Difference Between Romantic Suspense & Romantic Thriller

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The romantic suspense and romantic thriller genres have much in common. In both cases, a romance develops against a backdrop of mystery, danger, and intrigue -- and the two terms are often used interchangeably.

However, when contrasted, the difference between the genres is one of scope: The plot of a romantic suspense novel is directly related to the characters involved, while in romantic thriller books, the characters are caught up in larger-scale intrigue.

Romantic Suspense Plots

In a romantic suspense novel, the suspense comes from ​danger or intrigue that is directly related to the protagonist or the other central characters​. The protagonist may have to confront a conflict from her past, or a dangerous force may specifically seek her out.

For example:

"Fatal Attraction" is a romantic suspense movie -- the suspense emerges when the protagonist's mistress begins stalking him.

One romantic suspense novel is "Snapped," by Laura Griffin. The hero and heroine meet in the aftermath of a sniper attack in a small town, and the plot consists of tracking down the killer.

Romantic Thriller Plots

The romantic thriller differs from romantic suspense in terms of scale. ​The danger against which the romance develops is larger than the characters involved.​ They may be caught up in global intrigue -- many romantic thrillers are ​spy novels​ -- or meet during a disaster.

"Titanic" is an example of a romantic thriller movie. The romance between the two main characters develops, and is challenged by the larger event of the Titanic sinking.

Sandra Brown's novel "Lethal" is also a great example of a ​romantic thriller book​. The heroine meets her love interest, an accused murderer, when he breaks into her house, looking for evidence to clear his name after being framed by a conspiracy of human traffickers.