Here’s a strange question for you. Does a contemporary romance set in urban parts of England signal Chick Lit to you as a US (or outside-the-US) reader?
One of the conversations I was having this past weekend in Seattle at the Emerald City Writer’s Conference centered on setting and locations, and how some locations signal certain genres. The question about single women finding romance in urban parts of England instantly meaning Chick Lit for US readers made me wonder – I didn’t *think* it was true but outside of Harlequin category romances, I couldn’t think of any single title romances that broke that rule. So many “chick lit” novels here in the US followed that set-up that perhaps the association is inescapable, much like clinch covers and romance novels.
Then I started pondering (it was a long flight and I was awake for a bit of it, until the sleeping aid I took made me start hallucinating that Lisa Kleypas’ hair was waving on the back cover of her book) (true story, not even kidding) (it looked awesome) whether setting dictates sub-genre a bit more now that previously, especially since contemporaries set in small towns are becoming more and more common. Small towns lend themselves well to single title contemporaries – so how to define Julie James’ novels, which all take place in Chicago? Urban Contemporary?
Then there’s the Urban Fantasy genre, where the setting is in the name, and it’s contrasted a bit by Ilona Andrews’ “Rural Fantasy” series, The Edge, which she calls “Rustic Fantasy.” It’s sort of a chicken-or-egg question – does setting have more of an impact on sub-genre than I thought originally, or is it more that there are so many books in a particular setting in a particular sub-genre that ultimately they borrow tropes and cliches from one another? Regency London is sort of a hallmark of the Regency genre, though there are more Regency novels taking place in the country (I love those, especially Kate Noble’s historicals).
So, does single female + urban parts of England + romance = chick lit in your brain? Do you expect a particular sub-genre based on setting?