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
Too.Bloomin’.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?
When the central characters are a little less than perfect, it is easier to follow them throughout the story knowing that their flaws are simular 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 the 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.
Expectations of 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 page over.
Of course, a nice page or two of peace and tranquillity between these periods of tension is an 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 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.
A Well Written Dialogue
I converse with you through my posts. You converse with your Circle of Loved Ones through speech and we converse with ourselves internally. All this dialogue helps us 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, and have the inside scoop by being privy to internal dialogue that is not shared with the other cast members.
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 Just 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 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.
This Reader Expects a Happily Ever After
Once the obstacles have been hurdled, the Circle of Loved Ones in a good place, societies rules redefined, and the main couple enjoying the sun rise on the first day of the rest 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.
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.
I would love to hear what makes a romance novel epic to you. Please share in the comments.