Are All Romance Novels The Same?

I had a little trouble sleeping in the wee hours, and I got to thinking about what people who don’t like (or probably have never read) romance novels say about the genre.

“They’re all the same. They have to be, since they all have the same ending.”

Every year, several thousand romance titles are published. According to the ROMStat Report, there were over eight thousand romance titles published in 2010.

How are that many different romances written each year?

I decided to look at it backward. (No surprise. I do a lot of things backward.)


Every romance novel (no matter what subgenre) has an *HEA ending. (*That’s Happily Ever After for the uninformed.)

In fact, that’s part of the definition of a romance novel. It has to have an HEA (or at least satisfactory) ending.

To get to an HEA ending without it being the same as all the others, you must have


The exclamation point is there because to be really good, it has to be conflict that’s on steroids. By that, I mean conflict can’t be so-so. It’s got to have emotional punch.

The example given in most workshops on conflict the hero is a fire fighter and the heroine is an arsenist.

And to carry conflict like that, you’ve got to have


Characters who are strong enough (or find the strength) to stand up to that conflict on steroids.

If the hero is a fire fighter, has should probably come from a family of fire fighters for seven generations. Fire fighting/rescue has to be part of the hero’s DNA.

And he has to love it. Has to volunteer to work anytime someone needs a day off. Has to have a house full of awards and a collection of fire fighter helmets from all over the US and the world covering his walls. And his art is made up of pictures of the great fires.

The heroine is an arsonist, and she loves what she does. She isn’t sick. When she started, she had a reason for setting those fires. And it got in her blood. She loves the smell of the fire, the feel of the heat on her face, the excitement that happens when it’s discovered and the thrill when, ultimately, it’s extinguished.

She has pictures of the same fires on her wall.


To carry the entire thing, you must have an intriguing plot. I wish I could say that’s the easy part. It’s not. It’s easier, though, when you know your people and the reason they can never in the course of the world ever be together.

You, and only you, are the only person who can get them to that particular, very special HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

And it can never be the same as any other book because nothing else is the same.

Now, write it. 🙂


6 thoughts on “Are All Romance Novels The Same?

  1. Wonderful advice, Susan.

    I want to smack people who say romances are all the same because they have to end happily. Yeah, and every other subgenre out there has its own requirements, too. So what? . . . You just can’t fix stupid. 😉

  2. Love this post, Susan. And with Marilyn…ever watch a chop’em up movie? Talk about a genre following a formula!

    Not all romances are the same because each writer is different. Give two writers the same basic characters and generic plot, and each of them will put their own unique spin to the story.

    • I knew a writer once who went on a camping trip with her critiqiue group. While there, they set up a premise for a book and all wrote it.
      She told me none of the resultingn books were anything alike. (As you would guess!)
      Turned out to be her debut book. 🙂

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