The Difference Between Romance, Women’s Fiction, and a Love Story

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Have you ever wondered if there’s a difference between a romance, women’s fiction or a love story?

These terms are used interchangeably, and yet each one has a distinct difference. Women’s fiction doesn’t have a category on the bookstore shelf, so often these books will be placed with romance books. Other times, they’ll be placed in general fiction. And love stories will usually be placed in the romance section of any store or library.

But as we’ll soon see, they’re not the same type of story.

What’s a Romance?

In a romance novel, romance is essential. There is no story without it. Right from chapter one through to the epilogue, everything centres around the two characters falling in love, while spending time together denying that they are falling in love.

These types of stories have tried and true story tropes (see post on tropes here): enemies to lovers, best friend, second chances, Cinderella, office romance. And more.

The job as a romance writer is to keep the characters together on the page for as many pages possible, while creating an interesting plot with twists and tension. Often, the category romance novels (think Harlequin books or Hallmark) have characters working together on some major project or one protects the other for nearly the entire book (no more than two scenes apart). In these romances, there are two points of view – the hero and the heroine.

However, not all romance books have the hero and heroine on the page at all times. BUT they spend the majority of page time together. And remember, the romance is essential to the story. Without the romance, you have no story. Usually two points of view (hero and heroine only) with the hero getting a good chunk of page time.

Some romance sub-categories in the CBA market include Rom-Com, Amish, Historical Romance, and Romantic Suspense. This is usually where you find holiday stories too.

Some Christian Fiction romance writers: Becky Wade, Betsy St. Amant Haddox, Bethany Turner, Angela Ruth Strong, Lenora Worth, Beverly Lewis, Jo Ann Brown, Heidi Main, Carolyn Miller, Susan May Warren, Elizabeth Goddard, Julie Klassen, Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Roseanna M. White, Jody Hedlund

What’s a Women’s Fiction novel?

A women’s fiction novel is the journey of a female character. Sometimes her story includes a romantic thread. This could be a passing interest in a male lead/character, or it could be a little more than an interest, eventually leading to something more. The female character can be married or single or widowed or divorced. Romance or a romantic thread is NOT essential to the story (in other words, the story would still stand without the romance thread). The female lead will change and grow through the novel whether she has a romantic attachment to someone or not.

Women’s fiction is mostly one point of view – the female protagonist.

Usually, the story is in a contemporary setting. These stories can deal with the hard stuff of life, or be humorous in nature. Female friendships or sister/mother/daughter relationships are important to the female lead.

There are some authors who write both Women’s Fiction and Romance. The difference, is in who the story is about. And how essential the romance is to the entire novel.

Some Christian Women’s Fiction writers: Beth Vogt, Cynthia Ruchti, Christina Suzann Nelson, Karen Kingsbury, Susie Finkbeiner, Deborah Raney, Erin Bartels, Lauraine Snelling (standalone novels), Robin Jones Gunn (Sisterchicks series)

A notable general market writer: Debbie Macomber (writes both romance and women’s fiction)

What’s a Love Story?

A love story isn’t about falling in love. It’s about fixing it. Strengthening it. Demonstrating the enduring qualities of unconditional love between married couples. Sometimes, these stories take us to the final days of a marriage partner’s life. These stories are deeply emotional and tackle the hard stuff of life. Some characters are emptynesters, others have young children, or teens at home.

Some Christian Love Story writers: Chris Fabry (Saving Grayson, The Marriage Carol), Karen Kingsbury (A Time To Dance, Like Dandelion Dust, Oceans Apart), Tamera Alexander (A Thousand Little Pieces), Robin Pearson (Walking in Tall Weeds), Robin Jones Gunn (Haven Makers Series)

A notable general market writer: Nicholas Sparks

Which of these types of stories do you enjoy reading? Are there other novels/authors to add to my list?

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