Contemporary Romance defined

by
Elizabeth Jasper Writer
Contemporary ~ adj.   1. living, occurring, or originating at the
same time.  2. Belonging to, or occurring
in the present > modern in style or design.
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Romance ~ noun.   1. A
pleasurable feeling of excitement and wonder associated with love > a love
affair, especially a relatively brief and light-hearted one. > a book or
film dealing with love in a sentimental or idealized way.  2. a quality of feeling of mystery, excitement
and remoteness from everyday life.  3. A
medieval tale dealing with a hero of chivalry, of the kind common in the
Romance languages.  4. Music, a short
informal piece.
~ verb. 1. Be involved in an amorous relationship with (someone).  2. Seek the attention or custom of,
especially by use of flattery.  3.
romanticize. (OCED, 11th
Edition, Revised)


From the point of view of a writer, the
‘contemporary’ part of the genre title is straightforward.  If you, or someone you know, or know of, who
has lived through the events or period described, then that is
contemporary.  So, when I wrote a story
about a girl growing up in the 1960s, it could be described as contemporary
because I, along with many other people, can remember the 1960s and the events
that took place back then. As the girl in the story was only eleven, there was
no question of there being any ‘romance’ in there whatsoever. 

Romance, though, is a particularly difficult
term for the writer to quantify.  When
does a story become a romance?  Is it
when the protagonists exchange warm glances, or when they first kiss, or when
they achieve their (ahem!) happy ending?  How much romantic content is necessary in a
book for it to be described as a romance? How much does romance have to do with
sex? Does a focus on the sexual aspects of a relationship mean a book cannot be
described as a romance? When does a book move beyond being described as a sexy
romance into the realms of erotic fiction? How does Chick-Lit fit in to
contemporary romance? Or, is it a question of a reader instinctively knowing
what contemporary romance is when she reads it?
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I’m currently writing a sequel to the 1960s
story, and it does have some romantic aspects. Teenage girls and boys are
discovering one another throughout the story and by the end they have
boyfriends and girlfriends.  How can I
describe this story?  YA Romance, Coming
of Age Romance, or just YA or Coming of Age? When my mum’s best friend devours
Mills & Boom Romances by the dozen, it would appear to be straightforward,
but Mills & Boon have ‘levels’ of romance, from innocent, romantic
relationships to quite steamy ones. Then there is the infamous ’Fifty Shades of
Grey’.  Romance, or erotica?  If a relationship is examined in depth within
a book, does that qualify as romance, even if the relationship is abusive but
the protagonists love one another?

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So many questions, and the answers will be
different from every reader’s or writer’s point of view depending on their
personal experiences and preferences. 
So, how can a writer judge
whether or not their work is a romance? 
Answers on a postcard…

Elizabeth Jasper

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