From Chivalry to Sass

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.

Yum. Yum. Yummy. And he's single!

Hot. Hot. Hottie. He's married but still drool-worthy.


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?


12 thoughts on “From Chivalry to Sass

  1. Favorite author Danielle Steel. I have loved her books since high school and as you know, that was a long time ago.


  2. Nora Roberts Circle trilogy was my first dance with romance novels. I haven’t left the dance floor since. I love them all, and I mean all. If its a heartwarming story about how two people end up together I’m there. When I write I tend to lean towards paranormal, magic especially. I don’t know why because I am a firm believer that love in itself is its own magic. 🙂 Great post!


    • Thanks! I love all romance novels too, but I particularly love Nora Roberts. I may own almost every one of her books. I don’t when I first fell in love with romance novels but I know it was before she broke out of category romance. Of course, I’ve got a few years on you so I had a head start. 🙂

      There’s just something about a story of two people ending up together that touches my heart and gives me hope. I believe love comes from hope.


    • Oh. My. God! That was fabulous!! I was crying I was laughing so hard! (BTW, be sure to use the word “fabulous” a lot while you’re pedaling through Chicago tomorrow…in my 5 years here, it seems to be an indigenous term, much like “like, you know” for the Valley Girls. I’d hate for you to appear a tourist 🙂

      When you retire from pedaling across the country, do take up romance novel writing. Seriously. You have a talent for writing a HOT story! LOL!


  3. Um, I had a comment all thought out, and then curiosity got the better of me and I clicked TheIdiot’s link. Chestworthy? Great name! It was funny indeed, and now, I can’t get the image of the flaming kitty out of my head. Argh!

    Oh yeah, I think I was going to tell you one of my favorite romance authors is Julie Garwood, but my favorite genre is mystery – I’ve read nearly all of Mary Higgins Clark’s novels.

    I just read a pretty good Nora Roberts one a few weeks ago – “Tribute”


    • I’m not surprised The Idiot’s story made you laugh. I’m still chuckling and it’s been a good 8 hours since I read it. I keep looking at my cat and seeing the flaming kitty from the story. Poor Oreo. 🙂

      I like Julie Garwood also. Her books are a fun read. I’ve read a few Mary Higgins Clark novels and have enjoyed them as well. I definitely lean towards romance for favorite genre, but like a good mystery to keep me on my toes.


      Sent from my iPad


  4. Loved this! I love romance novels with a strong, independent female. I tend to lean toward the chick-lit as well, because of this, although Nora Roberts is still amazing. 🙂
    (and thanks for the yummny pictures. Mmmm…Bradley Cooper!)


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