Romance Novels - How Many Subgenres?

I volunteer at my local library. People donate books and then I stamp them with a stamp that says, “Adopt A Book” with the library logo. I then put these books out on the “giveaway” shelves. I only look at the cover and sometimes read the inside cover description (I stamped a 48 foot tall stack of novels today. If I looked any deeper I’d still be there.)

Many of the donated books are “romance novels”. Some of them are the old “classic” Harlequins and Danielle Steele’s but there are many newer ones from romance novel publishers. There seems to be a number of “sub-genre’s” among the newer books. These “subgenres” sometimes have a name or seem to be directed at a specific audience. Some of these sub-genres are:

He’s a tycoon.
He’s my boss
Geographically based novels -
There is a series that has a novel for every state.
There is a “Montana” series set in “Whitehorn”, Montana that has at least 15 novels.
I’m pregnant with no husband but there is this guy.
I’m divorced with children but there is this guy.
The Harlequin “Temptation Heat” novels - these are sexually graphic. Not “Dear Penthouse” graphic but if I posted a “heat” passage I would definitely get in trouble from a moderater. (If I ever see a woman reading one of these I WILL introduce myself to her immediately.)

Are there other sub-genre’s I don’t know about?

whistlepig, who asks that you refrain from making up sub-genre’s. I’d probably believe you.

Don’t forget the time travel romances. Many fans read these exclusively, and shun the more traditional romance novels.

Hey a fellow library worker!

I don’t shelve anymore, so I feel a little disconnected from the books at times but you missed:

He’s a cowboy
He’s an Arab prince
He’s an undercover agent
He’s a widowed father

And that’s just off the top of my head. More later.

Regency romances (only one I have a weakness for).

Could you explain a little more? Is “Regency” a publisher or ?


Regency is a description of the time period. I’ve read a few of those, but I went to google to find a description of the time period:

That description seems to fit with the ones that I’ve read, as does:

Specifically in the historical fiction there’s the Native American subgenre (with it’s standard plots).

Yup, England in the first couple of decades of the 19th century – rakish lords, young ladies (headstrong and beautiful) being received at Almack’s, the gaming hells, the afternoon rides on Rotten Row… sigh

ok, first off, you should distinguish between “sub-genres” within the Romance category, and “series” or “lines” put out by individual publishers. Series romance is a planned series of books joined by – you guessed it – a shared and typically strangely specific theme, is published exclusively in paperback, and has a limited print run (sometimes as little as 1 month). Examples would be the “50-states in the Union” ones, the “She’s a super-spy/Alias” ones, “we all grew up in a certain place” ones, “we were all in an experiment that gave us strange and wonderful powers” ones, etc. (Harlequin/Silhouette is the dominant publisher of series romance). For an idea of the sheer volume, check out this link:
Sub-genres cross every publisher and are recognized throughout the entire Romance industry. Novels range in quality and cost from top-shelf original hardcovers to 2.99 paperbacks

There are 3 major sub-genres, each with some offshoots: Historical, Contemporary, and SF/Fantasy/Timetravel. Major publishers include Ballantine, Kensington, Harper Avon & Harper Torch, Berkeley, and NAL.

Historicals are always set in a historical period and there are subjects such as Regency (already mentioned), Western, Scottish, Medieval, and plain ol’ “historical,” 99% of which are set in England. Dorothy Garlock, by way of an exception, usually sets hers during the American Depression. They best authors are very, very well researched with regard to their chosen time period.

Within contemporary – which are set in the here and now – you find “basic contemporary,” satire/humorous romance, erotic romance (the very naughty ones), African-American and Latina romance (they only very rarely appear as historicals), mystery-romance (early Stephanie Plum novels fit this category), and “chick-lit” which is barely romance at all but does have some romantic themes (but is shelved in Fiction… oy!).

Time-travel and SF/F romance is a smaller but growing genre that is nevertheless distinct from the other two. The Original Time-travel Romance is “Outlander” and its sequels by Diane Gabaldon.

A little history for the ignant among you. Kathleen E. Woodiwiss single-handedly invented the modern Historical Romance with her novel “The Flame and the Flower,” the orignial bodice-ripper. Read my interview:

If you’ve wondered why ever so many romance novels have (or used to have anyway – puns are popular nowadays) the title scheme “The Noun and the Other Noun,” its because Woodiwiss done it first. Kind of like why Fantasy authors like to write trilogies.

About my qualifications: I used to be the Content Editor for Waldenbooks and Borders Romance e-newsletters and in-store publications.

sorry to tell you they are discontinuing the temptation line. look for the women who read the blaze line. those are quite something.

Blaze, Schmaze. You want your ladies to read Brava, an imprint of Kensington. Formed by a pair of editors who were in the bookstore and wondered: how do I know which ones are really smutty? Their answer: form a new imprint, all of which will be extremely smutty. They also have really good, non-suggestive cover art.
See some at:

Brava are usually published in trade paperback and cost about $14. Lesson learned: women will pay more for guaranteed smut with a classy cover. :slight_smile:

Oh, hell yes, baby. The new Diana Gabaldon book in the Outlander series is coming out Sept 27, and that date is circled on my calendar.

The smutty line has a non-smutty name: romantica (romance + erotica).

See the works of Emma Holly, particularly “Velvet Glove”

Supernatural romances are also quite popular. Recently, the Romance Writers of America tried to impose standards on the sites they could link to, and one of the categories was bestiality. When I asked where that came from, I was informed that there are werewolf novels in which the hero and heroine get together while the hero is in wolf form. I guess they’re doing it doggy-style.

I, too, have a weakness for **Regency **.

Which usually go like this:

She is impoverished, gently reared. She’s a blue stocking or Original. He is Incredibly Rich and either a Pariah , Rake or The Man to Know. ( and probably an agent for the government.) They meet at a ball, he’s intrigued; she’s disgusted at his conquests. Some kind of very retarded plotline mystery brings them together that they either pose as dating/engaged or they keep running into each other and naturally after bickering, have Twue Wuv’s Fiwst Kiss and lots of wardrobe changes. She wears new frocks that compliment her eyes and he always always has the snowiest white shirts and perfect cravats. Either they marry because she is now compromised and he has to do the Noble thing or she is saving his butt from some other form of hellacious wedding with a True Bitch. He cannot live with out her. She’s loved him since page 2 and can now support the home of Orphans and whatnot. Money Galore! Everyone’s happy.

No sex to gumble Regencies up with.

The reason this time period is so popular is that the King was legally insane, so his son, The Prince of Wales, was running the country while there was the tiny problem of Napolean running amok and causing havoc in Europe. The Prince liked the parties. The wealthy did not have to go to war, but if they did, they bought their commissions and became officers. But it was the poor that fought the war. Also, even though duelling was outlawed, it was still secretly ( or not so) done during this time period. Nothing is as sexy as a man so bullheaded as to fight for a woman’s honor that she never fought to hard for herself. :smiley:
Another writer in the Fantasy/Time Travel/Sci-fi that shouldn’t be missed: Dara Joy. Her stuff is hot and well written. ( though because of a lawsuit with her publisher, she’s had to self publish her last book ( which even she admitted needed a good once over or three before letting it out - her dad was sick and then I think died during the writing of it - and another one is due in July. The cover art she has done is less than the usual eye candy. The current guy she drawn/painted up looks like redneck trash from Sci-fi land. Yuck.)

Really? Wow… I haven’t seen those. The ones I’ve read, the werewolf always turns back to human form before sex (or during foreplay).

There are about as many sub-genre’s of romance as there are novels. There’s mystery, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, time travel… I usually avoid the modern ones though the odd one will catch my eye. I’m even finding lately that they aren’t even put under the Romance section. I’ll pick up a book because I think I might enjoy it and find that it’s a romance when I thought it was scifi.

I have a weakness for creatures of the night type stories, for a bit I was hooked on Christine Feehan but I’ve switched to Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series. I have the 28th circled on my calendar to go pick up the newest one, and enjoy reading her… er, Acheron’s Livejournal. (It makes more sense after you read the books. Honest!)

Or if it’s packaged as “empowering” gender-ethnic fiction, e.g. the author known as “Zane”.

And from the titles in the first few pages of that link, it looks like Brava are capitalizing big-time on the “women want Bad Boys” mythos :stuck_out_tongue: Then again what romance imprint doesn’t have the heroine waste the first half of the novel dallying with the Cad(s) before finding True Love in the arms (or other bodily extremities) of the Hero…

Psst, twickster and Shirley.

My sister is a passionate reader of Regencies who decided to trim her library by dumping most of her books on me before she left the state. I’d be happy to send some to anyone interested.

Hello Again – cool job! I note the past tense – hope it was an amicable parting of the ways.

Shirley – if you want a regency with some hot sex, check out Amanda Quick – pseudonym of Jayne Anne Krentz, the only romance writer I read regularly. Fun plots, good sense of humor, a couple of good sex scenes per book.

jsgoddess – that would be really cool! I’d be happy to send you some money to cover the postage. My email is in my profile.

Through no direct fault of the job itself, it became a little stupid (I was also doing SF/F for both Borders and Waldenbooks, and nonfiction for Borders… kind of a lot to handle every month if you ask me, which they didn’t, so I quit.). Now I work on a horse farm and spend my free time working through the 19 boxes of reviewers copies I saved up over the years. :slight_smile:

Jayne Ann Krentz, aside from being a good writer and one of the great champions of the Romance genre and its authors, is also a very cool person. After I did an interview with her, she sent me a handwritten thank you card! Which I treasure to this day.

You know, in my earlier post I gave props to Kathleen Woodiwiss as the founder of the modern Historical, but forgot to pour some out for my homegirl, Georgette Heyer. She is the mother of the (mostly sex-free) classic Regency romance as described by *Shirley Ujest.

I was amazed, amuses, and appalled to discover that there appears to be a market for geek-love novels. Don’t know if that qualifies as a sub-genre, as they all appear to be by the same author; but then again I didn’t investigate any further.

Hello Again said much better what I was going to say about the distinguishing between sub-genre and series.

More and more I’m seeing “inspirational” romances. Generally marketed to Christain women - there is no sex. Unless the couple is married. And even then, it happens off stage.

There’s also never sex in Regency, but at least the clothing is cool.