Thursday, October 7, 2010

Romance vs. Women's Fiction with Guest Blogger Jessica Chambers

Find out how you can be one of 5 winners of or Barnes & Noble gift cards! And Meet our October Featured Author Jessica Chambers today at the Book Boost!

See what she has to say about the battle between Romance & Women's Fiction...

The more books I read, the more I realize that nothing keeps me turning the pages faster than a developing romance. No storyline creates more tension than that of two characters prevented, whether through internal or external conflict, from being together. This was brought home to me with particular poignancy when I discovered The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare.

Anyone familiar with these remarkable novels will know that there is no shortage of action. The lives of the main characters are frequently put in danger as they come face to face with terrifying demons. Yet, it wasn’t fear for their safety that kept me reading, though it certainly added drama to the narrative. No, what caught my interest in City Of Bones, and kept me riveted through City Of Ashes right until the final page of City Of Glass, was the intensely powerful but seemingly impossible love between Clary and Jace. Would they ever find a way to be together?

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Since I obviously enjoy the genre so much, why do I choose to write women’s fiction rather than good, heart-warming romance? Actually, there are two reasons.

1: Viewpoint.

The vast majority of romance novels—and I appreciate there are always exceptions to the rule—are told solely from the point of view (POV) of the heroine or hero. An example of where this is done particularly well is Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Remaining solely inside Jane’s head and being unaware of Mr. Rochester’s thoughts, makes for great tension.

Many romance novels, such as Anne Bronte’s The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall, switch between the POVs of hero and heroine. In this case, the main story is told from the hero’s viewpoint, but with passages from the heroine’s diary to give us an insight into her own turmoil. If the author does occasionally allow us into the heads of other characters, it’s only to complement the tension between the main protagonists—Molly Gibson’s father in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters, for instance.

Now, I have an enormous amount of respects for those authors who are able to stick to no more than two POVs throughout an entire novel, especially as it is something I haven’t yet had the courage to attempt myself. The fact is, I get restless after spending too long in a particular character’s head, rather like the feeling you get when you’ve been in someone’s company too long and you just want to be alone. I love the variety of telling the story from the perspectives of multiple characters, each with his or her own voice and distinct personality. Even more, I love the challenge of weaving several stories together and making them connect at the end. In short, I love the freedom women’s fiction gives me.

2: The Happily Ever After Ending.

Another feature of the romance—with the notable exception of Romeo And Juliet—is the happy ending, and this is how it should be. What is the purpose of putting these characters through hell, if not to ultimately bring them together? One of the best romances I’ve read recently is A Place In The Hills by Michelle Paver. Right up until the last page, she leaves the reader hanging, wondering how on earth these two people will ever put the past behind them and find love. Imagine how cheated I would have felt if, even after all their struggles and heartache, happiness were denied them.

In my own writing, however, I revel in the flexibility women’s fiction offers. I like the fact that it isn’t a foregone conclusion all will end well. The hero and heroine might get together, or circumstances could come between them. Then again, even if they do eventually find love, it’s no guarantee everything else in their lives will work out. Joanna Trollope is one of the best writers of the bitter/sweet ending, I think, and it is this unpredictability that draws me more than anything else to women’s fiction.

These are my thoughts on the differences between the two genres, but I’d love to hear yours. Anyone kind enough to leave a comment here, or at any point during my blog tour, will automatically be entered into my current contest (see below for details). Good luck!

A Note from the Book Boost: Glad you could join us today to share your thoughts about genres and you made some great points. I enjoy reading a variety of genres, so I'm glad that there are choices out there for everyone! Pleased to welcome you to the Book Boost as our October featured author, won't you tell us more about your book?


When Faye Wakefield runs a competition offering nine lucky winners a two-week holiday at her beautiful farmhouse retreat in Cornwall, she promises an experience they will never forget. However, even Faye could not have imagined how bringing these people together would change their lives forever.

Just as she hoped, the competition yields a diverse mixture of characters. Among them are Leah Shaw, a shy young woman with troubled eyes, the womanising business tycoon Marcus Armitage, Karenza Jackson, ruled by her deep-rooted need for independence, retired nurse Bronwyn Davis, and Patrick O’Leary, an Irishman with an affiliation for the whisky bottle.

So begins a gently unfolding story of love and illicit affairs, heartbreak and self-discovery. Yet, as sparks fly and the guests share their long-suppressed secrets, only Faye knows of her ulterior motive for inviting them all under her roof.


Ever since their fierce exchange that morning, Marcus had been unable to get Karenza out of his mind. Funny that he’d had to experience the full force of her wrath before he could appreciate how stunning she was. He cast her a predatory glance from the corner of his eye.

With her turquoise dress swirling about her in the breeze, Marcus thought she resembled some exotic creature of the deep. The miracle was that he’d spared Tiffany so much as a glance beside this vibrant individual.

He drew in a deep lungful of smoke. Something about Karenza—her air of independence, perhaps—aroused in him an overpowering desire to tame her. Trouble was, for the first time in his memory, he was unsure how his advances would be received. He blamed Leah. She might be a frigid little ice-maiden, but Marcus knew his pride couldn’t withstand a second rejection in one day.

“Listen,” he said, feeling uncharacteristically awkward, “what you said earlier about my behavior towards Leah … you were right.”

Karenza turned to him, her eyes pools of black ice. “I hardly need you to tell me that.”

“Yes, well, I want you to know how much I regret it. What I did, I mean.”

“I daresay it can’t be a barrel of laughs being rebuffed,” Karenza said, “especially for a man of your modest ego.”

Marcus was stung. “Credit me with a little heart, can’t you? Upsetting Leah was the last thing I wanted to do. I don’t know what came over me.”

“Lust, perhaps? Have you apologized?”

“Not yet, but I will.”

“Don’t bother. You’ve done enough damage already without making it worse. I’m going in.”

She ground her cigarette beneath her heel, looking directly at him. “I do have one piece of advice for you, Marcus. Next time, be sure to pick on someone your own size.”

He could only stare after her, hypnotized by the sway of her hips, conscious of the opportunity trickling away from him like sand through his fingers. He had to act fast.

In desperation, he called, “By someone my own size, I take it you were referring to yourself?”

Almost at the back door, Karenza considered him. “Is that an offer? Now, there’s an interesting idea.”

Marcus relaxed. There was no mistaking the challenge beneath the mockery, nor the invitation in her eyes. He moved towards her until they stood a foot apart. With measured slowness, he reached out to place his hands on her shoulders, experiencing a surge of exultation when she did not flinch.

“You, Miss Jackson,” he said, “are an extremely attractive woman, you know that?”

“I may have been told so once or twice,” Karenza replied, her gaze appraising him. “And you, Mr. Armitage, as you are well aware, are an extremely attractive man.”

They remained motionless, eyes fastened on one another’s, desire pulsating between them. Marcus ached to kiss her, but intuition held him back. If he was to bring the unmanageable

Karenza under his control, he would have to leave her hanging.

Before he could master himself and step away, however, Karenza stood on tiptoe and brushed his lips with her own. Momentary indignation shot through Marcus at being deprived of the initiative, but it fled as his body responded with a ferocity that took him by surprise. He made to pull Karenza closer, but she drew back with a throaty laugh, teasing him.

“Christ,” Marcus croaked, “what are you trying to do to me, you witch?”

Karenza flashed him a provocative smile before kissing him again.

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Contest time:

For the duration of my October blog tour for Voices On The Waves, everyone who comments on any of my posts along the way is automatically entered into the draw to win a $15 gift voucher for Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The five winners will be announced on my blog on October 31st.


Lucy said...

Thanks for this giveaway!
Please enter me.

Martha Lawson said...

count me in please, i love gc!!

follow on gfc

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

Clarissa Draper said...

Wow, that's great! Those are the reasons I try to add romance and happy-ever-afters to my novels even though they're mysteries.

Love your work, as always.