Saturday, May 23, 2015

Has Romance Changed?

This month's round robin topic is about romance novels and how we as readers perceive the changes happening, which, for me, is a lot. During the last decade or more, romance novels have changed, perhaps longer, really, or since the turn of the century. Before then, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance titles had been around for a long time, but they had well-defined plot and character requirements and publishers didn't accept new works that broke those rules.

I'd like to say women's empowerment made the difference in romance novels, but that has been happening since the 70s and through the 80s and 90s contemporary romantic female protagonists, unless widows, were largely virgins, and their occupations were traditional: secretaries, teachers, or nurses. Today's woman protagonist can be leading scientists, CEOs, doctors, pilots, military officers, private investigators or police investigators, truck drivers, madams; you name it.

I think one of the biggest influences was the emergence of e-books, although romance elements have always been present in other genres. One well-known male author I read back in the 90s said all novels contain a hint of romance since most stories involve at least two characters of the opposite sex. Now, it's even with the same sex. Still, the romance genre held that the romantic relationship was the predominant element. It seems many print publishers failed to notice changing reader interests, which for several years made e-books the only growing market in publishing. Cross-genre plot lines (take the genres of romance, erotica, historical, mystery, horror, western, suspense, fantasy, and science fiction, and mix two or three together in one story and you have another genre) stories that would not be accepted by the print publishers found homes with on-line publishers, and then found audiences.

During the last decade sex scenes as well as women's occupations have changed in romance novels. In today's novels, even those not labeled erotic, most contain very explicit sex. Women, the majority of romance readers, are people who enjoy sex; although, they still seem to search for the one-and-only man, which considering divorce and breakup rates might be a mythical concept. The HEA (happy ever after) plot is also changing to include happy for now.

One new event is the emergence of the 'new adult' genre, supposedly for the out of high school and early twenties reading audiences, although some male protagonists have been in the early thirty's. These stories usually contain very explicit sex scenes. I do have a problem with the 'new adult' moniker being so close to young adults, which is for preteen and early teen readers. I think uninformed purchasers could easily buy new adult for the younger crowd, which could create problems.

I'm also interested in how new sex orientations will affect future romances. We already have gay romances. Will we also have asexual, demisexual, and transgender novels? I think so. Everything changes and to stay interesting, traditional plot and genres need to reflect changes in society.

Check out more opinions on this topic. Visit the following pages:
Beverley Bateman
Fiona McGier
Connie Vines
Skye Taylor 
Margaret Fieland
Helena Fairfax 
Anne Stenhouse 
Marci Baun 
Diane Bator
Rachael Kosinski


  1. Hi Rhobin, thanks for this month's topic. It's sometimes good to stop and take stock. Everything as you say, changes and now and again we need to acknowledge. Anne Stenhouse (sweet-ish, regency-ish, but with villain)

  2. Robin, interesting topic, and great post as usual. Today's romance readers have more choices than ever before, and the advent of ebooks make them super-easy to acquire.

  3. Thanks for picking a very interesting topic this month. I enjoyed your post, particularly the points about cross-genre plots and new adult. I'd forgotten about that one. I admit I've never read one.
    As a group I think we've made some excellent and vary diversified points.

  4. Thanks for the interesting Blog topic. As I prepared my post I began to realize that one of the aspects of my first book love - Heidi by Joanna Spyri - was the developing relationship between Heidi and Peter that culminated in marriage by the second sequel. I also began to see that the authors I most love in other genres, suspense, adventure, military etc, all include hints of romance. Interesting topic, interesting insights.

  5. Thanks, everyone for participating. I enjoy reading the various views and opinions on the topics.

  6. This was really interesting, especially because I'm not really knowledgeable about this genre. I thought New Adult and Young Adult were almost the same thing! You're right, too--we probably will have more books on varying orientations soon; it's something that'll open up story variations, at the very least. :)

  7. Great topic this month! I've enjoyed reading everyone's take, and I really enjoyed writing my contribution. Ebooks and self-publishing have created a huge supply of books, some well-written, some not-so-much. The hardest part for readers is finding the good books. The hardest part for writers is getting noticed. But there are books out there that suit everyone's taste. Viva la difference!