Jane Austen? ~ Here.
Jennifer Crusie? ~ Here.
Jayne Ann Krentz? ~ Here.
Nora Roberts? ~ Here.
Richardson? Samuel Richardson? ~ Here.
Bueller? Bueller? Bueller???
Oh. Wait. No. Wrong genre. 🙂
Have you ever wondered about the history of the romance novel genre? I did, so I Googled it and learned a few things I thought I’d share.
Before I get into that, I should explain my interest.
I write romance. Contemporary, chick-lit romance, but still…romance.
I love the spell a good romance novel casts. There’s such hope in the well-told tale of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl end up happily ever after.
Daily living frequently lacks romance. Escape into a story of love and hope, challenge and conflict provides a welcome respite from the drudgery of chores, errands, and obligations. Imagining a Bradley Cooper or Hugh Jackman look-alike knocking on your door has its perks, too.
Ahem. Yes. Back to history.
Romance as a genre began as performance ballads. The hero slayed dragons and embarked on epic adventures to win the heroine’s hand. Think Lancelot and Guinevere. If that leads to thoughts of Monty Python’s Holy Grail…
*It’s only a flesh wound!*
…feel free to indulge. 🙂
Shakespeare wrote tragedies and dramas, but he also wrote several romantic plays. Pericles, The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, and Romeo & Juliet all centered on romance with a strong chivalric bent. None of these ended in happily-ever-after, but the romantic notion of the hero conquering great obstacles to win his lady’s affections still causes hearts to palpitate today.
According to Wikipedia, one of the first romance novels was written by Samuel Richardson in 1740. Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded focused almost entirely on the courtship, did so from the heroine’s point of view, and was the first to end with the lovestruck pair on a path paved with unconditional love.
In the next century, Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, often considered the epitome of the genre. Austen inspired Georgette Heyer, who introduced historical romances in 1921. A mere decade later, the category romance was mass-marketed by Harlequin and the genre took off. Historical, contemporary, inspirational, paranormal, fantasy, chick-lit…all sub-genres of the romance novel…continue to sell well even in tough economic times.
Most romance novels, but particularly the contemporary and chick-lit sub-genres tend to feature heroines with sass and independence. These women can stand on their own two feet. They may have been married before. They might have children. They might be fresh out of college and determined to make their own way, no man required. These heroines aren’t the type to swoon when a man opens a door for her or lays his coat across a mud puddle (yikes! The dry cleaning bill!). Instead, these girls appreciate a man who treats them like a partner. And isn’t a partnership what we’re looking in a mate?
Often considered a guilty pleasure, the romance novel inspires hope. It offers escape. It paints a picture of love conquering all.
Love conquering all may not be reality but, no matter how old we get, it’s fun to play pretend between the covers of a romance novel.
Who’s your favorite romance author? What’s your favorite genre — thriller, romance, sci-fi, mystery?