Answer to the question: What makes a Romance novel stand out? The answer was given by my friend Kathryn Olsen who works at Tyndale publishing editing books by Francine Rivers and Katherine Palmer. (and other ones too of course.;))
Wow, Elizabeth, that’s a question I could talk about for several hours! But in a nutshell, here are a few key points that I look for in a romance novel, both as a reader and as an editor:
Typical/standard qualities of a romance heroine:
* Spirited, independent, confident—not needy or weak, not waiting to be rescued
* Intelligent. Reader must approve of her choices and decisions.
* Essential to the hero, the only woman who truly loves him/understands him/etc.
* Relationship oriented, easily connects with people or animals
Typical/standard qualities of a romance hero:
* Larger than life, a leader; dominates his realm with wit and intelligence
* Dangerous to the heroine in some way (such as being an obstacle to attaining her goal, whatever that is), but appealing to the reader
* Courageous, honorable, and loyal; chivalrous toward women, children, and animals
* Has a wounded past, some degree of inner emptiness
In addition to an intelligent, likable hero and heroine, there must be a compelling conflict, an insurmountable obstacle threatening to keep them apart. It must be something the reader really believes is a problem and you can’t see how they will overcome it (even though in a romance, the “happy ending” is guaranteed). The conflict must be more than a simple misunderstanding or failure to communicate. If two reasonably intelligent people should be able to sit down together and figure out a solution, then it’s not a strong enough conflict. (And readers will be rolling their eyes.) Conflict generally grows out of the characters’ goals and core motivations.
Like I said, there’s lots more, but these are some of the most important point. Hope it’s helpful!