Get Started with Romance!

There's something purely visceral about being able to read countless stories of people falling in love, no matter their life story, no matter what their past or future might look like (unless they're evil. Evil people don't make good romance protagonists). Romance covers people of all walks of life, all jobs, all universes, all marginalizations. Because love can be a universal thing. Even then, even if you don't feel romantic love, you can still be the protagonist in a love story, and the love stories of others can still have great value. (Also, regarding the "no evil people in romance" can be a villain and not evil.) (But we'll talk about that some other time.)

First thing’s first: there is a difference between a love story and a Romance Genre romance novel. You can call something romantic, but it doesn’t make it a romance. A romance novel has two basic and essential elements:

A Central Love Story 

The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as they want as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending 

This is also called an HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happy for now). The lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from very non-explicit to extremely spicy. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction.

Also to be noted: Sex is not a requirement for a book to be considered a romance. Not only are there people who don't feel sexual attraction, but can still fall in love, the sexual relationship isn't always at the center of the love experience...and sometimes it is, but the characters close the door on the reader, allowing us to pick up the story afterwards. 

Since romance can be set in any time, place, or situation, though, there are a number of subgenres that exist. Here are some lists that can help you get started:

Contemporary Romance

These novels are set in the here and now, and often involve twenty- and thirty- (and older!) somethings dealing with extenuating circumstances while also looking for love (or trying to keep the one they have). They can range from sweet and low-conflict to super angsty. Common tropes include workplace relationships, fish-out-of-water stories, and famous flings.

List created by PimaLib_RavenousReaders

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Romantic Comedy

Technically, this is a sub-trope of the contemporary subgenre, but it’s becoming more and more important to distinguish them. Not all contemporaries are romcoms, but most romcoms are contemporaries. The situations are not always more ridiculous, but the execution makes even the most stressful situations funny. 

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Romantic Suspense

Romantic Suspense, like romcoms, are often contemporary novels. There is an element these books. There’s often someone who is on the run or in hiding or just has a secret, and often times there’s someone assigned to protect them, or help them discover the truth. There is a lot of range to this subgenre.

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The vast majority of historical romance, thanks to Romance Icon and OG Georgette Heyer and Our Lady of The Romantics, proto-romance novelist Jane Austen, are set during the English Regency period, which is the short 30 years between the death of George III and the reign of Queen Victoria. There are a lot of dukes; far more than have ever existed in British history. But there are also historical romances set at different times: primarily Medieval and the height of the American West and Reconstruction, though there are more popping up in different periods as well.

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Paranormal romance covers a great deal of ground, but can most prominently be said to cover creatures of the night. Does it have vampires? Paranormal. Are there people who can shift into animals? Paranormal. Ghosts? Paranormal. Angels? Same. There is a fine line between paranormal romance and urban fantasy; mostly, the former involves one couple or group finding love in each installation of the series under a shared universe, whereas urban fantasy follows a single character or group throughout the series.

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While romantic fantasy has existed for a long time, romantasy is the newest portmanteau term for a novel with a complete romantic arc with a fantasy or fantastical setting. This can be high fantasy, in which the world is someplace different from our own, or low fantasy, in which fantastical people and elements reside here on earth. The key thing that makes it different from fantasy with romantic elements is that romantic arc, complete with a Happily Ever After or Happy For Now. 

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There are romances essentially about everyone and everything, including cowboys past and present, dystopias, sci-fi, and Steampunk. There are also what can be more considered denotations, like inspirational romance and—yes, they still exist—Amish romances. There are Amish suspense and historical romances, and multicultural and LGBTQ+ romances in every category. It’s basically the equal-opportunity genre. 

Want to know more? Here are some great links:

NoveList will help you find books you like and tell you about genres and trends. 

Similarly, Books and Authors can help you find the perfect romance novel. 

Do you like series? You need Fantastic Fiction

Want to read more? Start here:

More Romance at the Library

Romance on OverDrive

Romance Book Cloud

So dive in! The water’s fine!