I started reading romance when I was 12 or 13 years old. I was an avid reader prior to (and after) that and a regular library patron, and when I found the romance paperback section it was a whole new world that opened for me. The young adult books that I had read before – I was always drawn to any books that included a romance sub-plot or a love story. Finding out there were books based entirely around the romance piece was eye opening. I’ve read a lot of different types of fiction over the years, both before and after I discovered romance. But I am drawn back to romance novels time and time again because I love that the novels always have a happy ending, and that they’re always bringing a message of hope for those that are searching for true love. The stories, even though they’re not always realistic, give readers examples of true love and happiness. I think they also have some great lessons hidden in their plots – your partner should always treat you with kindness and respect being the foremost, but there are so many others that delve into other types relationships as part of their sub-plots, including familial relationships and friendships.
Romance is one of the highest-selling genres in the book industry, with sales consistently exceeding $1billion per year. It’s evident from the sales that romance novels are a wide-spread phenomenon that appeals to many groups of people. Even with that though, there is a stigma attached to the genre that has it labeled as “trashy”, “smut”, or “garbage.” There’s an assumption by many other readers that anyone who enjoys the romance genre is a “lesser-class” of reader. But I have found through my experience over the last few years that romance readers are some of the best community of people. They’re so supportive of new authors, of other readers, and of the overall fan base. And they are all such avid readers! These romance novels get devoured by readers, and they’re still always looking for the next great read. And the demand has started to make it’s way onto the big screen, with productions like The Bridgertons being such a huge success, as well as the increase in productions on upcoming releases, like The Hating Game and The Kiss Quotient.
Over the years I’ve read many romance novels across all different types of genres, and while there are some I like more than others, I like that the romance genre has something for everyone in the different types of novels that are produced. Even as a person changes through their different life stages and goes through different phases over time, there are so many choices that the romance genre can grow and change with the reader. So I thought for this month I’d do a feature post about the different genres and tropes and everything romance! I’ve been looking for a good poster that really illustrates the different branches of the romance tree. I haven’t found a good example yet, though there are some good resources online to learn more about the different genres.
To start with – romance is really a wide-spread genre that covers many different age groups and interests. Just like any other genre there are many different topics that can be covered and different fan groups to be a part of. Below is a picture of different genres under the general fiction umbrella, including the romance genre and examples of some of the subgenres:
Harlequin has some great guides of the subgenres with lots of examples of reads that you can pick up should there be a particular interest that catches your eye. RWA also has a great listing which would be a handy reference for those looking for additional information on both subgenres and some stats on the romance genre as a whole.
Romance as a genre appeals to multiple age groups, people are drawn to love stories no matter what their age is. The main age groups that books can fall into with romance included would be young adult, new age, and adult. New Age is a newer subgenre that has gained in popularity in the last few years I think that really focuses on adults in more of a college age group. Young adult usually is around 15 to 18 or 19, I’d say New Age is around 19 to 24ish, and then everything over that really is the adult group.
Beyond age groups, there are many subgenres of topics. Some tend to fall into a timeline in terms of years. I’ll get into some of the subgenres and even some specific tropes. There’s another romance blog that did a post on this topic also – All the Kissing did a post on the 7 Different Types of Romance Subgenres. They did a great summary so I’d recommend reading their post also if you’re interested in the topic. Beyond the types of subgenres too there’s stand alone novels and then there’s category romances. Harlequin is always the first thing I think of when it comes to category romance as they have different title series including Desire, Inspiration, Intrigue, etc that give the reader exactly what they’re looking for.
The subgenres that I consider to be the main ones are Contemporary, Historical, Erotic, Religious/Inspirational, Romantic Suspense, and Paranormal. These are fairly general labels for subgenres and really are somewhat subjective. As an example, I’ve heard many times on the Fated Mates podcast a discussion around whether or not Priest by Sierra Simone is really an inspirational novel because of the role that God plays in the book. There’s not necessary one right answer – some love the book and could agree with the assessment that it’s an inspirational novel, some really don’t like the novel and call it blasphemy. But the point is – there’s something for everyone! There are more beyond this too – either with less popular subgenres or kind of hybrids: chick-lit and gothic being two that I can think of.
I’ve included a list below with the 4 main subgenres that I tend to read and what I think are some great recommendation / examples for each:
- Contemporary Romance: Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey
- Historical Romance: The Princess and the Rogue by Kate Bateman
- Romantic Suspense: Thick as Thieves by Sandra Brown
- Paranormal Romance: Entire Immortals After Dark series
Under these subgenres there even more layers, some having more defined sublayers than others. Historical romance for example, has multiple subgenres for different time periods – Regency during 1811-1820(ish), Gilded Age, Vikings/early Middle Ages, etc. Paranormal romance can delve into different subtopics: aliens, vampire, time travel, ghosts, etc. Inspirational separates into some of the different religious sects. I’ve found that with contemporary romance there aren’t necessarily too many sublayers, but within this subgenre there are many different tropes that can be featured.
Beyond the subgenres and their multiple subtopics beyond that, there’s also different tropes. Tropes can present themselves in any of the genres, although some are more popular in certain niches than others. Some examples include: forced proximity, arranged marriages, enemies to lovers, secret baby, kidnapping, first love, forbidden love, military, damsel in distress, brooding hero, and so so many more. This article has a list of over 100 romance tropes and I’m sure they haven’t even covered everything that’s out there.
And that’s some information for my readers out there on the romance genre! I’d love to be able to find an aesthetically pleasing poster that focuses on the Romance fiction genre as a whole, mapping out all the subgenres and the branches under the romance umbrella. I haven’t found one yet but if anyone knows of a good one, please let me know!
Happy reading everyone!!