A Reader's Expectations of an Epic Romance Novel

The 9 essential elements of romance novels. www.readwithacuppa.com

The 9 Essential Elements of Romance Novels

As a reader, when I pick up a romance novel I have certain expectations of what I will find within the leaves. Don’t you?

No matter the sub-genre: Dystopian, Regency, Contemporary, Fantasy or Young Adult, without these 9 elements I usually won’t finish the book.

Let me share this reader’s expectations and you can let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments below.

A Protagonist I Can Relate To

Whether the Protagonist is female or male, there needs to be something about the character I can relate to. If I’m going to give a hoot for this person for 25 chapters, there better be a quality in there I can be friends with.

An Imperfect Antagonist

TooBloomin’Perfect doesn’t cut it. Can you swoon over the same perfect guy or root for the same perfect woman for 400 pages without wanting to vomit?

Me neither.

When the central characters are a little less than perfect, it is easier to follow them throughout the story knowing that their flaws are similar to ones that are found in real life. 

There should be room to grow within each character and maybe a solution to a personal flaw I would like an answer for.

A Society Set with Definite Rules

There is nothing that adds a little fun and a lot of tension than rules that are made to be broken!

A social setting with definite rules gives a foundation for the stories boundaries. Boundaries which give a reason for one or both of the main characters to get shaken up by leaving the comforts of what they know, something to disagree with, or values which need to be redefined.

This definition can come in the form of expected manners, decor, dress, or from the location the story takes place in.

This reader expects to know what the ground work is, so while I’m reading the story I can form opinions along the way that make sense with the story line. 

Tension and Lots of it

Romance is equated to feeling. Feelings are emotions and tense emotions make me bite my nails!

While I’m breathlessly holding on to see if the central characters live, love, survive or crash, it’s the intense emotion that keeps me hanging in there and turning the pages over.

However, a nice page or two of peace and tranquillity between these periods of tension is a most agreeable recovery element.

Obstacles, Conflict and No!

As humans we learn best through trial and error. The main characters should too. How can two people grow together without barriers to overcome, or others to put up a united front for?

Following the story as the central couple jump one hurdle after another is what gives me something to feel tense about. These obstacles also flesh out the story and move a storyline forward.

There also needs to be a reason the couple almost get together, but are kept apart somewhere in the story. A conflict that evokes an ‘Oh...No...Don’t...Go...’ part of the story that has some meaningful justification for being there.

A Supporting Cast that Adds to the Story

Just as there are all sorts of different personalities within our own Circle of Loved Ones, I also like to see them around the central couple with each cast member having their own subplots. 

Whether they are long or short, each supporting character’s story should add to, rather than detract from, the major story.

A great supporting cast amplifies different personality aspects of the central characters and gives the overall story a richness and depth that would be difficult to achieve if we were reading about only two people.

Well Written Dialogue

I converse with you through my posts. You converse with your Circle of Loved Ones through speech. We converse with ourselves internally and it helps us all to understand ourselves, those around us and what is happening in our world.

As a reader, there is an expectation to be kept in the loop of the goings on in the story through the exchanges of one character to another.  

I like to have the inside scoop by being privy to internal dialogue that is not shared with the other cast members. (Curious, not Nosey 💟 Ummm...)

Well written dialogue brings out colour and clarity in the plot lines and helps us, the reader, decide if we will end up liking or disliking the overall story.

Passion That Goes Deeper Than Sex

An epic romance novel needs passion. Little things like long looks, stolen kisses and wishful thinking all build emotional and physical need throughout the book and add to the ‘Will they? - Won’t they?’ factor.

A good sex scene though, brings relief not only to our lucky couple but as a reader we are assured that they finally found their way to trust each other enough emotionally to make a go of the relationship we just spent hours rooting for.

Happily Ever After

Once the obstacles have been hurdled, the Circle of Loved Ones in a good place, Society's rules redefined, and the main couple enjoying the sun rise on the first day of their forever, I want to feel secure that these two I paid real money to spend time with are not going to end up in divorce court.

Is it 5 Sugar Lumps Worthy? 

These 9 elements are my personal expectations as a reader when I pick up a romance novel. With all of these found between the leaves, I feel I have read an epic romance worthy of 5 lumps of sugar in my cuppa.

Curious to see my rating system? Head on over to my Rating System page.

I would love to hear what makes a romance novel epic to you. Please share in the comments.