Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor


The Many Faces of Romance

By Mary Winter
© 2005,
Mary Winter

When most people think of romance novels an image of the traditional clinch cover, where the hero sweeps the half-dressed heroine off her feet, comes to mind.  After all, for most people those covers embody the romance genre.  However, looking past the packaging, romance novels come in a wide variety of tastes.  From inspirational romances where the focus is on God and family, to erotic romances and everything in between, love can now be found in more places than ever before.   

In the past romance was broken down into only a few categories, contemporary, historical, and maybe paranormal.  However, as reader’s interests have changed these groups have diversified into the many subgenres we have today.  Let’s take a look at them. 

Chick-Lit Romance 

In recent years Chick-Lit romance has blossomed.  These sharp, sassy books about twenty-somethings in a modern, urban environment are the kind of hip romances young women today seek.  Spawned in part by the success of Sex and the City, Chick-Lit romance has even created new genres within itself such as Mom-Lot, covering young mothers, and Lad-Lit, covering hip young men on the search for love.   

Fantasy Romance 

Arwen and Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings.  Talia and Dirk from Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows of the Queen.  Fantasy romance takes a couple and places them in a rich fantasy world.  The problems they face are not those of modern-day life.  Instead, magic is real and a heroine can find a knight in shining armor.  With its Luna line, Silhouette has brought fantasy romances back with a vengeance.   

Futuristic Romance 

If you enjoy Catherine Asaro’s science fiction novels, then you enjoy futuristic romances.  These sweeping romances feature a strong hero and heroine in a far away galaxy or Earth, a few decades or centuries from now.  Probably the most recognizable futuristic romance is Han Solo and Princess Leia.  Just like the fantasy romance, think well-written, strong science fiction with a good dose of romance 

Historical Romance 

A staple of the romance market, historical romances have been around a long time.  Traditionally these romances are set before 1900 and four main categories are regency romances (set during the regency period in England), westerns (American West), Civil War era, or medieval.

Sales of historical romances have been sluggish in the last few years, but there are signs that this market is starting to gain momentum. 

Inspirational Romance 

Inspirational romances are Christian-focused books.  These books feature religious heroes and heroines and adhere to the doctrines of their religions.  Frequently a belief in God plays a strong role in these books.  Harlequin’s Steeple Hill lines fall under this category, as does many romances published by Christian publishers like Bethany house or Deseret Press. 

Military Romance 

Lindsay McKenna is considered the “mother” of military romance.  These romances take our men and women in uniform and tell not only their stories, but also the stories of the individuals who fall in love with them.  These romances aren’t limited to current times, and can also feature either World War or Vietnam.   

Paranormal Romance 

When things go bump in the night and two people fall in love finding out the truth about it, it’s a paranormal romance.  Paranormal romances deal with “otherworldly” elements such as ghosts, witches, or even psychic powers.  They can also deal with fairies, or other creatures not covered by the “vampire” or “shape shifter” labels.  With the popularity of paranormal shows and movies, these books are gaining in popularity. 

Romantic Suspense 

Murder.  Espionage.  Missing Persons.  If you can find it in the news, it’ll be in a romantic suspense novel.  These novels tend to be evenly plotted between the romance and the mystery.  Harlequin has their Harlequin Intrigue line, and Silhouette publishes their “Bombshell” books, which feature powerful heroines in dangerous jobs.  Romantic suspense novels appeal to both the romance reader and the mystery fan.   

Shape shifter Romance 

Werewolves.  What’s more dangerous than a man who is both wolf and man?  The majority of shape shifter romances feature werewolves, but they also can feature those who shift into a cat-form as well.  Basically any form of changing shape would fall under the heading of “shape shifter romance.”  In many books it’s the hero who has this ability, but we’re also seeing books about heroines with the shape changing ability as well.   

Vampire Romance 

Whether they follow the traditional Bella Lougosi model or eat cheeseburgers and venture out in the daytime, if it’s a vampire and it falls in love, then it’s a vampire romance.  In movies and television vampires have been romanticized.  Whether it’s Buffy in love with Angel, or Buffy in love with Spike, we see images of loving vampires in many modern television shows.  This carries over into books as well.   

With at least ten different sub-genres of romance from which to choose, it’s a veritable smorgasbord for both reader and writer.  Whether you want a Wild West cowboy, an alien from outer space, a vampire, a werewolf, or even just the guy next door, there is a romance novel for everyone.  Why don’t you discover the many faces of romance today?