The complaint about books labeled romance not really being romantic is probably generated by two factors. As you mentioned, publishers will market anything with a relationship in it as romance because romance has the biggest market out there. And some of the authors you mentioned have a huge romance audience that might not follow them if the books were mainstreamed with general fiction.
The other reason is a little more difficult to explain, but is generated from within the market itself. Readers – and authors – of romance often have wider reading habits. We’re the ones who grabbed every historical fiction book on the market before romance came out. We gobbled mysteries, science fiction, general fiction, anything we could get our hands on. When romance made it big, we devoured huge chunks of the market. Now we’re looking for more. As both an author and a reader, I keep looking for books with something a little extra, an interesting new theme, more than one relationship, a wider setting, a little action, some mystery, anything to add a spice to a market that is growing a little stale. So within the romance market itself, authors are broadening their spectrum. They’re writing historicals with relationships, generational sagas with romances, romantic mysteries, whatever strikes their fancy. Since you’re more of a newcomer to the area, you have a right to resent anything that infringes on your romantic fantasies, but the publishers have no way of warning you that one book is pure romance and another is a little different. The only solution would be to eliminate all genre markets and dump everything in general fiction. I’m not at all certain that will work very well.
As a reader, I want to find Emilie Richards’ and Kathleen Eagles’ (authors who have written some books some readers found to be not “pure” romance in reader mail last winter) latest. Chances are good I wouldn’t search for them over in general fiction. Maybe the problem here is how do we force romance readers to go look for women’s fiction authors over in the slots with all those men and their action stories?
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