There is a huge difference between Love Stories and Romance Novels though they are both under the umbrella of fiction. Kristina McMorris learned this difference when marketing her novel, “there was a market for “WWII love stories” but not “WWII romances.” Letters from Home will be on bookshelves in early 2011.
Nickolas Sparks is adamant he writes love stories, he doesn’t write romance. His specific differentiation is: “No, the themes in love stories are different. In mine, you never know if it’s going to be a happy ending, sad ending, bittersweet or tragic. You read a romance because you know what to expect. You read a love story because you don’t know what to expect.” (Does he protest too much at the end of the interview/article?)
I’m surprised that Mr. Sparks doesn’t know the difference between theme (redemption/revenge/forgiveness/etc) and plot (series of events to achieve The End). What’s expected at the end of a romance novel is the main characters – involved in the relationship plot of the story – will be happy to be alive and in love.
I just read the award winning ebook: Flaherty’s Crossing by Kaylin McFarren. You can read my review here. This is a book I want on my KEEPER shelf, in print too. I will reread it more than once, even though I know the ending is uplifting, and even though I will shed a few tears. All proceeds are to be donated to Cancer Research Center at Providence Medical Center so it’s a win for readers and cancer patients. This is not a romance novel or a love story, it’s considered Contemporary Womens Fiction because it’s focused on a woman’s emotional journey with her estranged (now dead) father. There’s a romantic subplot with her almost estranged husband, and at the end, the romantic characters are happy to be alive and in love. The ending of the tragic story thread was bittersweet but also uplifting.
What I find fascinating is – in the technologically developing world of ebook/ereaders – all three of these authors are considered “mainstream” on Fictionwise amid 6,381 items in that category. This means a reader has no more luck finding an interesting ebook than walking through a physical bookstore where fiction is filed alphabetically, row after row, by author name. A fiction reader has to come to both venues knowing either title or author, then search. For now.
Soon these mainstream books will be sorted through a database with specific search labels because readers will want to know what they are buying.
Personally, I will probably never search through and choose books labeled as tragic/sad/bittersweet love stories. Would you?