Age difference romance novels give romance novelists one way to show that sometimes, we really can’t decide who we fall in love with. When I was out in the dating world a loonnngggg time ago, I had two rules: no more than seven years older, and not a day younger than me. Then I fell in love during my grad student years with someone I’d assumed was older but was in fact a year younger. Believe it or not, I did go through an identity crisis for about 24 hours all because of that one year.
The man I ultimately chose to spend my life with turned out to be older than me again—old enough that he could scoff at my childhood cartoons. No reminiscing about Thundercats with him if I don’t want to hear what high schoolers thought about the show in the 80s!
But I’d learned my lesson back in my 20s: age doesn’t always make a difference when we fall in love. That’s why I wrote Oh, What the Fudge as an age difference romance novel.
Types of Age Gap Romance Novels
Age difference romance novels, also called age gap romance novels, can be of the racy kind—student/teacher novels appear frequently when I peruse online catalogues. Those aren’t my style, but no judgement if you enjoy them! I just wanted to write an age difference romance that wasn’t going to cross professional ethical lines.
Romances where one partner is considerably older than the other can show up in any sub-genre: later in life romances, contemporary romances, historical romances, small town romances, LGBTQ romances… I find they’re more about character qualities instead of a specific plot trope. So, if you love this kind of story, trying searching either “age difference romance” or “age gap romance” with your favourite online retailer.
Stereotypes in Books Where Age Difference Is Part of the Plot
We have a lot of stereotypes about age difference: sugar daddies and cougars, for example. Yet, I’m sure you know, as do I, couples who simply fell in love, age be damned.
I love playing with gender stereotypes in my writing. In Tea Shop for Two, for example, I play with the simple assumption that the man must be taller than the woman. Someone on social media asked me if the two inches in the other direction make a difference, and as someone who’s dated men who were two or three inches shorter than me, I can say that they do.
I’m not talking about loving shorter people differently. But what are common images you see on romance posters? The woman tucked up against the man, her head either against his shoulder or chest. Or she’s facing him, looking up at him lovingly. It gives the impression that the woman needs comfort from the man.
Of course, we enter into romantic relationships in part for comfort, I’ve also met women over the years who refuse to date a man shorter than them. Height doesn’t make one person “the comforter” and the other “the comfortee,” but it’s the image that’s frequently projected in romance.
Just two inches in the other direction, and I had Todd looking up to Pauline and discovering how nice it was to lean his head on someone’s shoulder for a change.
How Many Years Apart Are Tracy and Ben?
I explored height in one book. Next on my list was an age gap romance between a man in his 30s and a woman in her late 40s who had a teenaged son. They’re 13 years apart, which some readers may feel doesn’t qualify as an age gap, but it definitely does for me. Plus, I didn’t want to deal with the complexities of Tracy dating someone who could be her son: I had other, more pressing topics to explore.
But here are a few problems that couples who are only a few years apart rarely have:
- When Tracy retires at 65 and may want to travel and enjoy the retired life, Ben will still be working full time for another 13 years, enjoying probably at most three weeks’ vacation.
- Tracy has one kid and doesn’t want to start over when she’s almost 50. What does Ben want?
- Tracy is also having difficulties helping Austin with his epilepsy diagnosis. She’s done with relationships and is now 100% focused on her son when she’s not overwhelmed by her other commitments. (Ben respects that, but love has different plans for them.)
- Ben’s also never had kids—will he be okay acting as a father figure to Austin?
- Then there’s Austin’s actual father, separated from his mother and on the verge of finalizing their divorce. He’s in his fifties and definitely has a few thoughts about this younger man having influence over his son.
Why an Age Gap Romance Book With an Older Woman?
The woman is always the true protagonist in each of my romances, and since Tracy was only a few years older than me when I wrote the book, it was easier to put myself in her shoes and argue with her about why she shouldn’t enter into this romance with a younger man.
(That’s where that list of problems above came from.)
I also hate that any woman with a younger man is automatically assumed a cougar, i.e., someone who, because of her age, can emotionally prey on presumably younger, and therefore naive, men. A dress code is also usually associated with the label.
But Tracy’s not like that. In fact, she can’t stand Ben at the start: it’s an enemies-to-lovers romance. (And a fun one, if I may say so myself.)
Is There a Happy Ever After Ending?
I know someone who always reads the back of the book before buying, because they want to ensure a happy ending. Is there a happy ending to this age difference romance novel?
Oh, What the Fudge is available globally. You can find your store here.