Why add a romance when it’s not needed?

After I finished At the Water’s Edge, I found myself wondering what makes a book a romance novel? Because this book has a lot of the trappings of one, including:

  • a heroine seeing the world for the first time,
  • a neglectful (at best) husband,
  • a sexual awakening,
  • someone who turns out to be secret royalty (reader, I rolled my eyes).

But I wouldn’t call it a romance. Why? Because it’s not about the romance – it’s about the heroine, her crappy childhood, where it got her, and then her adventures (for lack of a better word) making her realize that people have just been using her her entire life. The romance feels tacked on at the end, as though her editor or publisher insisted that there be a romance to draw people in. It would have maybe been a better book for not squishing it in.

I found her journey from neglected wife along for the party to an actual friend with caring relationships compelling. A romance with an underdeveloped character didn’t need to be tacked on.