The most popular genre of modern literature is the romance novel. Literature and romance are a perfect match and have been since around the year 1740 when the novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded was published. Written by the author Samuel Richardson the novel was his first and also one of the first to focus almost completely on romance and courtship from a female point of view. Pamela was the perfect model of how women were supposed to act in the 18th century and was an inspiration for many to create similar characters in the stories, as well as characters that are quite the opposite. In today’s modern romance novels there are a wide variety of heroines. There are the perfect “Pamela’s” to the sassy anti-Pamela’s and a huge variety of characters in between.
The modern romance novel has been around since 1972. The book The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss, was rejected by hardcover publishers and agents because it was considered too long. The book had over 600 pages and if she had rewritten it to be shorter, may have been published in hardcover. However instead of doing a rewrite Woodiwiss submitted the book to soft cover publishers, and in 1972 Avon published it. In its first four years on the market The Flame and the Flower sold over 2.3 million copies. Many modern romance authors consider Woodiwiss an inspiration and credit her with making women want to read. She was revolutionary and is remembered for being among the first to feature actual sex scenes in her novels. In the years since the sex scenes have become more numerous and more explicit.
Throughout her career Woodiwiss published 12 romance novels, all of which made the best-sellers list. She is remembered for the quality of her stories instead of the number of books she published. Woodiwiss died from cancer in 2007 at the age of 68.
Historic romance novels continue to make up a large part of the romance novel market. About 17% of the romantic fiction published each year falls into this category. One of the most memorable authors to write historical romance is Jane Austen, whose novels have stood the test of time and are to this day considered some of the most well written and cherished books of all time. Her books and stories have been turned into movies and continue to gain popularity with people of all ages.
Historic Romance Authors
Along with the historical romances; contemporary romances, paranormal romances, romantic suspense, inspirational romance, category romance, and a collection of miscellaneous style stories make up over 50% of the paperbacks sold each year.
Category romances are romance novels that are released as a series and make up 40% of the romance novel market. Each book is usually no more than 200 pages and additional volumes of each category romance series are released monthly. One of the biggest publishers of category romance novels is Harlequin/Mills & Boon. They release about 120 new titles each month in over 26 languages. The books are released as a single print run and once they are sold out, no more of the book will be sold.
A romance novel that is set after World War II will fall into the contemporary romance category. They reflect the time period in which the novel was written. It is because of this that they quickly become dated and very few are remembered for long. It is almost only in contemporary romance novels, for example, that a character in the novel could be found placing a personal ad on a dating site.
Contemporary Romance Authors
Paranormal romance novels have risen in popularity quite a bit in recent years. These books feature a mix of the “real world” with the world of myth. Vampires, werewolves, demons, and ghosts are just a few of the fantastic creatures making frequent appearances in the paranormal romance universe. These novels make up 9% of the romance novel market.
Paranormal Romance Authors
Intrigue and mystery are the main focus, aside from the romance of course, of the romantic suspense novel. Throughout the novels the main characters work together to solve a crime of some sort and in the end the relationship between them has evolved to one that is solid and romantic. The Romantic suspense novel makes up 7% of the romance novel market.
Romantic Suspense Authors
For those people who want the romantic novel, but want to keep Christian beliefs present in the story, there are inspirational romance novels. In an inspirational romance the characters never have sex outside of marriage and the sex scenes are far less explicit in detail than they are in other genres of romance novel. Inspirational romances make up 6% of the romance novel market.
The last 5% of romance novels consist of any novels that don’t fit in the aforementioned categories. More than ever there are also teen romance novels being published on the mass market. Teen romances are written to fit into each of the previous categories but are geared towards a younger crowd and are usually much more parent friendly with toned down intimacy.
Throughout the years the romance novel has received great praise, and great criticism, but either way people still go to the store to purchase their latest guilty pleasure and still receive a great thrill when the heroin gets her man.
Additional Romance Novel Resources
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