Monday, May 3, 2010

It's Just a Romance Novel by Victoria Howard

Well, yes and no. It all depends on whether you read category or single title romance.

Confused? Then you’re not alone.

Category or, as it’s known in the United States, ‘series romance,’ are books that are released in order and by month. Each category has a distinct identity, which is based on the level of sexuality, the degree to which the story is realistic, and the type of characters and settings. They may be part of the Harlequin Historical, Presents, Tender, Blaze, or Contemporary series or Mills and Boon Nocturne, Medical or Intrigue series. They are written to strict guidelines with limited word counts of anything between 50,000 to 60,000 depending on the series. They have a limited shelf life, usually three months, and a number of titles are released in each series every month.

The primary focus of the category romance is the relationship between the man and the woman, and the novels must have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.

Category romances are widely regarded as clichéd, often unrealistic, poorly written, disposable stories that set out only to fulfil women’s fantasies.

Single title novels are all about the one man-one woman journey, just like category romance novels, but they have a longer word count—anything from 80,000 to 150,000 words. They also include more subplots, so the story is not just about the man and woman falling in love, more secondary characters and sex.

Despite the name, single title novels, are not always stand alone novels. Some authors prefer to write interconnected books, such as Elizabeth Lowell’s Donovan, or Rarities Unlimited series.

Single title romances remain on the bookseller’s shelf for as long as they are in demand. On average authors write and publish one single title book a year.

The definition of a romance novel is not limited by plot devices, time frame, setting, or length alone. There are many subgenres.

Contemporary novels are set after World War II.

Chick Lit has elements of romance and are about the main character, her friends and her life.

Historical novels are usually defined as being set before World War I.

Paranormal, futuristic, fantasy, science fiction, contain such things as vampires, ghosts, space travel, etc.

Regency novels are set in England in the period 1811-1820.

Romantic suspense, contain mystery and intrigue.

Erotic Romance novels contain explicit love scenes, but the hero and heroine must have an emotional connection, which is the difference between pure erotica.

Victoria Howard is the author of two romantic suspense novels, The House on the Shore, and Three Weeks Last Spring


  1. Victoria, what I find odd, maybe not odd, but funny, is how so often different publishers change it up and how that often confuses writers. Guidelines are a good thing in general, and some basic guidance fabulous. What writers should also remember is to check to see if a particular publisher or agent has their 'own standard guidelines', and to write what they write with the general standards in mind.


  2. This is more complex than I realized.


  3. Hi Victoria, You've offered a terrific explanation of the Romance genre and how varied it can be. Too many people think it's just "porn", lol. Great post.