Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Romance vs. Love Story--What's the Difference?

February is the month of love, in particular, romantic love. Or is it? The stores are filled with Valentine products--cards, candy, flowers, stuffed animals, and perfumes. It's obvious which of these are designed for someone in which we have a romantic/love interest, and which are designed for children.

Baby Love

Love~*~First Love, Baby Love, Puppy Love, God's Love, Mommy Love, Sacrificial Love, and Selfless Love. The list could go on and on. But being "in love" is different because it denotes a new sexual, special feeling with someone.

But my main question is, what's the difference between a romance story and a love story? If the answer is, "A Romance is a story with a HEA for the couple," then that's right. But suppose it begins with a romance but ends tragically or unhappily? Then we'd probably call it something else...maybe a Love Story?

And what difference does it make anyway? I thought about this when I saw a publisher who spelled out the difference: "A Romance is a love story that ends with a HEA." I suppose that could mean, "We don't know what happens to the couple after the story ends...after all, we only want to know about the romance." But haven't you often wondered--what happened after they married?

The publisher continued the definition: "A Love Story is between a married couple, or at least a couple who already have established their relationship, and the plot goes from there."

A Romance..or a Love Story?

~*~The movie "Love Story"
~*~Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's relationship
~*~Ronald and Nancy Reagan's relationship
~*~"You've Got Mail"
~*~"Pride and Prejudice"

I think I understand the clear definition in order to submit to a publisher, but I didn't always. Two of my Texas books--Texas Promise and Texas True--begin with the couple either already married, or married by chapter two.

In the case of Texas Promise, Jo and Dalton's marriage began rocky and almost ended before the story began. But they remained married throughout, giving me a chance to redeem both of them and rescue their precious love and form a stronger bond in marriage than they'd had in the beginning.

In the case of Texas True, young True Cameron falls in love instantly and marries hastily. Then she learns of her husband's true personality and deceit, and instead of giving up, she works to save her marriage...and save him, as well. Another case of someone needing redemption, and that was Sam, the husband.

Needless to say, the main publisher I was with would not accept these books in these forms. I understand completely, but soon succeeded in having both published as I wrote them.

So, what should these novels be called? I still call them Romances, because truly, the married characters actually fell in love--a real kind of love-- during their conflicts in the plot.

In reality, both are probably Love Stories, though.
The best part is that not one reader ever questioned me about whether they should be labeled "romances."

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas


  1. ~*~The movie "Love Story" Not a romance because she died. Love story, though.

    ~*~Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's relationship YUCK.

    ~*~Ronald and Nancy Reagan's relationship Don't think it was an HEA. They loved each other deeply but their kids seemed messed up.

    ~*~"You've Got Mail" Romance INDEED, but Sleepless in Seattle wasn't because they were never together until the end.

    ~*~"Ghost" Saddest movie ever because he's dead. Love story-backstory, not a romance.

    ~*~"Pride and Prejudice" Romance for sure.

    This was fun!

  2. Tanya--okay, you made me laugh out loud. BP and Angelina--YUCK. I think that, too. It's sort of weird, isn't it?
    Your conclusions are so right on...but I wouldn't have thought of all the ideas. You, though, made it clear...thanks!
    Pride and Prejudice...yes, a pure romance...I do agree there.

  3. I too learned these definitions from a publisher when I had a story rejected because it wasn't a romance. But I loved the story and someone else published it.

    Personally I think romance leads to a love story.

  4. I had a publisher point this out to me also. I had no idea there was a difference until then. The editor also pointed out with a 'romance', the story is all about the couple and how they end up together for the HEA.

    A 'love story' has other elements and there's this possibility that the couple will not end up together.

    I tend to pen love stories. I enjoy the romance, but I like there to be more to the story than just the couple's journey to the HEA.

  5. Celia, another definition offered by one of my digital publishers was that a romance focuses on one man, one woman and HEA. While a love story with subplots and not necessarily a HEA is called Women's Fiction. Strange, since my NY pub had labeled the same book as a romance.

  6. Well, this is definitely food for thought. I agree with Linda L. -- I think a romance LEADS to a love story. There's such a difference in the love we feel in the beginning of a relationship, with the butterflies and the "can't live without seeing him for half an hour" syndrome than what comes later on. You have to be with someone on a deeper level than that initial attraction to totally understand them, and that's a different kind of love, or a deeper level of love, I guess. So in writing, the romance does lead to the permanence of a forever love story. What would you say the relationship between Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward was? Romance, or love story?

  7. Linda--we're lucky, aren't we, to find other publisher who like our books as they are--with some good editing, of course. But in the case of my two books, it would have ripped the heart out of both stories. It just couldn't be done. Still, they got great reviews and comments.
    Thanks...I agree.

  8. Karen--you've hit on the main reason for a good story--one that doesn't focus solely on the romance. I, too, like more of a story. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Linda S.--I forgot about the Women's Fiction angle. I tried to call three of mine WF and learned they just don't sell under that title. Maybe in another reading universe different from the one we are in, such a novel would find its place.
    Good point, and I thank you.

  10. Cheryl--Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward. Now, there was a complicated liason. First, I would say that Wallis was the agressor in the relationship, therefore it was hard to see a true romance. But I suppose it was since they remained close the rest of their lives.
    I've used the term love story much more often than romance...why? I have no idea. Maybe it seems more natural and believable.
    Yes, those of us who have been married a long time understand deep, true love...and it's not easy sometimes to maintain.
    Thanks so much for your comment!

  11. Maybe love is what remains when romance has ended. Making out the bills when money is short certainly isn't romantic, but it is a real testament to love.
    Marvelous topic.

  12. Sarah--you have it down to a "t." Of course, true love can only last through the trials and tribulations of truly being married. That's when the couple really learn about each other..and yes, it can be a real eye opener! I hope all romances can turn into love stories.
    I think you've summeed this up very well!

  13. I have an aversion to the 'Happy Ever After' notion. It gives the impression that the couple will live a perfectly happy life for ever after the end of the novel - but life isn't like that. Yes, romance novels should have a 'happy ending' i.e. with the couple being united or reunited after various problems and conflicts, but, let's face it, no one lives 'happily ever after'! I prefer to think they have grown in their trust/understanding of each other so that the reader knows they will have the strength to face whatever problems life throws at them in the future.

  14. Heh. I suppose HEA is one traditional element of a romance. On the other hand, the Sleeping Beauty story isn't a romance while anyone who says Ghost isn't a romance is way too obsessed with the rules. Romance isn't just about two bodies merging, but two spirits connecting. Even beyond death? Yes, and that's romance.

    I suppose realistically, the only universal rule was, romance is whatever the publisher demands we submit. Now with self publishing, we can experiment a little and trust the reader.

    So is every romance a love story, but every love story isn't a romance?

  15. Paula--I agree completely. One publisher-cannot remember which--gives the definition of a romance as A HEA--For Now. This is more realistic, I guess.
    Pure romance that makes up a novel is fine, and I think readers who really like to stay with those, are truly only interested in the meeting and getting acquainted--as Cheryl said, the "butterflies" and the "I can't wait to see you next." Deep yearnings.
    But I've learned many of those--and us--who claim to love a romance, really prefer a story with a little more plot. That's why...when asked face to face....what kind of romances do you write?....I say, it's a love story, a romance, yes, but it's really an adventure--all about Texans and those who live and fall in love--then or now.
    That seems to satisfy most people--because I've had some to say..good, because I don't read romances. Yet when they do read one of mine, they like it enough to tell me!
    Thanks for you thoughtful comments. I think we all learn something from each other.

  16. Gerald--well, I had to read your comment twice to get the full meaning. You ask some tough questions.
    I think every love story is a romance..but not every romance is a love story.
    There. Is that good?
    But oh, you have said it all about self-publishing. What a wonderful thing for so many excellent writers who just couldn't--or wouldn't (like me) follow the exact rules.
    A story is a story.
    And I'm very glad I met RJV--she has changed my life as far as getting books published goes. What a lucky strike that was.
    Thanks--I enjoy reading your comments.

  17. Celia, I like my stories to develop my plot by throwing in a couple of quirky characters to keep the plot interesting.

    I suppose that's why, even though I REALLY tried to write my current WIP according to a certain publisher's formula, it hasn't worked out.

    I got off on a side road with the eccentric elderly couple next door. To make it clear, they have a LOT to do with helping the heroine get past her conflict. but Ha! Here I am with no idea where to send the story, because I refuse to give up these quirky octogenarians.

    Honestly, they make the story more interesting.

    So, I don't know if this is a romance or a love story. It will have an HEA, of course.

    Question: Is "The Notebook" a Love Story or a Romance? I can't make up my mind on that one.
    Tanya seems to have all the others down pat, though.

  18. Laurean...Tanya always seems to have the right answers. I love her comments.
    The Notebook? Defininetly a LOVE STORY! A long-running thread of love through all kinds of life's tribulations.

    Your stories? Remember what happened with you first one and you ended up "gutting" it to get a contract? Have you thought about self-publishing? Honetly, Laurean, your books would probably do better if you self-pubbed. There, in that arena, you have full rein. Of course, you'd want to have someone read it for...well, all those pertinent things...but as far as the plot goes..You know best what you like to read and write.
    Your current pub, our favorite one, could do you justice, too...but you, down deep, are a free spirit, one with your own special ideas, and I just bet your could do well if you self-pubbed. Maybe just try it with one book.

    Just make sure it has a romance in it...or it won't go. It has to be labeled a romance, whether it's "pure" or not...think about it.
    And remember I like your quirky characters.
    Much luck. Celia

  19. Celia, heck after re-reading my comments, it confused me as to what I was trying to say. My thoughts and sentences do tend to jump the fence and wander around a bit as they come out of my head.

    Compare it to the simple, direct writing I present in my stories, and that tells you how extensive my editing and rewriting is from the initial gush of words.

  20. Gerald--I understand this perfectly. Ernest Hemingway deleted half the words he wrote to get a finished product. However,I don't think I could write as many as he could.
    "Writing is re-writing." Or something like that.
    Thank you.

  21. Celia, lots of food for thought here. I had no idea there was such a difference between a romance and a love story, but as you explain it, it makes sense.

    I can't comment on much - Brad & Angelina. Yuck. But at least their kids seem happy.

    Ronald & Nancy - Yeah, I don't think there was HEA. Their kids were messed up.

    Bill & Hillary? I suppose that's another ball entirely. LOL!!

    You know I'm thinking of Downton Abbey here and the Earl and his Countess - Romance or Love Story?


  22. Steph--excellent observations. I wonder why so many think Brad and Angelina are yucky? Even I do, but I cannot explain it. It all seems false, but who are we to say? Maybe it's perfect.
    The earl and his countess on DA? Hmmm, good question. I'd say love story, but often they act like brother and sister, don't they?Not so romantic.
    But I do think Ronald and Nancy had a true love story. It doesn't matter how their kids turned out--just their relationship, and I believe it was true love--about as true as you can get.

  23. Ah the narrow definitions of the current publishing era. ;-)

    I think one book can be both romance and love story, and the romance of today is far from the romance book of yesteryear.

    Celia, I agree with you about Ronald and Nancy - that was a true love story. They stuck together through everything and she was very watchful of him - his guard dog, you could say - through the end. I think one kid was messed up but not the other two, and from what I read, that one was just rather self-centered. Kids of celebs (and the big politicians are celebs, sadly) just tend to have more issues regardless of their parents.

    Back to books: I would have to call some of my books both romance and love story and others are love stories. Romance is the start. Love is the long-term. Someone said that earlier. I'm agreeing. ;-)