Elizabeth Melton Parsons


Romance or Love Story


Have you ever thought about what defines a romance as apposed to a love story? New writers wanting to be published in the field of genre romance ask themselves this question quite often and it’s a hard question to answer. If you’ve written a love story and submit it to one of the many romance publishers out there, it may be rejected just because it doesn’t follow the formula for romance. This is beginning to change to a certain extent, thanks in part to talented authors such as M. Jean Pike. Her recently published novels are love stories published in the romance genre. What exactly is the difference between the two?


Romance follows a very specific formula, which is why it’s necessary for new and established writers to continually come up with fresh, new story ideas. The formula for romance is pretty simple. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, and they live happily ever after. That last part is essential to be accepted by most romance publishers. On many of their sites, it will explain that the happy ending must be there for them to be interested or at the very least the ending must leave the reader with a sense of satisfaction. In between the boy meets girl and the HEA, there can be many different sub plots to move the story along such as mystery, suspense, paranormal, and others. Regardless of the sub genre, the basic formula must remain in order to be called a romance and the developing romance between the hero and heroine should take center stage. The first romance I read, as a young girl, was Jane Eyre. This story follows the exact formula and is still my favorite romance.


A love story doesn’t follow any set formula and doesn’t have to have a HEA. Although, through out the ages there have many love stories that could have been romances if they’d ended differently. Just a couple that comes to mind, Romeo and Juliet and Love Story. All the aspects of a romance are there in those stories, but there isn’t the typical happily ever after ending. Then there’s Wuthering Heights, The Bridges Of Madison County, and Gone With The Wind. Looking at these titles you might assume that a true love story must have a tragic or not so happy ending. Not so. Take for example The Ghost And Mrs. Muir. A lot of people call this a paranormal romance. I think it could go either way since it doesn’t follow the exact formula for a romance, but it does have a satisfying ending. Originally in my newest novel, Black Rock: A Time For Love, the hero and heroine fell in love early in the book and admitted that love to one another. After that it was the outside conflicts that held them apart. According the critiques I received, this was a no-no for a romance. I needed more internal conflict, so I went back and rewrote the entire story. In the long run, did it make the story better? Probably not, but it made it more suitable for the romance genre.


If you’re a writer trying to decide if your manuscript is a genre romance, read what the romance publishers are putting out there, read Jane Eyre or other tried and true romances such as Pride and Prejudice or any other Jane Austin novel. If romance publishers have rejected your manuscript, perhaps you’ve written a love story or a general fiction story instead of a romance. My first novel, Captive Fear was mislabeled a romance, when in actuality it’s a gritty suspense/mystery. There is a romance embedded in the story, but it’s definitely not a typical romance. You will need to define your story in order to query the publishers or agents that are the best fit. Whatever you’ve written, don’t give up–keep submitting until you find the best publisher for it.


©Elizabeth Melton Parsons




Author: Elizabeth Melton Parsons

I'm a novelist, poet, and artist. I love books, nature, art, and gardening. I'm a rock hound and there's a photo of me with a cool fossil rock on my about page, I take a lot of nature pictures. The background here is one of mine. Unfortunately I recently lost my wonderful husband, but I'm grateful to have the blessing of two beautiful sons. elizabethmeltonparsons.wordpress.com is © Elizabeth Melton Parsons 2007-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elizabeth Melton Parsons with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

6 thoughts on “Romance or Love Story

  1. Okay, that does it. I’m buying a copy of “Captive Fear.”

    And, I’m going to read some Jane Austin. In between martial arts seminars.

    There are so few great love stories written anymore. But, in fact, one of my favorite novels was “Gone with the Wind” for two reasons. The first was for the towering love story of Rhett and Scarlett. The second reason was because it contained my favorite quote of all time- “With enough courage, you don’t need a reputation.”


  2. I love that quote and Scarlett is my favorite heroine of all. I’ve taken flack for that from time to time because to some she was kind of a B****. But I loved her. She kept all those other characters alive and had so much courage and determination. I did want to shake her because she wouldn’t let go of her infatuation with Ashley though. 🙂

    By the way, Rick, I’d better warn you, Captive Fear is pretty graphic and has some content that a few of my readers disapproved of. But if you do buy a copy…you have my eternal gratitude. Elizabeth


  3. This was just what I needed to read. Thank you so much for posting


  4. I find when writing romance, I write exactly what I would want to experience… which usually misses the boy-loses-girl part. Although Wuthering Heights brought me to my knees!


  5. I have just finished typing up a novel for a friend. It follows the romance formula listed above: “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, and they live happily ever after.” However, the main character is the MAN, not the woman. Is there any such thing as a publishing house that takes this type of fiction? My friend wants to see his book published and in the stores, NOT do a desktop job and then flog it where he can. Advice would be appreciated.


  6. It may not be the norm for the main protaganist in a romance to be the man, but not that rare. If your friend wants to be published by a major publisher, shop the book around for an agent to represent it. If he doesn’t want to get an agent, he can submit directly to any traditional publisher, as long as they take submissions from authors. Search their sites for submission guidelines. Good luck to your friend. Hope the book finds a home worthy of it.


“Our opinions do not really blossom into fruition until we have expressed them to someone else.” ― Mark Twain

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