Romance novel

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(Redirected from Romantic novel)
For the medieval genre see Romance (genre).

A romance novel is a novel from the genre currently known as romance. The genre has two strict criteria:

  • the story must focus on the relationship and romantic love between a man and a woman;
  • the end of the story must be positive, leaving the reader believing that the protagonists' love and relationship will endure for the rest of their lives.

If a novel does not fulfil those conditions, fans of the genre are likely to claim that it belongs to a related genre, such as women's fiction or chick lit, or that it is just a mainstream fiction novel.

Some romance novel readers would claim that the genre has additional restrictions, from plot considerations such as the hero and heroine meeting early on in the story, to avoiding possible themes, such as neither hero nor heroine committing adultery in the course of their relationship developing. However, these are not hard-and-fast rules, and some writers deliberately write stories that may put off some readers in order to push the genre's boundaries.


Origins of the romance novel

The earliest English novels in this genre appeared in the 18th century. Classic, highly-regarded romantic novels are Pride and Prejudice (1813), by Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights (1847), by Emily Brontė, and Jane Eyre (1847), by Charlotte Brontė.

Romance publishers

The publishing house Harlequin, along with its British arm Mills and Boon, is best-known for publishing romantic fiction. Currently, there are several large houses publishing romances, e.g. Avon Books, an imprint of the HarperCollins publishing house.

Category and single title novels

Romance novels are divided into two sub-sets, category romances (also called series romances) and single title romances.

Category romances

The term 'category romances' derives from the fact that the books are published in clearly delineated categories, with a certain number of books being published in each category every month. Their alternative name, series romances, came from the sequential numbers sometimes printed on the books' spines. Category romances are short (usually no more than 200 pages), and have a low purchase price compared to other fiction books.

Category romances are further divided among different lines. A line is a series of books with a distinct identity. The books in a line may share similar settings, time periods, levels of sensuality, or types of conflict. Publishers of category romances usually issue guidelines to authors for each line, specifying the unique elements necessary in to each line.

Category romances have a finite print run, and they stay on the shelf only until they are sold out or until the next month's titles within the same line take their place upon the shelf.

As of 2005, Harlequin is the only major player in category romance, publishing dozens of titles per month in ten-plus different lines, ranging from squeaky-clean stories geared to the Christian reader, to super-spicy, semi-erotica. Some publishers of Regency romances and ethnic romances also publish in monthly series.

Single title romances

Single Title novels are any novels not published as part of a line. They are longer than category romances, averaging around 350 pages.

'Single title' is a misleading name, as authors frequently write sequences of interconnected books. Such sets of books often have similar titles, and it is not uncommon for them to be released over a shorter space of time, though it is unusual for a single title author to release more than two books a year.

The following are the largest publishers of single title romance novels, in term of the number of titles published in 2002:

Harlequin also publishes some single title romances under its HQN, Signature, and Mira imprints.

Romantic genres

There are a number of sub-genres of romance novel:

  • Contemporary
  • Historical
  • Futuristic
  • Fantasy
  • Inspirational
  • Paranormal
  • Regency
  • Romantic suspense
  • Time travel
  • Western

Sub-genres of romance frequently draw on other genres - romantic suspense draws on mysteries, crime fiction and thrillers, and futuristics are romances in a science fiction mode.

Romantica (a blend of romance and erotica) is often labelled as a sub-genre. The term can be applied to any of the other romance sub-genres, but is usually used when sexual aspects of the story take precedence over the others.

See also List of romantic novelists

Popularity of romance novels

Romance novels are most popular in the United States and Canada, where it is the best-selling genre. In North America in 2002, sales of romance novels generated US$1.63 billion and comprised 34.6% of all popular fiction sold - by comparison, general fiction comprised 24.1% and mystery, detective and suspense fiction comprised 23.1%. Over 2000 romance novels were published, and there were 51.1 million romance novel readers.

Genre slang

Like many other fan groups, romance novel readers have developed terminology to allow them to talk about the specifics of romance novels quickly and easily. Some common terms include:

  • duke of slut - any promiscuous aristocrat. (This term is one of many put into useage by All About Romance at
  • fake rake - a man whom everybody presumes to be promiscuous (a rake), but who is not.
  • HEA - an abbreviation of "[and they lived] happily ever after", the phrase which traditionally ends fairy tales; it refers to the happy ending that romance novels must have.
  • TSTL - an abbreviation of "too stupid to live"; this usually refers to a heroine whose behaviour is so dumb that the reader finds it difficult to believe that she has survived so long, or that she will manage to avoid getting herself killed soon.

External links

  • All About Romance ( - This site features articles and columns, reviews, message boards, and title listings by subject and style. In 2004 nearly 1.7 million individuals viewed more than 35 million pages at AAR.
  • Harlequin's official site (
  • Romance Writers of America (
  • Romancing the Blog ( Home to RTB romance readers, reviewers, authors and editors who blog as RTB columnists about what's hip, what's now, and what's tomorrow in the romance fiction world. RTB has an extensive link collection of romance-related blogs.
  • Roundtable Reviews ( This site features reviews and interviews with some of today's upcoming and established authors.
  • The Mystic Castle ( website. This site features authors interviews and chats, reviews, articles, listing of new releases to come, bulletin board.
  • Romance Book Cafe (
  • How Romance novels and material can lead to a more fulfilling sex life (

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