toby when she wants so much more.

Addie also has a lot on her mind. She’s got bills to pay, her young son needs food, Christmas is coming and her job at the grocery store just isn’t cutting it.

Toby is steering clear of Addie. Addie is steering clear of Toby. But everyone around them knows this is the slow burn.

Because just like Eliza and Johnny, Addie and Toby were made for each other.

Unforeseen (Vampire Awakenings, Book 9)

By Brenda K. Davies

When Jack escapes the vampires holding him captive, he thinks his biggest worries are finding his friends and avoiding the Savages pursuing him...until he stumbles across Charlie. He’s not sure what’s more dangerous, the vampires hunting him or the woman who harbors more secrets than the island where he’s trapped.

Charlie wasn’t expecting Jack to fall into her life, but now that he has, she doesn't know what to do with him. She can’t leave him behind to be hunted, but her growing attraction to him frightens her more than the Savages. Though Jack’s a tempting distraction, love has no place on this island, and Charlie refuses to let him get in her way. She’s escaping the island—with or without him. 

Can they work together to survive the horrors of the island, or will they perish like so many before them? 

Broken Silence

By Natasha Preston

It has been four years since Oakley, her mum, and brother fled to Australia. With the trials looming, she makes the decision to return to England. Oakley is desperate for closure so she can put the past behind her and move on with her life. 

How will she cope when she comes face to face with the two people that hurt her the most, and the one person that she hurt the most? 

Her love for Cole never faded, but how will he react to her return after so long? Will they be able to put everything behind them in order to have a happy ending?

The Roommate Agreement

By Emma Hart

Let your homeless best friend stay with you, he said. Being roommates will be fun, he said. It's only temporary, he said.
He never said I'd fall for him.

You know what isn't 'temporary?' The endless stream of dirty socks in my bathroom and empty food packets under the sofa—and don't even get me started on the hot guys who take over my living room every Sunday to watch sports.

I can't take anymore. 

So I propose a roommate agreement. One that will bring peace and order back to my life, complete with rules that might just stop my newfound crush on my best friend in its tracks.

After all, there’s only so many times you can see your best friend naked before you start to lose your mind.

Rules. They're meant to be broken... Aren't they?

So, I must be honest, having not actually read any of these books. If I look at the blurbs, they all do seem to fit - except maybe the vampire one, which I think may be a bit tenuous. And if I look at the covers (even/especially the vampires one), they all seem to fit - except for Slow Burn, whose cover is quite generic.

It seems like I was misinformed about how widespread this problem is. Either that, or miscategorising your book doesn't work because readers are smarter than that, and won't buy it (so it won't get on these bestseller lists). Or, perhaps they're better than I thought because the blurb and cover fit the genre, but if I were to actually read the book, I'd find that it actually didn't.

What do you think? Do you think authors do this, and if they do, does it work for them? And have you read any of these books? Do you think they fit the genre?

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