Danielle Steel raised a lot of eyebrows recently on a CBS morning show interview when she denied being a romance novelist. Although this aroused the ire of many people who felt she was bashing the genre, I agree with her. She isn’t a romance novelist.
For people who love the romance genre, a book has got to have a romantic storyline as the thread that holds the novel together. Remove that romantic relationship, and the plot has little or no momentum. I consider Danielle Steel to belong to the “glitz & glamor” style of women’s fiction. The reader is treated to the lifestyles of the rich and famous by viewing it through the eyes of an attractive leading lady as she travels the world, buys & sells companies, marries and divorces international tycoons and playboys. Sometimes the settings are World War II France, the Russian Revolution, or conflict in the Hollywood Hills. The scope of the novel is often between 10-20 years or more, and there is no guarantee of a happy ending. More often than not, her endings are bittersweet.
In a romance novel, the leading characters are sometimes rich and powerful, but they are equally likely to be a farmer, a school teacher, a paramedic, etc. The romantic relationship is front & center, and it always ends in a satisfying manner. That happy ending causes critics to accuse the genre of mediocrity….. but how often do you read a mystery where you don’t discover the villain by the end? Predictable? Yes. I suppose both the romance and the mystery genre are predictable in that the reader knows they’ll get a satisfactory conclusion, but a good writer will keep the reader guessing about how the story will be resolved until the end.
I think what angered people about Danielle Steel’s remarks was that it appeared she was bashing the genre by disavowing that she was a romance novelist. Given the widespread disdain for the romance genre, both readers and writers alike tend to be very sensitive to perceived slights. I think we need to give Ms. Steel a break. “Women’s Fiction” encompasses a ton of writing styles that does not fit comfortably into the romance mold. That doesn’t make it better or worse…just different.
Snarky comment time: Guess which one sells better? Good old fashioned romance!