"Romantacy"

Toby Frost

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I've heard that "romantacy" - ie romance stories in a fantasy setting - is very popular at the moment, although I've almost never seen it discussed, and I doubt I'd recognise any of the big authors or titles. Does anyone else know anything about this?
 
Does anyone else know anything about this?
Only that seeing the title of this thread caused me to shudder.

For some reason (too much time on my hands + laziness) I've watched a few YouTube videos critiquing/slamming a few romantasy (note "s" rather than "c") novels which have blown up on TikTok, such as Lightlark and Fourth Wing. These seem to be very heavily dependent on tropes (especially "enemies to lovers") and cynical marketing, and light on writing quality or originality. They're like a sugar rush for a particular (though seemingly large) audience, and fit in the "NA" or New Adult designation, i.e. Young Adult with more overt sex. I guess there are probably well-written examples too, but in general I would say they're not part of the same market that serious writers would aim for, in the same way that celebrity cookbooks aren't.
 
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Alas yes, as a bookseller. It’s a massive genre. Big names:

Rebecca Yaros (dragon romance)
Sarah J Maas
VE Schwab (the Invisible Life of Addie La Rue is very good for anyone wanting to dip their toes in)
Cassandra Clare
Alice Hoffman
 
That's interesting. Modern romance (at least as advertised on the net) seems to be extremely trope-heavy, almost like a kind of porn based on emotional hits. It's not for me and I find it odd that someone would buy a book based on what is in it, not whether it's actually any good. But romantasy (I agree this is an awful word) presumably sells, whether or not they're decent novels.
 
Romance with a Sci Fi setting Romantifuture, Romantipunk , Raomantatopia comes to mind .;)
 
That's interesting. Modern romance (at least as advertised on the net) seems to be extremely trope-heavy, almost like a kind of porn based on emotional hits. It's not for me and I find it odd that someone would buy a book based on what is in it, not whether it's actually any good. But romantasy (I agree this is an awful word) presumably sells, whether or not they're decent novels.
They sell like mad, to a particular market (who are also avid collectors of the special editions) - nice, easy reads that people know what to expect in. As ever, though, some writers are better than others, and rise to the top. At the moment, because it's popular (as are greek retellings) quality is very up and down, but the really good writers are actually very good, as with any genre.
 
They sell like mad
Yes, huge piles of Rebecca Yaros's two hardbacks (hardbacks!) on the floor in Waterstones this afternoon. (Obviously they haven't sold yet, but the shop clearly thinks they will.)

Also, oddly (or not, because Google) this popped up on my YouTube timeline earlier. Gives a good (if largely one-sided) overview of where the sub-genre has come from and possible issues surrounding it:

 
Yes, huge piles of Rebecca Yaros's two hardbacks (hardbacks!) on the floor in Waterstones this afternoon. (Obviously they haven't sold yet, but the shop clearly thinks they will.)

Also, oddly (or not, because Google) this popped up on my YouTube timeline earlier. Gives a good (if largely one-sided) overview of where the sub-genre has come from and possible issues surrounding it:

The Waterstones special edition is selling for about £150 already
 
This is a re-run of fantasy in the 90s - all of a sudden the back covers of the new releases started sounding like a Mills and Boon novel. They probably didn't all include castles, courts, princesses and fabulous dresses but it feels like they did.
In my SFF reading journey I'd started with Anne McCaffrey, then tried sf and found most books the characterisations were rather dry at best, so read lots of fantasy where people were emphasised more and after a few years couldn't find anything new to read due to wading through bloody M&B type plots, tried SF again and found some with much better characterisation, stayed with that for a few years and then came back to fantasy when there were chunks being published where there wasn't any yearning about the gorgeous prince.
 
Yeah, it's really just a new name for the fantasy romance genre which has been around for a long time and runs the gamut from YA to adult. It'll vary in spice level from sweet romance to much more adult content and often is very trope heavy. Writing quality is up and down just like with any other genre.
 
I think 'female porn' is just getting started! Of course it is very different from male porn, incorporating less stuff about body parts and much more courtship, romance and tropes from fairy tales. This sort of thing is just not my bag* and I really know it only from reviews. What disturbs me about the stuff I've seen is that it purports to be about the liberated female - but the characters and cliches are the same old same old. :sleep: Gotta be slim, young and gaggin for it - and have hot romance as your main goal. Give me the females in Cherryh's hard science fiction every time. ;)



* Confession time: I did go though the Barbara Cartland stage as a teenager.
 
I think 'female porn' is just getting started! Of course it is very different from male porn, incorporating less stuff about body parts and much more courtship, romance and tropes from fairy tales. This sort of thing is just not my bag* and I really know it only from reviews. What disturbs me about the stuff I've seen is that it purports to be about the liberated female - but the characters and cliches are the same old same old. :sleep: Gotta be slim, young and gaggin for it - and have hot romance as your main goal. Give me the females in Cherryh's hard science fiction every time. ;)



* Confession time: I did go though the Barbara Cartland stage as a teenager.
I once had to do some research into female porn (due to a buyers job I had at one time, honest guv) and female erotica is very much driven by words rather than images and yes, there are certain tropes that work.
 
Sarah J Maas
VE Schwab (the Invisible Life of Addie La Rue is very good for anyone wanting to dip their toes in)
Cassandra Clare
I recognize those names from advertising, book lists on GoodReads and covers in the bookstore.
Alice Hoffman
Made her name with commercial, realistic fiction, I think, with some novels verging on magic realism. Then published Practical Magic, which became a best-seller and a popular movie (great cast, even a perfect cast, but the script went lowest-common-denominator) which I think has become more popular over the years (go figure). Over the last 10 or so years, she's written sequels that also appear to be very popular.

I can see that book as a possible touchstone for later writers looking to recreate a similar feel: PM was quite good. I'd heard a bit about it and was intrigued but I think a rave review from Charles de Lint pushed me to actually read it. Also, as I recall, it was dedicated to Ray Bradbury which further intrigued me, and I'm convinced it was meant as a girls own adventure in much the spirit of a Bradbury boys own adventure ala Something Wicked .... Didn't hurt that I found Hoffman's prose excellent as well.
 
Don't imagine I would be a fan of this genre though I am not adverse to romantic relations in fantasy novels. Loved David Gemmell's various romances when I read his books as a teenager. Maybe I am too old and too dead inside to appreciate these themes now :ROFLMAO:

Wonder if many folk have a favourite romance story in speculative fiction? Might make for a canny discussion.
 
In my opinion, the formula for this genre is as follows
Romance Fantasy + Young Adult = Romantasy
Some books are really well written. But in those cases, they are closer to traditional fantasy.
As for Alice Hoffman, whose books I've mentioned here, I've only read Magic Lessons. It's more historical fiction + magic realizm than romantasy or anything else. Still, it's very good-written book.
 
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