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~Romance 101~

What is the Romance Genre? Part 2

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 purchased.

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  “His Seductive Revenge”.

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, “No Ordinary 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,  “Daggers of 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.  “Last Days of a Rake” by Charlotte Bennett (19th century), “The Fire Flower” by Edith Layton (17th century), and “The Accidental Bride” by Jane Feather (17th century).

Pirate Adventures: For romance on the high seas, try reading “Master of Seduction” and “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. “The 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 “The Viking”,  and “Golden Surrender” 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 “The Toll-gate”.  For sensual Regencies try reading Kathryn Smith’s “A Game of Scandal”, "A Seductive Offer", or “Into Temptation”.

On to Part Three: More subgenres of Romantic Fiction 

Back to Part One: What is Romantic Fiction?

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Good-bye, Mom.

I love you and will miss you forever.


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