What would you say if I told you that people who are certain they have never read a romance novel, actually have? What if these books were hiding in plain sight, amongst novels of other genres, but were still, unmistakably romance novels/ What if they were right out there, where anybody, even the romance-shy, could easily find them and fall in love? Is this truth, or is it fiction? Let’s find out.
Savvy romance readers know this already; romance novels are everywhere, and many who think they haven’t read a romance novel yet, are actually wrong. All a book needs to be considered a romance novel are two things: a central love story, and a satisfying, optimistic ending. That’s it. Anything else is fair game, and that allows romances to lurk amongst books of other genres on the shelves of libraries, bookstores, and even personal collections. Sure, the book may have come from a shelf set aside for mystery, literary, general, or science fiction, but tick both of those boxes, and the book is also a romance.
Want examples? Sure thing. I ‘ve got a ton of them. Let’s go with one most everybody knows. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. The author herself says the book is not a romance novel, but let’s look at the first volume. Claire and Jamie’s love story is kind of the whole point. Take it out, and the rest of the story can’t stand. There’s quite a bit going on, with the history and the time travel, which, from a modern perspective, takes place between two historical periods (though those native to either would insist their period is contemporary) and Claire being in the unique position to have not one, but two, husbands she loves. Still, it’s the love between Jamie and Claire that holds the story together, and spin s off into a long series of books, which, in turn, spawned the Lord John series.
For those who prefer their love stories, and the requisite happily ever afters, to take place in the here and now, give Nick Hornby a try. Though some of his books strive for a more tolerably ever after (TEA, which suits rather well, as both Mr. Hornby and his books are British) Juliet, Naked is straight up romance as only Nick Hornby can tell it. Annie and Duncan fit together fine, until they don’t, and the one thing Annie could do to tick Duncan off the most is horn in on his fandom, especially when that involves a new album by his favorite reclusive rock star, Tucker Crowe. The only thing worse than that? If Annie and Tucker fall in love. There is a happy ending in this book, which is all about love – finding the right one, letting go of the wrong one, the strange and wonderful love of fandom, and, most of all, a romance that grows from the most unlikely place, in the most natural of ways.
Sword Dancer, by Jennifer Roberson, kicks off the Tiger and Del series, usually resides in the fantasy section, and a wonderful fantasy it is, at that. Swordsman, Tiger, is from a harsh desert land, rough, uncultured, and living only to fight whoever will take him on. He definitely does not have any plans on falling in love/ Neither does Del, also from a harsh land, the frozen North, because she is a woman on a mission, her aim as direct as Tiger’s is virtually nonexistent, but they end up fighting against each other, and discover they are a perfect team, both within the circle and in life. Watching these two fall in love, challenge their expectations and even their own identities, and become more than the sum of their parts, keeps this reader coming back for more with every new installment, and multiple re-reads. There’s a wonderful HFN at the end of book one, and that would be perfectly fine as an HEA, but with several more books to follow, each new adventure still focuses on the romance.
Three books are only the tip of the romantic iceberg. Whether it’s a historical sleuth who finds love as well as clues, intergalactic or post-apocalyptic adventures of the heart as well as the regular sort, and even some of the classics. Janes Austen and Eyre apply here, for sure, and they are not alone. Who knows what lurks in the hearts of bookshelves? Well, librarians, for one. They’re pretty smart. Ask yours about some covert romances you may have missed. They’ll know some.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Have you found any novels that fit the romance novel definition, outside of the genre? Ever had a happy accident, finding one? Where are some of your favorite HEAs lurking in shelves of other genres? Pull up a chair in the comment section, and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.