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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

April 26, 2024

W is for Women's Fiction #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber

#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter W

For the A to Z Challenge, I'm discussing different book genres/categories. Each day, I will give a few details about the genre/category and an example or two. I would love to know your thoughts on the genre/category and if you have any reading suggestions. Be sure to check out all of my A to Z posts.

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Women's fiction - I'm so glad to be back to a genre that I understand. Women's fiction is probably my second most read genre (I think I read more historical fiction). 

According to Wikipedia, women's fiction is a term that encompasses any book focused on women's life experiences and is marketed to female readers. It would include among other topics novels focused on women's rights. 

As I mentioned in my Romance post, what is considered romance and what is considered women's fiction can be hazy. From the Wikipedia definition, it would likely be that all romance is women's fiction but not all women's fiction is romance. 

To me, the women's fiction genre focuses on stories that closely resemble coming-of-age stories but with an older protagonist. The typical coming-of-age story has a main character who is a teenager or perhaps early twenties (college age). Whereas in women's fiction, the main female character is often in her 30s, 40s, 50s, or older. 

The Romance Writers of America's definition is similar to what I consider women's fiction: "a commercial novel about a woman on the brink of life change and personal growth. Her journey details emotional reflection and action that transforms her and her relationships with others, and includes a hopeful/upbeat ending with regard to her romantic relationship."

The main character usually experiences a life change - an empty nest, a divorce/death of a spouse, or a career ending. This life change requires the character to reflect on her life and, through the process, learn more about herself and the life she truly wants. Many, maybe most, women's fiction includes a romantic relationship (probably because romance sells well) but it does not have. 

The Women's Fiction Writers' Association (WFWA) states that a romantic relationship is not required. As I said in the romance post, a romance novel is focused on the love story, but as included in the WFWA's definition, "the driving force of women's fiction is the protagonist's journey toward a more fulfilled self." 

Women's fiction can have elements of mystery, suspense, historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction. It is wrongly assumed that women's fiction is written only by women. One of my favorite writers of women's fiction is male. He writes under the pen name Viola Shipman, which was his grandmother's name.

Because of this assumption some authors, particularly female writers of literary fiction, are critical of the term women's fiction. They feel that all books written by female writers are lumped into this category and therefore do not receive the same level of recognition as books by male writers. 

In addition to Viola Shipman, other authors of women's fiction that I love are Debbie Macomber, Mary Kay Andrews. and Nancy Thayer. I'm finding it difficult to decide what book to feature. I'm going to go with a new-to-me author who I discovered last summer.

The Bookshop by the Bay by Pamela Kelley

book cover of women's fiction novel The Bookshop by the Bay by Pamela Kelley

Two lifelong friends. One bookshop by the beach. And the summer that could change everything.

Jess loves her work as a high-profile lawyer in the respectable and austere city of Charleston. But when she finds her husband, Parker, has been cheating on her with his assistant, she retreats, with her thirty year-old daughter Caitlin for support, to her childhood home on Cape Cod, in Chatham. Caitlin has always been bright but directionless, looking for her passion but keeps coming up blank. And Jess needs to regroup with the help of good food and wine, the company of her best friend, Allison, and come up with a plan for the future.

Allison’s career has hit a low. After twenty years as an editor for the Chatham magazine, circulation is dwindling and though her boss and long-time friend, Jim, does everything to keep her, she has no choice but to take a step back. With a career on hiatus and her main relationship being with Chris, her ex-husband who is still a good friend, Allison is at a pivotal point in life. Her daughter Julia opened her own artisanal jewelry shop a year prior, and she has the kind of day-to-day fulfillment Allison yearns for.

When Allison stops into her beloved local bookstore one day and learns that the owner wants to sell, a long-held dream turns into a reality, thanks to Jess. Allison and Jess set a plan in motion and what was once a place that held warm childhood memories is now theirs to run. As the two friends, along with the help of their daughters, reopen the doors of the cherished bookstore and adjacent coffee shop to the community, they also open themselves up to the possibility of romance, the bonds of mothers and daughters, and the magic of second chances.

Read my review. I already have an advance copy of her new book, The Seaside Sisters, which comes out in June. 

Do you read women's fiction? Do you have a favorite author or book?

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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  1. This is on the list as something I don't read of, most of it either too halmark channel or too lifetime, lol.

  2. It's quite a skill to write from the perspective of the other gender. I'm reminded of Jack Nicholson's character in As Good as it Gets, and in particular his response to the question about how he manages to write female characters so well. I've read some women's fiction but unsurprisingly I find it hard to relate to, especially if there's no romance.

  3. That sounds right up my street, fantasy fiction for me with a character buying a bookshop:-)

  4. I think I have The Bookshop by the Bay on my TBR list...the never ending list which would take longer than years I have left in my lifetime! LOL

  5. I've added your recommendation to my TBR. I prefer Paranormal Women's Fiction as it usually has something magical in the works to help the woman to live her best life.

    Ronel visiting for W: My Languishing TBR: W