Romance as a Subplot

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each others’ posts.

Why do you think romance is the most common subplot? 

This is an interesting question, and I am curious to know what others think about this. In my opinion, it comes down to the simple fact that romance sells. A lot of people enjoy romance in their novels, so why wouldn’t an author take advantage of that? I also have to wonder how much publishing and editors influence the inclusion of romantic subplots.

Including a love story is an easy way to add interest and layers to a story. I think a lot of people relate to romantic feelings and the complications of falling in love. That said, romance is not a universal experience and I do not think that a book needs a romance to have depth or to feel authentic.

There is certainly a place for books with no romance. In fact, I wrote a post last year where I share a few books with no romance, and it still gets a few views a day. I will have to write an update post, though, if I am being honest, I am not sure how many books I have read since then that do not have a romantic element. It is just so common!

Do you think romance subplots take away from the main story, or add to it?

My relationship with romance as a subplot is a complicated one. I understand why authors include romance, as I do think it is something a lot of readers look for in novels. However, there are times where it becomes so obvious that the romance was an afterthought and can actually take away from the story. A most recent example for me is Mexican Gothic– I cannot say more than that without spoilers, but the romantic subplot took me out of the story in many ways. There were many things that were wonderful about that book, but the romance didn’t feel authentic or necessary, which is not a new feeling for me when it comes to romantic subplots.

That said, there are books that do the romantic subplot well and that I appreciate.

Do you prefer stories without any romance in them?

I don’t think I have a preference. However, unless I am picking up an actual romance novel, I do not want the romance to be a large part of the story. There are times where a romance feels like a distraction or filler. In many cases, I would prefer more world building or character development over a romantic subplot.

Is romance better as a subplot or as a main plot?

Both! It really depends on my mood. I have read more contemporary romance this year than I ever have before, and I have loved every second of it. I love that I can pick up a romance and know that, despite all the ups and downs that inevitably occur throughout the story, there will be a happily ever after. That is the comfort reading that I need in 2020!

I would love to hear all your thoughts on romance as a subplot!

Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

38 thoughts on “Romance as a Subplot

  1. That’s interesting topic. I like romance but I prefer it well balanced with main story. I wouldn’t like it if it’s just there as a filler and add nothing to story and story could have done better without it. So for me it depends on how romance was written in the book.

  2. I like romantic subplots — as long as it doesn’t drag my attention away from the main plot going on. I have found myself also expecting a romantic subplot and feeling….disappointed? dissatisfied? when there wasn’t one.

  3. I agree that romance sells. I really don’t mind it being part of a story, but only when it is balanced well with the main plotline. Unnecessary romance is a real pet peeve of mine! Great post, Kristin.

  4. Do you think there’s a difference between a romance and a love story? For example, I think Where the Lost Wander is a love story and not a romance. Whereas a story like One True Loves seems like a romance to me. I think if romance is a sub plot that it can’t be categorized as a romance. I prefer romance as a sub plot because the romance genre is not my favorite! I like a side serving of romance! Have I totally confused you?!

    1. Hahah I’m think I’m following you! There is definitely a difference between a romance and a love story. Doesn’t a romance have more rules when it come to fiction? Like there had to be a happily ever after.

      A side serving of romance! That’s a great way to describe it.

      1. I think I’ve heard that in the romance genre the central focus of the story is the romance….and yes…I think HEA is required! In a love story, there is romance but it’s not the central focus…..there is another central theme. Readers seem to use the terms somewhat interchangeably though. I see a distinct difference but that reveals my nerdiness I think!

  5. This is an interesting discussion, and I have to say I agree with your stance. While I enjoy romance in books when it’s done well, I definitely think there’s a place for books without any romance, and I feel the same about tacked-on romantic subplots being an annoyance in stories where they’re not needed (I felt the same about Mexican Gothic!). Perhaps part of the draw for authors in including romance is that it usually means a sort of happily-ever-after is implied; there are a lot of readers who prefer happy endings or at least *some* resolution, and I think romance is a reliable way to deliver that, especially if dealing with any plot or themes that are left somewhat open-ended.

  6. It’s something I’ve been perplexed with… I love reading some pure chick-lit sometimes, some pure romantic stories, mostly comedy ones, because it’s such a feel good moment to me. BUT. There is a BUT. I’m not a fan of romance as subplots expect for two exceptions. In Fantasy or Thriller books, I feel like romance is mostly pushed onto your face because well, as you said it’s something we can relate too and when it’s well-done, it’s great, but in non-romance book, it’s too much too me sometimes. I can read romance in non-romance when it’s in a book series and it’s slow burned and not rushed because I feel like it’s more natural? I don’t know how to explain, but the second exception is when it’s not too much or if the relationship is already established. I’m a sucker for already married couples.
    Anyways, good post! thank you so much!

    1. Thanks for sharing all your thoughts!

      I love a slow burn romance, so one that slowly develops over the course of a series is perfect for me. And you’re so right, it feels more natural!

      I also agree with a relationship that is already established at the beginning of the book. Something about that feels different to me!

  7. I think indeed romance is a common subplot because it sells, but also because it is ”easy” to implement, since you already have your characters for your main plot! So you don;t have to add many things to add the subplot!


  8. For me it also depends: sometimes the romance as subplot works out, sometimes it does not. But that’s mostly because I hate cliché romance stories of boy meets girl and is instant in love. That’s why I don’t read romance or chick-lit novels :).

  9. After reading some of the historical romance novels of the 80s, i abandoned the genre for almost 20 years, returning after my sister-in-law got me to start the In Death series, which technically isn’t a romance but is written using a pseudonym by the biggest romance writer in the world, Nora Roberts. It was incredible how the genre matured, saturated with talented writers. So, my opinion of romance stories shifted dramatically.

    I agree with you that adding romance to a story outside the genre shouldn’t be gratuitous but organic to the characters and story. We can tell when it’s inauthentic. When it’s done well, it’s never even an issue in our minds, at least with this eclectic reader.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Kristin💜

    1. I have noticed even over the last couple of years just how much contemporary romance has shifted, and I have been loving it! Interesting to read you had the same experience.

      Organic is definitely the key word when it comes to romance as a subplot.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  10. I see romance as expected because current society is absorbed with interpersonal relationships. Comparing now to 17th c., what fascinated the audience? Now = romance vs. Then = Christianity. Fiction (entertainment) follows what society is most concerned with.

  11. I think we all like romance, we are all humans. We all like to be loved, to give love. A good romance in any movie, I think, adds that little extra, that extra emotion to a story. Without it, movies can become very cold and stiff.

Leave a Reply