Bookish Friday… Genres

Bookish Friday – Genres

I’m joining in Bookish Friday with Georgi and Lauren. It would be great if you would go and visit their blogs too. The prompt this week is Genres, the number and presentation of which is completely up to the individual.

I’ve been involved in many a discussion of what is a genre, sub-genre and trope and whilst there are plenty of lists out there, I’ve yet to see a definitive list that all agree upon. I’m going to go with sub-genres since my reading is almost exclusively from the romance genre.

Romancelandia is looked down upon by many, it’s considered to be the trailer trash of the literary world, the poor cousin with mismatched shoes and holes in their jumper. Judged and found wanting by those who have never bothered to explore the genre due to asinine assumptions and unparalleled bigotry.

I’ve witnessed reviewers denounce the contents of a (often, but not always, dark) romance book. Seen them question the author as to why they think it is appropriate to write such content. Observed them say that the author should realise how their book might influence or subvert, people, how it could lead them astray and encourage them into acts of dreadful violence.

Do these same reviewers judge horror stories in the same way? Do they suggest that authors such as James Herbert or Stephen King should really think carefully about what they publish? Do they question the content of the books? Do they worry that people might mistake these stories as “how-to’s” for real life? No, of course they don’t – but I’ve seen those accusations thrown at romance authors.

Sorry, I clearly touched on my own open nerve. Rant over, here endeth the sermon.

So lets focus on what I’m here to share, which are my favourite romance sub-genres and tropes. Which isn’t as straight forward as might first be assumed. There’s a great article here by diyMFA that details the intricacies involved in categorising romance and another one here, by Kaye Dacus, that goes into even more detail. However even these don’t cover all possibilities and combinations!

Strangely I enjoy both YA romance and adult romance, but am not a huge fan of New Adult stories. I think the YA comes from my background of reading fantasy and science fiction through the 90’s.

Futuristic Romance/ SFR

I’m not talking those purple spanking aliens either. I like a PROPER sci-fi story, with space travel, aliens, new technology and the underlying classic story of good verses evil. It also includes dystopian and steampunk too. Cari Silverwood is the queen of the genre for me, from the detailed Machinery of Desire series, to the crazy Dark Monster Fantasy series, the Earth-bound Preyfinders trilogy to the dystopian Beast Horde trilogy. Her books aren’t for everyone, since she loves to include dub-con situations, along with a fairly generous helping of kink. However what really sells her work, for me, is her solid world building, great characters, amazing pop-culture breadcrumbs and snarky humour.

For a more ‘classic’ Space Opera style SFR then my go to’s are Pippa DaCosta and Carol Van Natta, whilst I’ve also enjoyed work by Eris Adderly, Myra Danvers and heard that Snowburn by EJ Frost is also well worth checking out. For an amazing dystopian series I would highly recommend Men of the North by Elin Peer.

Paranormal (PNR) / Urban Fantasy

After much research I still wasn’t sure of the difference between a PNR and an urban fantasy romance, since both involve paranormal creatures, magic and a real world setting. However this article here helped clear things up for me, so I’m feeling more confident in identifying which books fit each sub-genre.

In the PNR world, R.L. Mathewson‘s Pyte series and anything by the amazing K.F. Breene are both must read authors. Academy stories have been very popular in recent years, though these usually fall into the NA age range, rather than YA. Lexi C Foss is always a must read for this sub-genre/trope, and for the Omegaverse one too.

Pippa DaCosta is my go to author for urban fantasy, I’ve never read a book by this author that I didn’t love.

Fantasy Romance / Omegaverse Romance

My favourite author’s in this sub-genre of romance are Lindsay Buroker (who also writes some pretty great sci-fi too), Myra Danvers and Autumn M. Birt. In these stories the romance is secondary to the story, which seems to be a common theme in fantasy romance.

A hugely popular offshoot of either fantasy or PNR is Omegaverse, it’s difficult to pin down where Omegaverse should go as some authors use a sci-fi or dystopian setting, some use paranormal, and others use an alternative universe.

In general it is a world populated by usually three, occasionally four, dynamics, where alpha’s can only reproduce with omega’s and beta’s are the worker drones. This first emerged as a trope in M/m (male/male) books, but the last few years have scene a surge in M/f pairings. Those first few M/f offerings were very dark in content, with scenes of non-consent, though more recent books span the whole spectrum.

Two years ago I would have struggled to name more than two or three authors who wrote M/f omegaverse, now I could name a dozen or more. I’ve enjoyed work by Eva Dresden, Merel Pierce, Zoey Ellis, Leann Ryans, Tabitha Black, LV Lane and Addison Cain.

Dark Contemporary Romance

Join in a discussion of what is meant by the label ‘dark’ and you will find as many opinions and definitions as there are participants. Part of the problem is that ‘dark romance’ became very popular a few years ago and a lot of authors jumped on the bandwagon, labelling books as dark when they were more of a dove grey. The issue has been further complicated by Amazon and their ever dictatorial and oppressive censorship policies that make it impossible for a self-published author to always give an honest description of a books content – particularly if contains scenes of dubious or non consent.

My own personal expectations of ‘dark’ is that we will experience violence, torture (both physical and psychological) and or sexual acts of at least a dubious, and often of a non, consensual nature. Being told x, y or z has happened but not witnessing it in some way doesn’t cut the mustard, I also need to see that the event has a lasting impact on the characters. It’s not enough to include a rape scene but then have the heroine (or hero) carry on and act as though it were nothing. A very clever author can turn even seemingly innocuous happenings into something much darker, by focusing on the psychological and emotional impact of events. There can be darkness in being forced into humiliating and degrading (non-sexual) acts.

Many of the author’s I’ve already mentioned write dark books (*cough*, Cari Silverwood, *cough*), it isn’t just a sub-genre/ trope of contemporary, though for me it does have more impact in a ‘real life’ setting. Very often these stories contain elements of power exchange and BDSM, though the often non-consensual nature means that they should NOT be considered as BDSM romances.

In this category I have to mention Kitty Thomas, Jennifer Bene, Felicity Brandon, Ginger Talbot, Nicolina Martin and Lily White.

BDSM Romance

Is this a sub-genre or a trope? Does it really matter? BDSM novels seem to fall into two categories. Many focus on the BDSM relationship, and are often set around, or involve, a club that the couple attend. The rest seem to be romantic suspense, involving FBI/ police/ ex-military/ mercenaries who enjoy being as dominant in their sex lives as they are in their jobs.

Cherise Sinclair, Livia Grant, Maren Smith and Jennifer Bene all write truly wonderful stories of consensual BDSM activity. Cherise has her own series, whilst Livia, Jennifer and Maren have all written within the Black Light world (a series I would HIGHLY recommend). Maren also writes, with others, in the Masters of the Castle series – another one I recommend.

Julia Sykes (Impossible series), C.P. Mandara and Lexi Blake are my go to authors when I want a blend of BDSM with suspense.

Romantic Suspense

There’s only one author left to mention, because the other romantic suspense books featured in either the Dark category or BDSM. However London Miller‘s Den of Mercenaries, Wild Bunch and Kingmaker Saga don’t fit anywhere else. This woman manages to weave the most complex of stories, adding, removing and reintroducing threads in a seemingly meaningless and random way. Until one small tug and suddenly you are looking at a highly intricate tapestry, with every loose end tied up in a way you never expected. She is another author who’s work never EVER disappoints.

3 thoughts on “Bookish Friday… Genres

  1. Love this summary and thank you for the nod to Snowburn!
    Horror certainly was sneered upon (perhaps never as much as romance, but quite horribly) by the literati when I was in college. Scifi was similarly given the long-nosed glance. I remember when Paul Park, a brilliant scifi novelist, came to my very stuck-up, Ivy League college for our winter term to teach a class on fiction writing. I signed up over the strong objection of my thesis advisor (an English professor) who told me not to “waste a semester on reading and writing in a genre.” Genre was said with such heavy disdain it was clearly a swear word. (The course was amazing, by the way, and led me into the Iowa Summer Writing Program where I got to spend several weeks learning about fiction writing from Mercedes Lackey, the grandmother of PNR – that didn’t suck.)
    There are still authors like Margaret Atwood who vociferously protest being put in any “genre.” (According to Atwood, she doesn’t write speculative fiction. Snort.) But the success of Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and E.L. James have gone a long way to breaking down the old barriers on genre fiction. The literary snobbery towards romance will probably be the last barrier to fall, but I think the wall is at least teetering. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.