As I mentioned in my first article about the genres in fiction writing, Genre:Horror, the first proper novel was a Romance novel written by a man in 1740, Samuel Richardson, the subject of another article I wrote.
Pamela, the very first Romance novel ever written, was about a young servant girl who is the subject of her master’s affections. She doesn’t return his advances at the first but eventually, she does. The novel is a bit controversial now because of the behavior of the master being a bit scandalous, but in the era it was written in, his actions weren’t considered wrong at all. It was a male dominated world after all.
Mr. Richardson’s contemporary, Jane Austen, was greatly influenced by his work and was moved to write her own romance novels, Sense and Sensibility being the first of her small body of work. Both she, and Mr. Richardson, were quite disapproving of the “Cult of Sensibility” as it has been called. This idea of the senses, and the emotions elicited by them, being fully explored and expressed was widely accepted in many aspects of society, not just in writing. Romantic works written in this manner were referred to as Sentimental.
Richardson and Austen both poked fun at this cultural movement in their own novels, preferring a more realistic and sensible approach to romance.
Like the Horror Genre, Romance started out as being just about romance, the wooing and pursuit of a loved one with all that this entailed, and it grew to encompass a great many subgenres as novel writing developed.
Romance – the original and eldest of the genre. It’s hard to find a book that is pure romance now, focusing only on romance and little else.
Examples: Pamela and Sense and Sensibility
Historical – Georgette Heyer wrote the first of this subgenre in 1921 , and it pays strict attention to historical detail including dress and etiquette. Harlequin Books, the most famous series of romance books, began with this subgenre in 1949.
Examples: The Black Moth and The Outlander
Regency – this is possibly a sub sub genre of Historical though many think it’s a sub genre of Romance itself. All novels take place specifically between 1795 and 1837 with no deviation.
Examples: Slightly Dangerous and Arabella
Contemporary – this encompasses novels written after the 1970s. It’s a modern, realistically written genre dealing with modern issues of dating, love and romance.
Examples: The Notebook and Something Borrowed
Erotic(NOT Erotica) – this is a subgenre that has a more sexual element to it but it’s not erotica. It leaves the chaste, young adult venue and enters into full rated X adult only novels. Sex becomes part of the plot, of the character development and of the source of tension in the story so much so, romance is more physical than emotional.
Examples: His to Possess and Master of the Opera
Paranormal/Supernatural – this genre is all about ghosts, werewolves, demons and angels and the people who love them. This is a very popular sub genre at the moment.
Examples: Danse Macabre and Twilight
Suspense – Non Paranormal/Supernatural – this sub genre blends elements of the thriller and detective novel genres to add flavor to the romance. Think innocent murder suspect falling in love with police detective trying to clear her name….. that sort of thing.
Examples: Twisted Shadows and Don’t Tell
There are a great many more but not being a great fan of the genre, I didn’t do more than cursory research into the topic. If you are a lover of Romance and want to know more, there are plenty of places to look – you could fall down a virtual rabbit hole of sub genres and sub sub genres of Romance. I wish you well on your journey.
As for me, I’ll stick to my Horror and Fantasy. I hope you enjoyed this article which is by no means definitive or all encompassing. it was just a short piece to provide information you may not have otherwise known.
See you on the flipside and don’t forget your towel and sonic screwdriver!!