In the Wilderness of Contemporary Fiction...

Collage of Love and Romance

If you browse the “contemporary fiction” category on Amazon, it won’t take you long to conclude that it’s such a broad category as to render it a bit frustrating. It’s too broad to be much help unless you already have a title and (Ideally) the author’s name, as well. As someone who writes contemporary fiction that doesn’t really fit neatly into a narrower category on Amazon, I feel your pain.

So I’ve taken to classifying most of my work, (other than my science fiction) as “romance.” It qualifies as romance because I write nothing that doesn’t have a twist of romance in it. Life devoid of romance in some form is missing something, in my opinion. But I tend not to write in any of the recognized “romance genres. Enter my newly minted “intelligent romance.”

And fair warning. I do not close the bedroom door when things get a little racy. I wouldn’t characterize most of my work as “kinky,” but neither would I qualify it as “G-rated.” There. With that disclaimer behind us, what can you expect if you choose one of my contemporary romances?

What is Intelligent Romance, Anyway?

What the hell is “intelligent” romance, anyway? Is that as opposed to “dumb” romance? Well, sorta. I’m glad you asked. If you’re at all familiar with the proliferating romance genre, you know it’s become an increasingly broad category over the past decade or two, with a lot of sub-genre. But last time I looked, you won’t find a BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) code devoted to “intelligent romance.”

So what, exactly, is intelligent romance? Intelligent romance as I’m using it here refers to romance that goes beyond the predictable. Man meets woman (or woman meets woman/man meets man) dynamic. Intelligent romance is populated by thoughtful characters in situations that require them to think through the validity of their values, goals or their world view.

Sometimes, the challenge of the protagonist’s assumptive values comes in the form of a potential love interest. In other cases, the love itself may be challenged by a situation beyond anyone’s control. How is that different from other romance genres? It’s more of a degree than anything else. A degree that is mirrored by our times.

Why Intelligent Romance?

If you spend any time reading online forums, social media or blogging platforms recently, you’ve noticed that both genders are a little restless. In the backwash of the third wave of feminism, some men feel threatened by the increasing assertiveness of women. And women, for their part, are fed up with entitled men. Or men who either seem to have missed that the times have changed—or are actively resisting changes long overdue.

The pivotal takeaway from these forums (in my opinion) isn’t so much who is right (or wrong). Rather it is that we all live in a context—and the context in which we live shapes our reality. Women who have given up men aren’t wrong about their situation, any more than MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way, in case you’re unfamiliar with the acronym). There are reason(s)—valid ones—for the viewpoints staked out by both extremes.

The point is that their lived experience(s)—their context, if you will—has shaped their attitudes. As Qui-Gon Jinn tells young Anikan Skywalker in the Star Wars Prequel, The Phantom Menace: “Your focus determines your reality.” Is there such a thing as an objective reality? Yeah, probably. But the more personal the experience, the more steeped in our focus it becomes.

Intelligent romance explores how those attitudes are shaped by our reality in our age of runaway change and how we cope with them individually, and in any potential romantic grouping. Intelligent romance is geared toward the nuanced and convoluted realities we face today. Inevitably, it will challenge a lot of preconceived notions. It’s not your grandmother’s Harlequin novel.