Have you ever finished a book and thought, “I enjoyed the book, but I think they labeled it wrong?” or, “I was expecting something different after seeing the label for this one.”
I’ve said this a few times in my own reviews. For me, this issue crops up mostly when it comes to romantic suspense vs. a mystery or thriller with romantic elements, historical romance vs a historical fiction with romantics elements, or contemporary romance vs a women’s fic or chick lit with romantic elements. Or, hey, it might just be a sneaky crossover that is actually both.
This is not a gripe per se because I don’t really feel all that testy about it. I would probably read the book either way. However, I’d enjoy it more if my expectations were in the right place from the get-go.
When I see ‘mystery’ as the genre label, I assume that I’m getting just that and, if it has a romance, then ‘score’, but I don’t expect the romance to be completely fleshed out. However, if it is a romantic suspense or a contemporary romance with just a whiff of suspense then that changes things. The romance better be given time to start, develop, and take up a great deal of the story. I thought Shiloh Walker’s Secrets and Shadows series was a great example of a well-balanced romantic suspense and Loretta Ross’ Auction House mysteries have a nice side romance element with the mystery.
Lately, I’ve noticed a trend in some romance authors to give women’s fiction a go when it really is still a contemporary romance with a strong dose of family, friendship, or personal growth. But the opposite is true as well, there are contemporary romances that are better labeled women’s or general fiction since the romance is less developed than the character or other story elements. A good example of a series I felt would be enjoyed more if it’s understood to be a crossover women’s fiction/contemporary romance is Molly Harper’s Southern Eclectic series (Lorna and I did a dual review on that one recently). And, just to give you an example of a good general fiction with a romance element, there are Sarah Addison Allen’s books.
All, that to say, that when it comes to romance, it really matters to me what genre label the authors and publishers slap on their books and how they describe it in marketing promos and blurbs because then readers will know what is the focal point and how much romance development they can expect.
What’s your opinion on this? Do tell!