Ain’t Love Grand or Why Romance Novels Repeatedly Outsell All Other Genres
There are statistics put out by the Romance Writers of America that claim that romance novels garnered $1.368 billion in sales in 2011. These novels made up 14.3% of the US market, beating out science fiction and mystery sales handily.This organization has over 9000 members, not all of whom have been published, but all of whom are working at being published. Well over 900 romance novels are published every year, now including print and electronic formats.
Why is this?Because romance novels are entertaining. They are not badly written and they are not “bodice rippers” any more. As the reading public has become more sophisticated over the years, so have the themes of the romances. As women, usually the main protagonists of these stories, have become more knowledgeable about the world and have broken into the workforce in fields formerly open only to men, the need for heroines in romances to be intelligent and self-assured has changed them.
Back in the time of the bodice ripper romance, it was up to the noble man, the pirate, the banker, the playboy, the cowboy, the cop or detective to come along and rescue the poor heroine who was in the hands of the villain. Now, with the evolved heroine, she more often than not comes to the rescue of the male protagonist.It’s all very elementary, though, this attraction to romance novels. The settings for them are often exotic or enticingly strange to the reader. Working in a law firm and handling cases where lives and/or millions of dollars are at stake is foreign to most readers. Owning a ranch and running it by herself is something few readers know firsthand, but through the characters of a novel, it can be exciting. Being a female cop or FBI agent is something so few ever achieve, but heroines in books live those fictional lives frequently.
And the research that goes into the stories is long and deep. The writers know if they make a mistake, twist a fact or make something up, some reader will catch them on it and write a nasty letter to take the author down a peg or two. It isn’t easy to write three or more books a year in order to make a living as a romance writer, but the very successful authors do just that.Basically, I believe there are two things that make romance novels so popular: The hunky heroes and the HEAs.
Hunky heroes are those cover models who are near physical perfection, usually wearing a sword, cowboy hat or low-slung jeans. His hair is long, easy to brush back off a broad forehead, or tangle with one’s fingers. His eyes have that bedroom look that women fall for and his lips are perfectly sculpted and kissable.The heroine usually has doubts about her own physical appeal, but all it takes is a look from that handsome hero and she becomes a gorgeous sexual prize. Now, how many women don’t secretly want to trade places with her? So, they read and fantasize themselves through the danger and heartaches and black moments of the story to get to the HEA.
HEA stands for Happily Ever After, which is how all romance novels must end, unless they have a HFN, which is a Happy For Now ending which usually means in the sequel, the couple will get together permanently, thus becoming the HEA we want.An offshoot of the romance genre is what is called Women’s Fiction. It is similar to a true romance in that there is a heroine and sometimes but not necessarily a hero, there may or may not be any sexual contact between them, but what has to occur is a growth in the character of the heroine. If her life has been terrible, she learns throughout the story how to become stronger on her own and defeat her own demons. If she is struck down in the beginning of the story, she rises above it through her own grit and intelligence by the end. It is her personal triumph, not her rescue from the man who ripped her bodice by the hero, which prevails and makes her story not exactly a romance.
Romance stories have been around for centuries. Any book that has a man and a woman in it has the potential to be a romance or at least a story with strong romantic elements. While 91% of all romance readers are women, 9% are men according to RWA. Personally, I think that men read books with romance in them and don’t toss them aside because of it, they just prefer to think that the violence and intrigue in what they claim to prefer overshadows the sweaty sex scenes the protagonist of their man-stories include.Whatever. Mickey Spillane managed to get his hero satisfied as did Ian Fleming. The punches and cigarettes and bourbon are substituted for the lingering looks, the peril and the stirring kisses of a romance, but if there is a man and a woman involved, well, it’s not a horse of a different color.
It’s a romance.