According to the Romance Writers of America, “Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”

A central love story means that, regardless of what other sub-plots might be going on in the book, the central plot arch must focus on two people falling in love and trying to make a relationship work out.

An emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending means that the ending makes the reader feel good. Romance novels create a world based on “the idea of an innate emotional justice.” Good people are rewarded, evil ones punished, and people who take risks for love are rewarded with true love.

There are two major formats for romance novels: series or “category” romances and single-title romances. Published primarily by Harlequin/Silhouette, series romances are shorter romances that are released in order and by month, with a series number on each title. The rest, the single title romances, are longer and are published individually.

Once these two criterion are met, romance novels come in various sub-genres based on individual plot distinctions. Major sub-genres are:

Some statistics:
  • Romance fiction comprises 18% of all adult books sold
  • Romance fiction comprises 58.2% of all popular paperback fiction sold
  • There were 2,218 romances released in 1999
  • Romance generated $1.35 billion in sales in 1999
  • 9% of romance readers are men
  • One in every three women has read a romance in the past year, one in every 30 men has read a romance in the past year
Desirable character traits in romance characters (as ranked by readers):

For heroines:

  1. Intelligent
  2. Beautiful
  3. Strong, determined
For heroes:
  1. Handsome, attractive
  2. Kind and compassionate
  3. Intelligent
For more information, check out the Romance Writers of America's website

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