Before we go deeper into the elements of a great romance novel, let’s take a side trip and talk about the sub-genres of Romance.
Maybe you’ve heard the term “Category” or “Series” romance. These terms don’t really reflect a subgenre so much as a publishing concept. Harlequin and Silhouette are the big names here. Each month H/S release several books in each of their lines (sub-genres) which are on the shelf for one month. Now, with ebooks being such a large part of the market, these books are available after their month is up. I’ll cover more on Category romance in another post.
Romantic Comedy: Think “How to Lose a Guy in 10 days.” These are light-hearted romances that pretty much keep you smiling - sometimes laughing all the way through. Sometimes these are categorized as “Chick Lit” - though not so much any more - and something they’re shelved with “contemporary.” Some of the bigger names in this genre are Jennifer Cruisie and Sophie Kinsella.
As long as we mentioned Chick-Lit, I’ll go over it briefly. These romances are often set in the big city and is a sort or slice of life of a young professional woman - her friends, her job, her trials with men. The Chick-lit craze seems to have faded away with these stories being shelved now in the Romantic Comedy section.
Contemporary: This sub-genre simply means that the love story takes place in present times. There are sub-genres of Contemporary as well, such as the military romances and cowboy romances I write. Some of the paranormal romances, like the vampire, ghost and time-travel stories are shoved into this sub-genre even though they have their own.
Romantic Suspense: usually a sub-genre of contemporary. However these could be historical or even futuristic These are higher-stakes romances with life and death situations. There are elements of thrillers, mysteries and suspense novels but the romance takes center stage. A quick look at the top authors in Goodreads gives us Sandra Brown, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nora Roberts (who can fit in any sub-genre), and Julie James to name a few.
Paranormal: These can be any time setting. As I mentioned above, they deal with ghosts, reincarnation, vampires, fairies, and the like. Some of the top names in this sub-genre are Staphanie Meyer (of course) and Cassandra Clare.
Historical: Pretty self-explanatory. Jane Austin is on the top of this list, with Diana Gabaldon (who vehemently denies that she writes romance.)
Inspirational: These romances would fall anywhere from brief mentions of church and God, to more in-depth Christian romance. Some of the most popular inspirational romance authors are Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, and Debbie Macomber.
On the other end of the spectrum from Inspirational is Erotica. You may have heard the term Romantica(TM) - this term was coined and trademarked by Ellora’s Cave, one of the early publishers of this sub-genre. Their definition: “any work of literature that is both romantic and sexually explicit in nature. Within this genre, a man and a woman develop "in love" feelings for one another that culminate in a monogamous relationship." Technically, to be considered Erotica, the sex is front and center of the plot. There is emotion and love in these stories and, to be considered a romance novel, there is a committed relationship at the end of the book.
Obviously, there is a very wide spectrum of sex in all of these sub-genres. And, for the record, there is no rating system in place for romance books. Sometimes you can evaluate the “heat” level of the book by its description. Words like “hot”, “steamy”, “lusty” - well, you’d know what you’re getting here. The Inspirationals would not have sex in them. And books described as “heartwarming” would likely not either, but also would not have the inspirational elements.
Next month, we’ll look at a few more sub-genres. Until then - Merry Christmas - and BICHOK (Butt in Chair - Hands on Keyboard).