The Art of the Romance Novel

A myth about romance is that a lot of people think it’s an easy genre to write and make money from. And while it’s true that it’s a very popular genre and a lot of romance novelists like Nora Roberts seem to churn out the books, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Writing a romance novel is an art, and a difficult one at that, like any other genre. And in my years of blogging about romance novels, it’s become really apparent that there are too many writers who don’t get it.

The secret to a good romance novel isn’t the love story. Yes, I’m serious. And no, I’m not crazy. Think about it: even the most successful romance novels have the same love stories being written over and over. It isn’t the love story that’s changing. It’s everything else. Because the key to a good romance novel is the worldbuilding.

Romance novels are escapism. When people pick up a romance, they want to escape life for a little bit so the book needs to completely absorb them and suck them in. And that is really difficult. Anything can shatter the illusion, from a lack of research to a random typo. One of the most common problems with romance novels is there simply isn’t enough written in them. The authors give just enough to sketch out the characters and the love story formula before publishing it. It’s like doing a rough sketch of a tree and trying to sell it as a landscape painting.

Nora Roberts is one of the most famous and successful romance writers out there, with over a hundred books published, many of them New York Times Bestsellers. Her new book, Bay of Sighs, is taking the world by storm and she was recently featured in a documentary about romance novels. She uses the same formulas as every other romance writer out there. But her novels transport her readers to wherever she wants to take them. When writing about an upscale vineyard in The Villa, Roberts gives vivid details of the skies, the grape fields, and even the winemaking process to draw you in. She does the same thing in the book Into Thin Air with a magical New England island. She paints very vivid detail in her books, crafting each one into impressive works of art.

Every good romance writer pays attention to world building and detail. On Lover’s Quarrel, one of my pages is a list of my favorite romance novels. All of them are on there because they drew me in to the story really well. And while the love story on each of them was well crafted, the worlds around each of the love stories was what brought out all of the magic.


Kara Skinner is the owner of Lover’s Quarrel, a romance novel blog with the goal to help readers find their next favorite romance novel while making a difference by donating affiliate commissions to non profits supporting education and the environment. She’s been writing about books for over five years and has even been interviewed on NPR for her love of books. She’d love to get to know you, so please drop by her blog, Facebook, or Twitter and get in touch. 

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