CHOOSE YOUR GENRE: Mystery vs. Romantic Suspense vs. Thriller


CHOOSE YOUR GENRE: Mystery vs. Romantic Suspense vs. Thriller

CHOOSE YOUR GENRE: Mystery vs. Romantic Suspense vs. Thriller

 This is a great topic for authors and readers.

CHOOSE YOUR GENRE: Mystery vs. Romantic Suspense vs. Thriller

This is like saying "What's the difference between a romance and a mainstream novel with romantic elements?"

The answer is: No one knows for the second one. Oh, there are scads of opinions!!! But it's up to the individual editor. My wonderful editor at Amazon's Waterfall Publishing (They bought the initial Wishing Bridge books before the line closed. NOT MY FAULT!!!! Although it was the THIRD time it happened, but still... I maintain my innocence!)  :) Anyway, she listed Wishing Bridge as "women's fiction" and "contemporary romance" because it was focused on the woman's story... but it also had a romance.

Anyway, another editor looked at one of the Wishing Bridge stories and said no way was this women's fiction, and it was boring and no way did she even care about what happened to this woman. So the lines are not clearly drawn, right? And that's okay. (By the way, the book is anything but boring.) :) 

It's different for the mystery/suspense/thriller categories. More obvious.

A cozy mystery (think Agatha Christie, Guideposts) may have murder and mayhem, but it minimizes the element of fear. The protagonists aren't in constant danger, although they may be targeted to throw them off or scare them away. It can be funny, poignant and generally is "G" or "PG" rated.  My newest one "Merciful Secrecy" is set in Charleston, SC.... a city of old bleeding into new... and a hospital filled with hard-working people, some of whom have BIG EGOS. :) 

CHOOSE YOUR GENRE: Mystery vs. Romantic Suspense vs. Thriller

"When a lovely young E.R. nurse is being stalked, Anne, Shirley, Joy and Evelyn combine forces to figure out who's doing what... and why. But someone doesn't want them interfering. Someone has a lot more at stake than they bargained for... but the ladies aren't about to back down until they're sure that Katie can go back to her life as a hospital nurse without looking over her very pretty shoulder. Unless it's to glimpse the to-die-for head of security that thinks keeping Katie safe ranks pretty high on his list."

Now, Romantic Suspense is different.

That heroine can be kick-butt (Becket in "Castle") but she will be in danger... she will have some sort of awesome hero at her side, often reluctantly on both parts, but his job is to keep her safe EVEN if he thinks she's guilty. Heroine may be a suspect in a major crime/felony or she can be a target who's being hidden because she may know too much... Stakes are raised with babies or children being involved and/or threatened. Cabins in woods are a popular setting... but NYC basements (or any big city) paint a scary picture all on their own. Romantic suspense novels are a great read, and extremely popular right now. I love romantic suspense, but I can't write them and still sleep at night. My mind can't "unsee" things and it's not worth the nightmares.... Ditto for thrillers. :) I've learned to stay in my mental health comfort zone. 

Thrillers are in a class of their own. They are not horror stories.... 

Think Jason Bourne. Jack Reacher. John Grisham stories. 

The idea behind a thriller is often a conspiracy. Conspiracies allow the writer to make the heroes and heroines multi-targeted so you never know where the next shot/poison/car accident or plane crash is coming from. Execution-style killings are common. Violence is bedrock most of the time, but that would be different with psychological thrillers.... that's different, and we're sticking with standard "kill everyone attached to hero to see if he falls apart" type. 

Yes, I'm grinning, but it is mostly true and you know it!!!! 

There is a spectrum within each genre... Some cozies have murders and targeting. Some thrillers are psychological, not targeted at hero/heroine. Some romantic suspense play out over a series of books, not one. But whatever you write, aim it at one genre and then play the aspects of how you envision the finished product. That will help you (and the reader) be satisfied with the completed work.

And I have a copy of Merciful Secrecy to send out to one commenter today....

Leave a comment below, my friends! I'll enter your name into the freshly cleaned cat dish!

CHOOSE YOUR GENRE: Mystery vs. Romantic Suspense vs. Thriller

Multi-published bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne loves God, her family, her country, dogs, chocolate, coffee and Diet Mt Dew and she loves writing stories. Friend her on Facebook, email Ruthy at and stop by her website She'd love to hear from you! 


23 Comments on Seekerville: The Journey Continues: CHOOSE YOUR GENRE: Mystery vs. Romantic Suspense vs. Thriller

  • Pepper Basham
    on April 13, 2022 | 08:19 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "Okay, I think my favorite of this list is cozy mystery because I like the element of "adventure" without constant I like to throw in some humor. I can handle ROMANTIC suspense pretty well (especially the romantic part), but I'm not a huge fan of thriller...just because I don't like scary :) Steven James is an EXCELLENT writer, but after reading The Knight I couldn't sleep for 2 days (overactive imagination here). So...I decided thriller was NOT for me. I tell you what, though, Lynn Huggins Blackburn does a great job (like you) of mixing lots of elements together in her romantic suspense to keep you on your toes but not terrified to leave the house :)"
  • kaybee
    on April 13, 2022 | 10:15 kaybeesaid :
    "Ruthy, thank you for this one. I hope to expand beyond historical romance (or beside, it's more of a lateral move), but I can't decide which way to go. Probably cozy or romantic suspense, I don't have the stomach for a thriller, or the education. I'm feeling like historical romance and historical fiction still have something to teach me, but the other genres are in the Rolodex.
    I do like to READ thrillers, especially those by Lisa Gardner, Lisa Jewell and Lisa Scottoline. Is there something about the name Lisa that draws women to thriller-writing? Probably not, since I'm also a fan of Tess Gerritsen.
    Catching up on reviews for friends (How many launch teams am I on?), setting up interviews for my next nonfiction book, and bracing self for spring cleaning. It's a clear and sunny day in NH, so I Have No Excuse.
    May be back later. If I'm back within the next hour that means I'm NOT CLEANING. Ruthy, you have permission to kick me off.
    Kathy Bailey
    Your Kaybee
    Putting off the inevitable in New Hampshire"
  • Connie Porter Saunders
    on April 13, 2022 | 11:30 Connie Porter Saunderssaid :
    "Hi Ruthy, I won't say "never will I ever" read a thriller, but I enjoy romantic suspense. I like them but after reading several in a row, I need a change! I want some clues to solve but I don't need an excess amount of adventure...a cozy mystery is just what I need! Merciful Secrecy sounds perfect!

    Hope you have a blessed Easter!
    Connie Saunders"
  • Sandy Smith
    on April 13, 2022 | 16:03 Sandy Smithsaid :
    "Ruthy, this was a fun post. I love mysteries. Cozy mysteries are my favorite, but I also love the Love Inspired romantic suspense novels, and I also enjoy thrillers. But cozies are definitely my favorite. I don't need the book--I already read it. I love this series. What is the name of the next Guideposts mystery series you are writing for?"
  • Debby Giusti
    on April 13, 2022 | 16:11 Debby Giustisaid :
    "Ruthy, Charleston is a wonderful setting for your series! Congrats!

    I have book club tonight. This month's read was REACHER: Killing Floor! My first Reacher book and I loved every bit of it. Yes, dark in some spots, but it hooked me at the get go.

    I'm a huge suspense fan and romantic suspense is even better. I used to read a lot of mysteries and need to get back to them. Because of book club, I've gotten into a number of psychological thrillers, which seem to be in vogue with British authors. So often the author packs a lot of surprises into the stories, and that's a huge plus.

  • Jackie Smith
    on April 13, 2022 | 18:12 Jackie Smithsaid :
    "Ruthy, I would love to read this book! Charleston, my favorite place to visit and love it for book settings! Thank you for your generous giveaway."
  • Lucy Reynolds
    on April 13, 2022 | 19:30 Lucy Reynolds said :
    "Im a fan of each category as I enjoy variety. Thank you for sharing. Blessings "
  • Dana R. Lynn
    on April 13, 2022 | 21:24 Dana R. Lynnsaid :
    "Ruthy, I love that the story is set in SC!

    I am, as you'd imagine, a huge fan of romantic suspense. But I love romance. Contemporary, historical, and even fantasy/sci-fi, though I do like my stories PG or lower. But thrillers are fabulous, as long as one doesn't need to sleep that night. Steven James and Frank Peretti are amongst my faves. If, however, I do need to sleep, a cozy mystery will work just fine."
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on April 14, 2022 | 04:32 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "Pepper! I love cozy mysteries for the exact same reason. I don't do thrillers... nightmares... and I love romantic suspense to read, but when I write it, I can't get it out of my head. #dork But cozies, with or without murder, are fine. Our brains are crazy things!!!!!"
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on April 14, 2022 | 04:36 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "hahahahahah! I'm cleaning today, after writing. We had our major bathroom project upstairs, and then a bedroom overhaul and we just laid the new engineered hardwood floor in it... just moulding to go, Kaybee, but I need to clean for the weekend! OH MY STARS, this poor house.... and it's mud season here, so the Farmer and the Dogs bring in their share.... :) So I find that switching genres on occasion, mixing it up, helps me stay on top of fun story telling. I'm still doing Wishing Bridge "Seeking Hope in Wishing Bridge" but it's fun to jump over to a Guideposts mystery (I love them!) or my mystery series that I work on in spare time. (Laughing....) Hang in there, dear Kathy. Whatever you do, the world is blessed a little more by it. "
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on April 14, 2022 | 04:37 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "Connie, thank you so much! And yes, I like to switch things up, too. It feeds my brain. Happy and blessed Easter to you!!!!"
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on April 14, 2022 | 04:41 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :


    Whistle Stop Cafe Mysteries!!!!! Oh my stars, this series is lovely, poignant, and I was thrilled to be brought on board... I'm book 2 "As Time Goes By" and the books and the depot have a link to World War II somehow.... and I have learned that I not only love writing time-slip stories (it's a silly name, but that's what they call contemporary stories with a historical story included) but I'm good at it. Who knew??? You will love it, Sandy!!!! "
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on April 14, 2022 | 04:46 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "I have never read a Reacher book, but I should... I would love them. Time is scarce for a variety of reasons right now, and I've been reading non-fiction.... I'm reading The New Jim Crow (not loving it, not because I don't share some of the viewpoints about targeting, but the liberal slant doesn't look at both sides... at least not yet and I'm half-way through.) But I've got Reacher on my If God Gives Me Enough Time list... because I'd enjoy them. I think. :) "
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on April 14, 2022 | 04:46 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "Jackie, you're welcome! Tucking your name into the cat dish, recently cleaned! :)"
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on April 14, 2022 | 04:46 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "Lucy, that's so good to hear! You are welcome!"
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on April 14, 2022 | 04:48 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "I am in awe that you can read them and SLEEP EVER AGAIN.

    You strong, tough, amazing woman! :) BRAT.... I'd be wakened with nightmares for days.... but the beauty of brain variety is that I can hear how good they are from YOU!!!! Yay!!!!! :) "
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on April 14, 2022 | 04:54 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "I've had no time to make Easter Bread this year... so I asked Farmer Dave to bring some home from the store. He works there still, 16 hours a week, just enough to keep me from doing mortal harm to his body for being underfoot... you gals understand. Anyway, I'm hoping HE REMEMBERS!!! And that they have it. On top of a bunch of things that have kept me crazy busy, my dishwasher died... again... and Lowes is replacing it. So that's awesome but that means it's down for weeks by the time they bring a new one and I forgot how much time I spent doing dishes by hand back in the day... My niece Mandy gave me a dishwasher for hosting her wedding twenty years ago and that was clutch in giving me the time to write... It made a huge difference!

    I believe I'm officially prattling, so now I'm going back to work here in the family room, listening to so many frogs!!!! No birds yet, it's a little early for them, but they'll start chiming in about twenty minutes from now. The silence of winter is over!!!"
  • Sandy Smith
    on April 14, 2022 | 09:17 Sandy Smithsaid :
    "I will love it. When does it come out?"
  • Debra E. Marvin
    on April 14, 2022 | 12:45 Debra E. Marvinsaid :
    "Something I learned years ago was that in mystery, you (and the sleuth/professional) are trying to catch up to the culprit. In suspense, you need to stay ahead of the culprit by anticipating. Suspense comes from having the bad guy on your heels and impending danger. I like the old romantic suspense with much less constant danger but more slow creepy danger of wondering who to trust. So much of today's RS feels like thrillers b/c life is in danger 24/7. "
  • Erica Vetsch
    on April 14, 2022 | 16:27 Erica Vetschsaid :
    "I tell new writers to figure out what it is they're writing, where would I find your book in Barnes & Noble, because that's what editors and marketing people are going to want to know! "
  • Erica Vetsch
    on April 14, 2022 | 16:28 Erica Vetschsaid :
    "Oh, favorite is...ALL OF THEM! I love thrillers, suspense, mystery, cozy mystery, police procedural, Bring it on! :)"
  • AA Haynes
    on April 14, 2022 | 16:48 AA Haynessaid :
    "I like cozy mystery!
    I'm writing a YA (suspense? thriller? cozy mystery?) right now and I can't figure out what genre to call it.
    It's like, Nancy Drew/ Hardy Boys level of danger and mystery...with light sci-fi elements...set in 1960s...what would I call that?
    Yeah, I'm definitely a PG Peanut, I can't take anything stronger than YA levels of violence/creepiness; I prioritize "mental health comfort zone" over shock-and-awe, too. I'm glad I'm not the only one!"
  • Ruth Logan Herne
    on April 15, 2022 | 12:35 Ruth Logan Hernesaid :
    "Mary Stuart!!!!!! I loved those, too... because I had to think, not just have heart failure!!!!!! Hey, Deb.... I'm with you there!"
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