Maybe you are a seasoned romance reader, but maybe you are just starting to get your feet wet as this genre, like many others, evolves. Either way, it’s always good to get some recommendations, some background information, and a few things to look for when choosing romance for yourself. I’m one of the hosts of Pop Culture Happy Hour, and we were delighted to team up with Life Kit for a beginner’s guide to romances.
Not all love stories are romances
Yes, it seems pretty clear what a romance novel is. And to a certain extent, it is. But not all love stories are romance for genre fans.
A definition of Romance Writers of America says you need a core love story and what they call “an emotionally satisfying, upbeat ending.” In other words, if the whole relationship falls apart, it can be a great book. It can be a fantastic book. But this is not a romance novel as this term is generally understood by writers and readers. A romance should never end in a perfect resolution. But there is supposed to be an emotional reward for the people in the relationship that rewards their persistence.
Romance is a huge industry
The thing about romance is… it’s huge. Romance novels make a lot of money, novel readers keep publishing afloat, and romance was the focus of early experiments with e-readers and self-publishing.
And as the industry continued to grow, it began to work to make room for a wider range of characters. Characters of color, characters who aren’t neurotypical, queer characters, and characters with a variety of body types are just a few of the romance protagonists you’re more likely to see in high-profile books. now that barely ten years ago.
Romantic writing is changing
One thing to be aware of is that as romance evolves it moves further and further away from some of the clichés about it, sex scenes that incorporate coercion or worse, heroes who are exclusively gods. shirtless. Romance is written and read by all kinds of people with all kinds of preferences. Writers of love stories experience moments in time, types of relationships, levels of sexual explicitation, and more, so you shouldn’t assume that they will all have much in common, either. except for this central love affair and this satisfying ending.
Okay, so spit out those recommendations!
I spoke to three panelists with very different perspectives on the genre. Karen grigsby bates is the senior correspondent for NPR’s Code Switch podcast and didn’t even consider herself a romance reader until relatively recently. Christina tucker is a frequent guest of Pop Culture Happy Hour and a host of the Unfriendly Black Hotties podcast. We also had a novelist Adriana herrera with us to speak from a creator’s point of view. Listen to the episode at the top of this page or here.
Christine’s choice: Written in the stars by Alexandrie Bellefleur.
This story of a social media astrologer and actuary falls into both the burgeoning category of queer romance and the popular category of the ‘fake relationship’, in which a couple pretend to love each other until he ends up loving himself.
Adriana’s choice: Bastards with bare hands Sarah MacLean series.
It’s definitely worth exploring a series when you find an author you like; a lot of romance writers have them. This particular series of historical romances follows three brothers who each find love; other series follow groups of friends, small towns or even sports teams.
Karen’s choice: The kiss quotient by Hélène Hoang.
The kiss quotient made a big impression on readers a few years ago. It’s a sexy version of the fake relationship you might call “I just hired you!” – in this case, the heroine Stella hires a man named Michael, who is an escort, as a romantic training partner. Hoang and his character Stella have been diagnosed with autism, and the book is both a charming love story and an interesting exploration of some hypotheses about how emotions work in romance.
My bonus choice: I recommend Casey mcquiston Red, White and Royal Blue to so many people. A love story between the son of an American president and a British prince is one of my recent favorites. McQuiston also has a new book titled One last stop, which adds a touch of sci-fi, and it’s worth your time as well.
This episode was produced by Candice Lim and edited by Meghan Keane and Jessica Reedy.
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