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In the s, the British publishers Mills and Boon began releasing hardback romance novels. The books were sold through weekly two-penny libraries and were known as "the books in brown" for their brown binding. In the s, the company began offering the books for sale through newsagents across the United Kingdom.
A Canadian company, Harlequin Enterprises , began distributing in North America in the category romances published by Mills and Boon. They had a "decency code," and rejected more sexually explicit material that Mills and Boon submitted for reprinting.
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Realizing that the genre was popular, Richard Bonneycastle finally decided to read a romance novel. He chose one of the more explicit novels and enjoyed it. On his orders, the company conducted a market test with the novel he had read and discovered that it outsold a similar, tamer novel.
The few heroines who worked did so in traditional female jobs, including as nurses , governesses and secretaries. Intimacy in the novels never extended beyond a chaste kiss between the protagonists. On October 1, , Harlequin purchased Mills and Boon. By this point, the romance novel genre "had been popularized and distributed widely to an enthusiastic audience" in Great Britain.
In an attempt to duplicate Mills and Boon's success in North America, Harlequin improved their distribution and marketing system. Harlequin then began a reader service, selling directly to readers who agreed to purchase a certain number of books each month. In the US, modern romance genre fiction was born in , with Avon's publication of Kathleen Woodiwiss 's The Flame and the Flower , which was the first of the modern "bodice ripper" romance novels to follow "the principals into the bedroom.
The latter sold two million copies in its first three months of release. By , Publishers Weekly had reported that the "Avon originals" had sold a combined 8 million copies. The success of these novels prompted a new style of writing romance, concentrating primarily on historical fiction tracking the monogamous relationship between a helpless heroine and the hero who rescued her, even if he had been the one to place her in danger. Journal article in referred to these bodice rippers as "publishing's answer to the Big Mac: They are juicy, cheap, predictable, and devoured in stupefying quantities by legions of loyal fans.
In this new style of historical romance, heroines were independent and strong-willed and were often paired with heroes who evolved into caring and compassionate men who truly admired the women they loved. The women were virgins , while the men were not, and both members of the couple were described as beautiful. Category romance lines were slower to react to some of the changes that had swept the historical romance subgenre. In the late s, a Harlequin editor rejected a manuscript by Nora Roberts , who has since become the top-selling romance author, because "they already had their American writer.
Authors were also expected to address contemporary issues where appropriate. Despite the acquisition, Silhouette continued to retain editorial control and to publish various lines under their own imprint. Harlequin had also failed to adapt quickly to the signs that readers appreciated novels with more explicit sex scenes, and in , several publishers entered the category romance market to fill that gap. That year, Dell launched their Candlelight Ecstasy line with Amii Lorin 's The Tawny Gold Man , becoming the first line to waive the requirement that heroines be virgins.
A survey of romance readers confirmed that the new styles of writing were attracting new readers to the genre. This means that two-thirds of those surveyed joined the genre after it had begun to change. The number of category romance lines increased at a rapid pace, and by there were 16 separate lines producing a total of 80 novels per month. This tight market caused a proportionate decrease in the quality of the novels that were being released. By , the market was saturated with category lines and readers had begun to complain of redundancy in plots.
The genre continued to expand in the mid-to-late s, as publishers realized that the more popular authors were often those who stretched the boundaries of the genre. A novel by LaVyrle Spencer featured an overweight, middle-aged hero who had to make drastic changes to his lifestyle to win the heroine, while a Dailey novel involved an ugly hero and a heroine who was searching for her birth mother.
The age range of heroines also began to expand, so that books began to feature women who had already reached 30 and even Heroes also changed, with some authors veering towards a more sensitive man. Despite the broadening of some aspects of the plot, other taboos remained, and publishers discouraged authors from writing about controversial subjects such as terrorism, warfare, and masculine sports. The romance novel began to expand in other ways as well. Her novel, A Knight in Shining Armor , "became a natural bestseller. Because the novels were set in modern times, they could include more of the elements that modern women could relate to, and soon began to touch on themes such as single parenthood, adoption, and abuse.
By , the covers had begun to evolve from featuring a scantily clad couple to instead showing a view of the landscape featured in the novel. As women's career options have expanded in real life, so have those of their fictional counterparts. In the earliest Harlequin romance novels, heroines were typically nurses and secretaries. As time has passed and women have entered the workforce in larger numbers, romance heroines have spanned the career spectrum. Despite recent rehabilitation and merging of the genre with other genres, the stigma attached to the romance genre continues to be strong, with some dedicated readers embarrassed to admit to buying or even reading the books.
Some critics point to a lack of suspense, as it is obvious that the hero and heroine will eventually resolve their issues, and wonder whether it is beneficial "for women to be whiling away so many hours reading impossibly glamorized love stories. Romance novelists attribute the stigma to the fact that romance is the only genre "written almost exclusively by women for women.
Romance novels are divided into two sub-sets, category romances, also known as series romances, and single title romances. Category romances are short, usually no more than pages, or about 55, words. In many cases, the books are numbered sequentially within the line. To write a successful novel of this length, the "author must pare the story down to its essentials.
Subplots and minor characters are eliminated or relegated to the backstory. Publishers of category romances usually issue guidelines for each line, specifying the elements necessary for a novel to be included in each line. Most recently, erotic and Christian lines have been introduced while traditional Regency romance lines have ended. Single-titles novels are romance novels not published as part of a publisher's category. They are longer than category romances, typically between and pages, or ,, words.
Despite their name, single-title novels are not always stand alone novels. Some authors prefer to write several interconnected books, ranging in number from trilogies to long-running series, so that they can revisit characters or worlds. Such sets of books often have similar titles, and may be labelled as "Number 1 in the XXX Series", but they are not considered series romances because they are not part of a particular line. Because the definition of a romance novel does not limit the types of plot devices, time frames, or locations that can be included, the genre has grown to encompass a wide variety of material and spawned multiple subgenres.
Subgenres of romance are often closely related to other literature genres, and some books could be considered a romance subgenre novel and another genre novel at the same time. For example, romantic suspense novels are often similar to mysteries , crime fiction and thrillers , and paranormal romances use elements popular in science fiction and fantasy novels.
Contemporary romance, which is set after World War II ,  is often what people mean when they refer to a romance novel. Contemporary romance novels—the largest subgenre—are set in the time when they are written, and usually reflect the mores of that time. Heroines in contemporary romances prior to usually quit working when they marry or have children—while heroines after usually have, and keep, a career.
Most contemporary romance novels contain elements that date the books. The majority of them eventually become irrelevant to more modern readers and go out of print. Over half of the romantic fiction published in the United States in out of 2, books were contemporary romance novels. Historical romance, also known as historical novel , is a broad category of fiction which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past, which Walter Scott helped popularize in the early 19th-century, with works such as Rob Roy and Ivanhoe.
However, the focus here is on the mass-market genre. This subgenre includes a wide variety of other subgenres, including Regency romance. Mass-market historical romance novels are rarely published in hardcover, with fewer than 15 receiving that status each year, less than one-fifth of the number of contemporary romance novels published in that format. Because historical romances are primarily published in mass-market format, their fortunes are tied to a certain extent to the mass-market trends.
Booksellers and large merchandisers now sell fewer mass market paperbacks, preferring trade paperbacks or hardcovers, which prevents historical romances from being sold in some price clubs and other mass merchandise outlets. In , mass-market historical romances were published, a year high. Kensington Books says they receive fewer submissions of historical novels, and their previously published authors have switched to contemporary.
Romantic suspense involves an intrigue or mystery for the protagonists to solve.
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Like all romances, romantic suspense novels must place the development of a relationship between the protagonists at the heart of the story. The relationship "must impact each decision they make and increase the tension of the suspense as it propel the story. In turn, the events of suspense must also directly affect the relationship and move the story forward.
This blend of the romance and mystery was perfected by Mary Stewart , who wrote ten romantic suspense novels between and Stewart was one of the first to seamlessly combine the two genres, maintaining a full mystery while focusing on the courtship between two people. Paranormal romance blends the real with the fantastic or science fictional. Time travel , futuristic, and extraterrestrial romances also fall beneath the paranormal umbrella.
These novels often blend elements of other subgenres—including suspense, mystery, or chick lit—with their fantastic themes. Others are set in the future, sometimes on different worlds. Still others have a time-travel element with either the hero or the heroine traveling into the past or the future. A popular title in the genre can sell over , copies. Many paranormal romances rely on the blend of contemporary American life with the existence of supernatural or magically empowered beings, human or otherwise.
Sometimes the larger culture is aware of the magical in its midst; sometimes it is not. Some paranormal romances focus less on the specifics of their alternate worlds than do traditional science fiction or fantasy novels, keeping the attention strongly on the underlying romance.
The first futuristic romance to be marketed by a mainstream romance publisher, Jayne Ann Krentz 's Sweet Starfire , was published in and was a "classic road trip romance" that just happened to be set in a separate galaxy. Krentz attributes the popularity of this romance genre to the fact that the novels "are, at heart, classic historical romances that just happen to be set on other worlds. Fantasy Romance, also known as Romantic Fantasy, is a subgenre of fantasy fiction , describing a fantasy story using many of the elements and conventions of the romance genre.
Romantic fantasy has been published by both fantasy and romance lines, with some publishers distinguishing between "fantasy romance" being more like a contemporary fantasy novel with romantic elements, and "romantic fantasy" with more emphasis on the romance elements of the story. Time-travel romances are a version of the classic "fish out of water" story. In most, the heroine is from the present day and travels into the past to meet the hero. In a smaller subset of these novels, the hero, who lives in the past, travels forward into his future to meet the heroine.
A successful time-travel romance must have the characters react logically to their experience and should investigate some of the differences, both physical and mental, between the world the character normally inhabits and the one where they landed. Some writers end their novels with the protagonists trapped in different time periods and unable to be together—to the displeasure of many readers of the genre. Inspirational romance, as the market exists today, combines explicitly Christian themes with the development of a romantic relationship.
Sex, if it is present at all, occurs after marriage and is not explicitly detailed. Many novels in this genre also focus on the hero or heroine's faith, turning the love story into "a triangle: The first line of series inspirational romances debuted shortly after the U.
The books were aimed at born-again Christians and were marketed in religious bookstores. The Silhouette Inspirations line was closed after Harlequin acquired Silhouette in because it was not profitable.
BET Books purchased the line in , and the number of new authors that they publish has continued to expand each year. BET has also developed some of the Arabesque novels into made-for-television movies. Two novels were published every month until late , when the line went into hiatus. Although romance novels featuring African-Americans and Hispanic protagonists are becoming more popular, those featuring Asian or Asian-American characters are rare.
Author Tess Gerritsen believes this is due to the fact that there are fewer Asian-American women who read romances: Erotic romance is a blend of romance and erotica. Erotic romance novels are characterized by strong sexual content, but can contain elements of any of the other romance subgenres. Erotic romance novels tend to use more frank language, avoiding many of the euphemisms used in books with milder content. These novels also usually include more sex scenes, often focusing more on the sex act rather than being a more traditional love scene, and may include more unusual positions or acts.
Pornography concentrates on the sex acts, but erotic novels include well-developed characters and a plot that could exist without the sex acts. Erotic romances' lengths run from short stories to single-title novels. Some of these are published as part of a category, such as Harlequin Blaze, while others are published as part of an anthology and are only novella length. Even single-title erotic romances may be as short as a novella, however. Many of the publishers of erotic romance are either small press publishers or electronic book publishers.
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Writers often have more leeway as to what types of erotic acts can be included when working with an electronic publisher than they would have when working with a print publisher. Themes such as pedophilia, incest, and bestiality are discouraged by all publishers. The market for erotic romances has grown rapidly.
Ellora's Cave , an electronic publisher that focuses on erotic romance, became the first electronic publisher recognized by the Romance Writers of America as a legitimate publisher. A survey of regular romance readers the same year "found that they mirror the general population in age, education, and marital and socioeconomic status. The women admitted to reading romances as an antidote to stress, for mental escape, and to learn about history and new careers. This expansion was due in part to voracious readers, with over half of Harlequin's customers purchasing 30 novels per month.
By the s, romance had become the most popular genre in modern literature. Over 74 million people claimed to have read at least one romance novel in , according to a Romance Writers of America study. The study reported that 9. Author Heather Graham attributes this to the fact that "emotions translate easily. Although romance novels are translated into over 90 languages,  the majority of authors of these works are from Great Britain, the United States, Canada or, to a lesser extent, Australia.
The Anglo-Saxon perspective in the fiction at times can be much less successful in a European market. Top Reviews Most recent Top Reviews. There was a problem filtering reviews right now.
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