Romantic Fantasy Vs. Romance Fantasy

I recently read an article about Romantic Fantasy that sent me on a bit of tirade, in which my poor husband ended up taking the brunt of. Essentially the article claimed the major difference between traditional fantasy (read into this as swords and sorcery) and Romantic Fantasy is that the later it’s all about women who –typically—feel  a disconnection with their society, family, relationships etc. because they do not feel like they belong. Cue me gagging. Shortly thereafter, according to this author, they discover their powers and a place in which they belong. Also according to this article, these stories are told in a trilogy focusing on their dare I say it –relationships—of all the dirty horrible things.  It got me quite steamed as a Romantic Fantasy author. So I decided to clear the air and debunk some common held beliefs about the Romantic Fantasy sub-genre.

#1. Romance Fantasy or Romantic Fantasy? First of all, I cannot neglect to mention the critical difference between a Romantic Fantasy and a Romance Fantasy. Most people think they are interchangeable but this is not the case. Generally speaking, a Romance Fantasy is a subgenre of the Romance genre.  If you are not familiar with Romance as a genre, it typically surrounds the development of a relationship of two people as the main plot. Building on our understanding of a Romance Novel, a Romance Fantasy Novel is basically a combining of the two. In a Romantic Fantasy, the development of a romantic relationship is considered a subplot behind the main plot (fill in your choice for a fantasy plot).

#2.  There’s no action in a Romantic Fantasy. This one makes me laugh, as if romance in a fantasy novel automatically means there’s no action! Anyone who’s ever read the Kushiel’s series by Jaqueline Carey, specifically the Imriel Arch knows that you can have an intense romance and sword fighting and sorcery.

#3. It’s all about women with special powers.  To this I must first say:  have you read a fantasy, ever? It bothers me when people try to make distinctions just because the gender role is different.  However, Lireal, by Garth Nix is a good example of a story of a woman without special powers. In fact she’s the only one without them!

#4. The genre is written for women about women. This makes me want to laugh. Again refer to Garth Nix, a man who by the industries loose standards of what a romantic fantasy is, writes Romantic Fantasy.

Honestly, we need a clear cut definition of what Romantic Fantasy is in relation to Romance Fantasy.  Most ‘genre’ fiction is pretty cut and dry. Mystery, yup there’s a mystery to be solved, Fantasy: set in an alternate reality where magic is real? Check. Written by a woman where characters have reasonable relationship development: Romantic Fantasy?

What do you think? Anything to add, disagree, drop me a comment below.

3 thoughts on “Romantic Fantasy Vs. Romance Fantasy

  1. I agree that a more solid definition is needed. One question thar comes to mind for me, is, how small does the romantic subplot have to be before it’s just regular Fantasy? Or does any romance whatsoever put us into the category of Romantic Fantasy?

    1. That’s a really good question, personally I feel like if there’s time put into developing the romance but it’s not a the primary plot, I’d call it Romantic Fantasy. But there’s Fantasy where there’s an established love interested or five line development where it’s not critical to the plot and I wouldn’t call that Romantic Fantasy. So I guess my short answer is, it depends.

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