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Romance Sub-Genres
by Lee Masterson

The romance fiction genre is perhaps the biggest slice of the fiction-buying pie available on the market today. With more than 50% of paperback fiction sales being attributed to romance novels, it's no wonder so many new romance authors are popping up on the scene.

So what constitutes a romance novel?

Most romance novels should contain two basic elements to be considered "romantic":

1) A central love story - the central plot and a large portion of the conflict are focused on two people falling in love and then struggling to maintain and justify that love.

2) An emotionally satisfying, 'happy' ending - Romance fans read romance for the 'feel good' factor. After such intense conflict, trying to establish and maintain the relationship, readers want to see the good guys come together at last in a 'happy ending'.

Note that these basic elements do not focus on sex. A romance novel is focused on the romance - the love story between two people - and not necessarily on the act of getting together physically. It is true that some romantic authors will integrate sex scenes into the central love story, but the main aim of a romance novel is to tell a tale of an unfolding romance. Erotica is a completely different genre - one we are not focusing on during this article.

Once the two basic elements above are fulfilled, a romance novel can contain any amount of extraneous setting or plotting details the author desires. These distinctions in plot and setting (or even time period) give us the basis for most romantic sub-genres.

Remember - Sub-Genres are classifications used to help categorize a novel in the marketplace, or to assist readers in finding similar books in styles they already enjoy. However, many authors will happily combine two or more sub-genre styles within the one plot. As these cross-genre books become more popular, this creates sub-categories within sub-genres.

Romance Sub-Genres

Contemporary Romance
Romance tales set mostly in the present time, but can be categorized as taking place after the World Wars. Can (and often does) contain elements of suspense, humor, drama - or any mix thereof.

Fantasy Romance
Although still centered on a romantic tale, Fantasy Romances take place on other worlds and contain elemens of magic. They can also sometimes incorporate mystical creatures, like fairies or dragons, or horrific creatures, like vampires and werewolves. Some authors blend elements of mythology into fantasy romances.

Futuristic Romance
Obviously, romance stories set in the far future and containing some science fictional or fantastical elements. Mostly classified in the "paranormal" sub-genre, Futuristic Romances are gaining in popularity and thus some publishers may classify this sub-category as its own sub-genre.

Historical Romance
Romance stories set in the past and generally before the World Wars. Unfortunately "before the World Wars" is a broad classification and can be stretched so far back into our history to include: American West, American Colonial, American Civil War, American Revolution, American Reconstruction, Native American, Australian Colonial, European Dark Ages, Early European Rennaisance, French Revolution, Celtic, Medieval England, Middle Ages England, Victorian England and Regency England. The odd Pirate tale also shows up every now and then under this classification.

Paranormal Romance
Romance tales containing "other-worldly" elements such as ghosts or spectres. Can also be extended to include spirits, devils, demons or angels. In some cases, the characters may posses certain paranormal 'powers'.

Regency Romance
Romance stories set in England in the early 1800s - even though they are not the same as a "Historical Romance". They generally have a stronger focus on the surrounding society and the interplay between characters. This sub-category of the original Historical sub-genre became popular enough to warrant its own separate category.

Romantic Suspense
Romance containing an element of mystery and intrigue. Sub-categories include: Espionage, Forensics, Homocide, drug-dealing, smugglers. Generally contain a more dramatic tone and are most frequently set in a contemporary setting.

Time-travel romance
Romance tales set across two different time periods, with one or more characters "time-traveling" between both.

Western Romance
Often categorized under 'Historical' romance, these tales are of romances set in the American 'old west'.

Copyright Lee Masterson. All rights reserved.

With thanks to:
Romance Writers of America -
All Romance Writers -


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