Genre in Depth: Romance
Genre in Depth is a new series on Fictionally Sam where we delve into different genre and see how they began, their characteristics, and books within that genre, etc. New genre every first and last Wednesday of the month!
Welcome to February folks, the month of love and chocolates–or if you are super single like me, the month of single awareness. These next 28 days (especially the first 14) are a time here in the States; people from everywhere show their appreciation for those they love through grand gestures, sugary sweets, popping the big question, and taking out the trash without being asked. As for me, this month is a time where I binge read a crap ton of sappy love stories that will remind me that I’m single and my period is about to start. Like I said, a time.
But speaking of love stories–in this installment of Genre in-depth, we get to take a look at one of my top favorite genres around–you guessed it! Romance!
“[Romance is] about people overcoming whatever stands between them and love. Characters in romances change into better versions of themselves in the process of falling in love.” – Jenny Holiday
Love has been around since the dawn of time. But the Romance genre, however, has been around since the Ancient times in Greece. There are over twenty titles of Romance stories from this time period known, however the ones that have survived throughout the years have all been fragmented as only portions of their stories have survived. Only five of these near 20 are in a state of almost completion: Chareas and Callirhoe, Leucippe and Clitophon, Daphnis and Chloe, The Ephesian Tale, and The Ethiopian Tale.
In its literary form, Romance became a distinct literary piece during the 13th century in France. Because of its use and treatment of chivalry the fancy pants aristocratic courts throughout the French Nation adopted it into their circles and began developing it into a distinctive genre. Soon after this the notion of love being a focus in narratives took off and spread like wild-fire–with Poets and playwrights alike coming from the ends of the earth each celebrating this new-found area to explore. Scholars have since cited Samuel Richardson’s 1740 novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded as the first modern romance novel to be published as the novel depicts the story of teenage maidservant who is courted by her Landowner’s Master. Even though Richardson’s story isn’t the first novel that has had a relationship that is romantic in nature, Scholars believe that it is the first to be presented within the heroines point of view with also the happy ending (HEA) used being unique for its era.
It would be soon later that classical romance would forever be etched into history, as the works of Jane Austen would soon become published. In 1811, Sense and Sensibility was first published, however on the cover of the novel Austen’s name never appeared (it was only until after her death that her works were accredited to her) in its place however all that was written was “by a lady” as during this time it was not considered a respectable profession to pen novels about love and relationships–especially for a woman of Austen’s upbringing. In addition to this, Austen’s work was–in today’s publishing understanding–self-published as she paid half of her year’s earnings to have only 750 copies printed. Fortunately for her, the tome did very well and sold out making Austen a decent profit and a demand for a second printing was made. Jane Austen would soon go on to become considered the mother of Romance as her works have been translated and published throughout the world.
Many more romance novels have been published since the years of Jane Austen, and many more authors have contributed to the swoon worthy stories; however it wasn’t until the 1970s that the genre ignited and became the popular genre we know it to be now.
The Canadian publishing company, Harlequin, was founded in the early 1930s and was known during their early years for their plain brown covers. But as the years went on and their sales dragged, the publishing company realized that they were putting their merchandise–their novels– in places where their target audience was. Seeking to increase their sales, Harlequin was the first to begin to sell their romance novels “where woman are,” which during those years was the supermarkets and drugstores.
Harlequin went all out in their marketing, sponsoring large giveaways and even going as far as placing their novels inside the boxes of sanitary pads (which I found extremely amusing, “your vagina hates you so read a romance!”), household cleaning products, and make up. Their efforts paid off, as woman began to go in drones to grab more copies of these beloved romances that promised them a form of escapism and a happily ever after. Soon later in the 1980s, the publishing company and the genre itself soared to higher heights as the covers of romance novels began to use muscly male models and risqué poses of couples on their covers.
“I actually don’t write or read romances because I’m lonely, or because I feel inadequate, or want the chance to sneak a peak at dirty words. If you want to get political, I write romance because I like to remind myself (and everyone else. Writers are compelled to make other people listen to them) that I deserve everything I want in a relationship. I deserve to be happy, to be satisfied, to be safe, to be an equal. I deserve to be solvent and for my children to be taken care of.” – Eileen Dreyer
According to the organization Romance Writers of America (RWA) romance has two basic elements: “A central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” The romance genre is limitless in its allowance of different settings, tones, styles, themes, time, and levels of sensuality as it’s only stipulation is that its main focus must be individuals falling in love and the struggle to make that love work.
Subgenres within Romance:
- Contemporary Romance: Romance novels that are set in the current era (1950s-present)
- Erotic Romance: stories with strong, often explicit, sexual interactions that are inherent and critical to the romantic relationship and story line. Typically is coupled with other subgenres.
- Paranormal Romance: Romance with fantasy–a time.
- Sports Romance: Romance that involves on or both main characters involved in an athletic sport.
- Historical Romance: Romances that are set before the 1950s
- Religious / Spiritual Romance: Romance novels where religious or spiritual beliefs are an integral role in both the characters and the plot, which cannot be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels can be set within any religious or spiritual culture.
- Romantic Suspense: it’s romance…with suspense. A time fam. Mystery and thriller also falls under this subgenre.
- New Adult Romance: Romance where one or both main characters are 19-30 in age.
- Young Adult Romance: Romance geared towards teens, typically main characters are teens themselves.
- Romantic Comedy (RomCom): Romance with comedic elements
- Regency Romances: often confused with historical romance, regency romances are set during the regency period and are often shorter with a general emphasis on the Regency society.
- Western Romance: It’s romances filled with cowboys and horses. Like a western movie except love is the endgame and not John Wayne or Clint Eastwood.
- MC Romance: Romance that revolves in or around a motorcycle club
- Mafia Romance: Romance that revolves in or around the mafia
- Royal Romance: Romance that has one or both main characters within a status of nobility/royalty.
Themes/Tropes within Romance:
- Marriage of Convenience
- Sibling’s Best Friend
- One Night Stand
- Alpha Male
- Fake Relationship
- Forbidden Love
- Slow Burn
- Accidental Pregnancy
- Arranged Marriage
- Best Friend’s Sibling
- Jilted Bride
- Mistaken Identity
- Office Romance
- Opposites Attract
- Time Travel
- Ugly Duckling
- Single Parent
- Unrequited Love
- Fish out of water
- The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
- Let’s Get Textual by Teagan Hunter
- Addicted to You by Krista and Becca Ritchie
- The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
- Arouse by Nina Lane
- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
- Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
What do you love about Romance? Any Recommendations?