Is This Love That I’m Reading?
We’ve altered the lyrics to Survivor’s power ballad from 1983 just a tad. Because at the Library, we know there are more than 50 shades of love, and we’ve broken down some of the many subgenres of romance to help you find the best match for your readin’ heart this Valentine’s Day.
Back in time: Historical romance
One of the most popular subgenres of romance is historical romance, and this category contains other subgenres: Regency, western, and medieval are the top three. Readers love the rich period detail, historically accurate events, and characters. Authors of historical romance pour a great deal of research into their writing (woe to the author who gets a historical fact incorrect as fans will gleefully point it out) and typically juggle several interwoven plots within the developing relationship between the hero and heroine. Creating an authentic world with believable characters is key. Look for titles from Tessa Dare and Beverly Jenkins if you’ve never tried historical romance.
Back to a specific time: Regency romance
Regency romances are set in a particular historical period, primarily 1811-1820, and typically are novels of manners and social customs. We can thank the grandmother of Regency romances, Georgette Heyer, for making these books popular. Unlike historical romances, which may be action-packed and include plots driven by big historical events, Regency romances focus on society and relationships, and there’s very little physical contact between the hero and heroine. Seduction occurs via witty and suggestive dialogue. Carla Kelly and Emma Jensen are two modern authors of Regency romance who have large followings.
Otherworldly love: Fantasy romance
As with historical romance, world building is crucial to the fantasy romance. The love story is at the core of this subgenre, which blends elements of the fantasy and romance genres. If you see magic happening in these novels, not just of the love kind, then it’s also fantasy. And the physical relationships can get rather steamy. Sarah Maas and Jacqueline Carey combine these two genres exceptionally well.
Racing hearts: Romantic suspense
Currently one of the most popular subgenres of contemporary romance, romantic suspense blends elements of a thriller into the love relationship. No matter what mystery the heroine and hero are trying to solve, their romantic interest in each other is always central to the plot. Expect many plot twists (some impacting the development of the lovers’ relationship) and a speedy plot with tense situations, both inside and outside the bedroom. Current queens of this genre include Nora Roberts and Lisa Gardner.
Some steak with the sizzle: Erotic romance
Just looking for a good time? Maybe erotic romance should be on the Valentine's Day reading menu. This genre is not for the faint of heart. Authors of erotic romance deliver highly explicit stories. The physical relationship between the couple is as significant as the emotional one. Erotic romance has more leeway than many other subgenres to explore alternative sexualities. Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James may be the best-known writer of erotic romance today, but other prominent names include Sylvia Day and A.N. Roquelaure (the pen name of horror writer Anne Rice).
Sugar, no spice: Inspirational romance
One of the fastest-growing subgenres of romance is inspirational romance, particularly Amish romances. Faith plays an essential part in the development of the relationship between the couple in the story, and readers expect a story with a message. There is never explicit sex in these stories. Plots tend to turn on the lack or reaffirmation of faith the two characters have for their religion and in their relationship. Dee Henderson and Debbie Macomber are popular writers of inspirational romance.