The Case for Romance in Any Genre of Novel

Monday, April 10, 2017
Romance is just about everywhere in movies, TV shows, novels, and memoirs. In real life, most of us seem to be looking for love, finding love or sticking with the one we love. So why do some of us turn our noses up at romance? I'm NOT talking about 50 Shades of Grey--I'm talking more about the love connection that occurs between two characters: Hermione and Ron in Harry Potter, Jason Bourne and Marie in The Bourne Supremacy, or William Riker and Counselor Troi in The Next Generation series.

When you read a mystery, science fiction, bestselling novel or any other fiction novel, whether you are an adult, a teen or a child, do you like some romance in the story?

I ask this for a few reasons. First, when I asked for ideas to blog about for teens, my wonderful friend Amie, who counsels teens and families, said, “Girls want to fall in love and live happily ever after, same as they always have.”

Next, I had a conversation with a writing coaching client about her book idea and whether it should be geared toward young adults or middle-grade readers. I thought the idea sounded more young adult, but when we discussed that, she said, “Yea, but I don’ want to have to write the romance. All young adult has romance.” She’s right about that, but I also think it’s true for middle-grade books (ages 9 to 13)–the dating relationship is just handled differently.

And why is there romance in almost every story? Because of Amie’s statement above–this is a natural part of anybody’s life from pre-teen to adult, and so it should also be in the books we read and write. The romantic element doesn’t have to take over the story, but it needs to be present.

When I wrote my young adult novel, Caught Between Two Curses, this was a no-brainer. I knew from the beginning that one of the problems 17-year-old Julie would deal with, besides her family being cursed, was trying to figure out her love life. Should she stay with her long-time boyfriend who was pressuring her to have sex and telling her that he loved her? Should she be by herself? Should she explore her developing feelings for her friend, Matt?

But in Finding My Place, the main character Anna Green is only 13, and she is in the middle of the Civil War. She’s trying to figure out how to survive and keep her siblings alive, too. Is there any room for romance? When I first wrote the story, there wasn’t. But then I was thinking that in 1863, Anna would be expected to be married in probably about 3 years, and so she needed to at least have a crush on a young man. So, I added a crush in the middle of the cannonballs and armies fighting. I think it makes the book more realistic and when I do school visits, kids who have read the book will ask me if Anna and Albert get married.

So I’m curious if you are a writer, how do you feel about writing romance in your books? If you are a reader, do you like a love story in the middle of your action or mystery?

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, teacher, and writing coach, living in St. Louis, MO. Find out more at Sign up for her WOW! Women On Writing novel course here

A portion of this post appeared on The Lit Ladies blog in 2014. 

Photo of the feet by Oteo on


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--I don't read romances but now that you're blogging about it, it made me think.

1) I'm working on a WIP that has a young teen narrator. I probably need to add at least a crush into the plot. Thanks for the reminder.

2) Even Anne Frank's diary has some "romance" despite the fact that their lives were in jeopardy every day and they were crammed together in an attic. (There are also bits of humor, hard as that is to believe.)

3) Romance adds tension. It's a part of all our lives--either looking for it, basking in it or whacking it until it's dead. We all love tension in our books.

4) I think of "The Notebook." I saw the movie, and then read the book (big mistake). The book had no real appeal for me because my big question in the movie was, 'Will they get together in the end or not?' Since I saw the movie, I already knew, so the book couldn't sustain that tension for me.

Thanks for this post, Margo. I usually pooh-pooh romance, but I (begrudgingly) admit that it's at least a thread in most novels.

Margo Dill said...

It really is. One of the only movies I can think of where the main character did not have SOME KIND of romance was a Patrick Swayze movie titled, "City of Joy."

Cathy Graham said...

I love to write romance into my young adult and adult stories.

I am not a huge fan of the romance novel that much like some women who devour them. Harlequin romances with all the different categories don't interest me that much. I went to a Romance Writers' meeting once and felt out of place. I did learn what an Alpha male was though. Droolll!

Still, I do like a gentle love story within the main story and I especially like it when the characters are lonely misfit types who don't think they deserve love.

I just watched a Turkish movie on Netflix with subtitles, which was like that and found it touching. I was able to overlook some of the far fetched parts of the plot just because I liked the characters so much.

When I write romance, I do notice my characters are usually lonely misfits. What's up with that, I wonder?

Interesting topic! As you can see, it got me going.

Unknown said...

Hi Margo. I’d love to add romance to my novel, but how do you do it in a way that doesn't interfere with the plot moving forward? For example, in my novel the protagonist will befriend a feral cat and take him to the local vet. So romance is possible, but in order to link it to the plot I'd have to create another subplot. Or am I overthinking this?

Your insights would be most appreciated.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Yes! I think adding romance to any story gives it more depth and shares another side to even the toughest protagonist. I think there should be a reason to add it to the story, even if it's just to add an ally or to mirror your character. But I've also heard that if a story can be told without romantic scenes, then the novel probably doesn't need it. I personally enjoy reading books that have some kind of romantic interest though. Great post!

Mary Horner said...

I like some romance in action movies, it provides a nice balance, and lets the readers see another side of a character!

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