I’ve recently been involved in an interesting discussion with my publisher, Omnific, about what genre my upcoming novel Burning Embers fits into. My book is a love story, so categorising it as romance is no problem; but what sub-category within which to situate the book?
The list of sub-genres within the romance genre is extensive. Here are just a few: adventure, chick-lit, contemporary, fantasy, erotic, gothic, historical, medical, mystery, paranormal, suspense/thriller, young adult/crossover. Some books are easy to situate within a sub-genre; for example, Stephenie Meyer’sTwilight is a paranormal young adult/crossover; Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary is chick-lit; Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl is historical fiction. So where does my novel fit?
Burning Embers is set in the 1960s in Kenya, which makes it in a sense historical fiction. However, ‘historical romance’ is a genre that implies knights on horses rescuing fair maidens in corsets: in other words, when we buy a book categorised as historical fiction we expect the book to be set before the modern era – the official definition of historical fiction is a book whose action does not extend beyond the Second World War.
Clearly, then, historical romance doesn’t fit my book, which is set in a decade that heralded many changes that have formed modern-day society, such as the civil rights movement, the development of feminism and the sexual revolution. Burning Embers, then, with its strong, independent protagonists, is a more contemporary book than classic historical fiction. But still, it’s not entirely contemporary; there are echoes of a bygone era. Thus the book is a combination of the contemporary and the historical, set in the time period that historians call ‘contemporary history’. And hence the genre decided upon for Burning Embers: contemporary historical romance.