Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Romance Genre, Characters and Motivation

Romance genre encompasses a vast range of style and content, from the light and witty dialog of Julia Quinn's historical novels, to the edgy banter in S. L. Viehl's "blade" trilogy; from the ingenuous maundering of Georgette Heyer to the explicit rapture of Elizabeth Hoyt. I'm fascinated with the endless variety of characters and motivation represented in the romance genre. Although I occasionally dip into settings other than English or Scottish history, the majority of my romance library is drawn from the Georgian or Regency period.

The social strictures on women and men in those times offer wonderful opportunity for creating characters with complex layers of motivation, endless opportunity for peril and tension, and devious plot twists that showcase clever, desperate, determined heroines and heroes. The rules of the genre generally prevent the main character from indulging in mindless and promiscuous sex, but the motivations of the characters can be shown (within the bounds of their society) to be similar to psychological needs such as those stripped bare in the memoir featured in my last post (usually within 'coming of age' plots).

Romance genre plus 'coming of age' plots may begin with the main character at an immature point and use adversity to demonstrate the character gaining wisdom with experience and moving from a needy self-involved personality to a mature, loving heroine. Other 'coming of age' plots begin with a mature and loving heroine whose coming of age revolves around the main character's sexual awakenings and how they (eventually) successfully integrate their physical needs within their social and psychological needs. What a challenge for a writer to demonstrate, within the historical context of a society that denied 'decent' woman had any sexual needs, and indeed insisted on quite the opposite.

"Married happily ever after" is the usual ending for romance novels, a defining point of the genre, even. I enjoy those endings, and even more, enjoy the creative and unusual paths that my favorite romance authors employ to arrive at an ending that is pretty much known from the beginning. I also like reading the historical details, especially when they include information new to me, and sometimes I have to look up a reference to an obscure event or item. I admire writers who combine excellent historical research with original plots and characters, and who seamlessly include authentic historical details in their setting. One such writer who I previously mentioned is Jo Beverley, and Madeline Hunter is another.

Well, back to packing today. Happy reading, all.

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