Romances come in many categories and
sub-categories: Contemporary settings and historical settings can be broken
down further, with each new subcategory generally featuring specific
elements which a reader will be expecting to find in a book she has
Young Adult stories are written
with teens in mind, so the sensuality level is obviously understated.
They are wildly popular with younger readers, as can be attested by the
sales of the Sweet Valley High series. There is a tremendous need for
Young Adult BBW novels of this sort. There are several Y/A stories
featuring larger heroines, but not many of them deal with romance, per se.
Judy Bagshaw’s “Love by the Pound” and Barbara Wersba’s
“Fat, A Love Story”
are two examples of this subgenre.
Category novels are short (35,000+
words), have a modern setting, and they span a relatively short period of
time in the heroines’ lives. They can be sweet (sexless) or sensual
(at least some sex), serious or comedic, but the one thing they must
have is a happy ending. They can stand alone or be part of a trilogy
or series. (Many times series are written by multiple authors, rather than
just a single person.) Examples of the category novel are Dixie
Browning’s “More to Love”, Liz Fielding’s
“The Bridesmaid’s Reward”,
Donna Kauffman’s “Carried Away”, and Susan Crosby’s
Romantic suspense or Intrigue
is a fast-paced contemporary novel with aspects of a thriller or mystery
mixed in with the romantic plotline. Judy Bagshaw specializes in this
sub-category. You might try reading her novel
"Teacher's Pet" from
Real Romances if this sub-category is of interest to you. Also check
out “Looking for Laura” by Judith Arnold,
“Walking after Midnight” by Karen Robards, or
“Lola Carlyle Reveals All” by Rachel Gibson.
Romantic comedy. Ranging from
quiet wit to outrageous screwball antics, this type of romance novel has
really taken off in recent years and is quickly becoming one of the most
popular subcategories. "Dear Cupid" by Julie Ortolon is one example of this
subgenre, which can often be recognized at a glance by the cute cartoon-like
covers. “Welcome to Temptation” and
“Faking It” by Jennifer Crusie
would also fit the bill, but are on the line between women’s fiction and
romance. You never know which part of the bookstore you’ll find this
author’s novels in.
Historicals can be set in any past
time-period, in any place. Some stories may be resolved in a single book,
others require several tomes to cover a multi-generation family saga. A
subset of historicals known as “bodice rippers” has faded into the
background somewhat in recent years due to the advent of political
correctness. (Some readers took exception to forced-sex scenes, despite
their validity given the time period the novels are set in.)
Among the more popular historical time
periods and settings:
Westerns: Early American frontier
stories. “Beckett’s Birthright” by Bronwyn Williams,
Princess” by Pamela Morsi, and
“Land of Dreams” by Cheryl St. John.
Medievals: Stories about knights in
armor and damsels in distress, but occasionally it’s the other way around.
"Earth Song" by Catherine
Coulter, “Lord of my Heart” and
“The Shattered Rose” by Jo Beverley,
Gold” by Katherine Deauxville,
“By Possession” and
“The Protector” by
Madeline Hunter, and
“My Lady’s Choice” by Lyn Stone.
European Historicals: Set in
Europe in any time from the 15th to the early 20th centuries.
Days of a Rake” by Charlotte Bennett (19th century),
“The Fire Flower” by
Edith Layton (17th century), and
“The Accidental Bride” by Jane Feather
Pirate Adventures: For
romance on the high seas, try reading
“A Pirate of Her Own” by Kinley MacGregor
Highland or Celtic setting: Novels
which take place in the British Isles or the Celtic lands of continental
Europe. They can range in time period from the early Celts (400 BC) to their
descendents in the 19th century.
Bride and the Beast” by Teresa Medeiros,
“Highland Ecstasy” by Mary Burkhardt, and
“Claiming the Highlander” by Kinley MacGregor
are all Highland setting novels which take place in the last few centuries.
Viking stories: Novels centering
around characters from early Nordic cultures. Unfortunately there
are no “curvy” recommendations to be made here, but to get familiar with this
genre try reading Catherine Coulter’s trilogy (“Lord of Hawksfell Island”
etc) Margaret Moore’s
by Heather Graham.
Regency novels are set during the
reign of England’s Prince Regent (1811-1820), and are categorized as being
either “traditional” or “sensual”. Traditional regencies focus
greatly on the courtship of the couple, description of the architecture and
clothing of the day, and are “sweet”: lots of romance, no throbbing
this or burning that. Sensual regencies are set in the
same time period, but do not generally go into the detail of everyday life
as traditionals do, and obviously, as the name suggests, there is a
sexual component to these novels. To experience a traditional regency
in all its glory, try reading Jane Austen’s classic
“Pride and Prejudice”,
or Georgette Heyer’s books
“A Civil Contract”,
“The Grand Sophy”, and
Toll-gate”. For sensual Regencies try reading Kathryn Smith’s
"A Seductive Offer", or “Into Temptation”.
On to Part Three:
More subgenres of Romantic Fiction
to Part One: What is Romantic Fiction?
Helpful links for Authors