Define the Romance Genre

Alrighty, well as you can see I’m going out of order with the defining of the genres posts. I promise, you will survive (hey! hey!).
I defined the genres as thusly (here):

1. Fantasy
2. Horror
3. Mystery/Crime
4. Romance
5. Science Fiction
6. Thriller/Suspense/Adventure

But I’m not going in order. That’ just me though; sporadic. Although, I never said I’d go in order, so… In fear of kicking a dead horse, let’s move on.
I loathe that phrase, by the way: kicking a dead horse.
Here is my definition of romance and then all of its subgenres (and its subgenres’ subgenres)…











ROMANCE: Genre Fiction.

The plot and most of the conflict have to do with two people falling in love and then struggling, for one reason or another, to stay together. A romance novel is focused on the romance between a couple and the woes that accompany it. Sexual and emotional attraction builds throughout and there is an emotionally satisfying resolution.

When romance started out, romance and sex didn’t go hand and hand. The uber sex filled books were normally left to the erotica writers. But more and more, these overlap and romance authors have filled their books with more sex, blurring the lines a bit. (I’m not saying this is good or bad, I’m just giving the facts people; no biting my head off.) Also, when it comes to sex scenes, some are detailed and some are not. It’s up to each individual author.

More often times than not, it’s an optimistic love story and has a happy ending. In fact, everywhere I’ve seen the definition of “romance”, it’s been accompanied by “must have a happy ending”. Looking at some of the books I’ve read and heard of as of recent, I don’t think that’s entirely true.









SUB-GENRES and their subgenres:

Contemporary Romance: A romance novel taking place after the World Wars up until present.

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Romance:  A romance novel taking place in another world or in our world with elements of magick and/or magickal creatures.

  • Paranormal Romance: Normally contains inhuman creatures or humans with inhuman abilities but can be set in our own world.
  • Futuristic Romance: Set in the future with fantasy and/or science fiction elements to it. Sometimes classified under paranormal romance but it’s a growing subgenre and some publishers give it its own.
  • Time Travel Romance:  Normally contains two different characters time travelling between two different periods of time to come together, whether on purpose or not.

Historical Romance: A romance story set in the past.

  • Western Romance: Romance set in the old west time period.
  • Regency Romance: Specifically set in the early 1800s in England.

Inspirational: Normally written with some kind of spiritual belief backing.

  • Christian: Sex is not present until the couple is married and normally isn’t written about at all. The novel follows Christian beliefs and standards.

Gothic Romance: The atmosphere in this romance story is usually dark and mysterious, a bit close to horror as far as scare tactics and tone/mood go.

  • Romantic Suspense/Action/Thriller: This emerged in the 1950s due to gothic romance. More on the drama end of the spectrum, these include intrigue and mystery elements. The heroine is normally an adventurer and/or isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. It’s more psychological.

 Erotica: Feature sex quite a bit more than normal romance. The sex between the characters (not always just a couple) plays a large role.

  • BDSM: Recently more popular and specific form of erotica, where the sex is BDSM.

Saga Romance: These stories take place over a long period of time, showcasing several generations of one family or families.

Chick-Lit: Much more lighthearted, down to earth, and sometimes amusing than normal romance. Concentrates on the woes of relationships and emotions but isn’t so whimsical.

Women’s Fiction: Novels for women but in which the romance doesn’t play the largest role in the written work. Doesn’t always adhere to the “happy ending, get together” rule.







I categorized erotica, chick lit, and women’s fiction as subgenres of romance.

Some people don’t agree with this and believe each to be their own separate genres, outside of romance.  But this is how I interpret it and I approached this as looking for the main “umbrella” genres (romance, fantasy, horror, etc.) when I began. Remember; I’m not an expert, this is entirely how I perceive the fiction genres. This doesn’t mean I’m right or wrong, it simply means this is my opinion. And we all know the saying that goes with opinions. 😉


So what do you think? Did I miss any subgenres? Was this helpful and easy to understand?



Filed under The Odd Bit

27 responses to “Define the Romance Genre

  1. Pingback: Romantic Genre – Journey

  2. Pingback: Changing Face of Publishing, Including Romance | Susan Sheehey

  3. You missed my favorite genre: Stephen King. He’s the only author to whom I give his own genre………lol

  4. In my reading career. I haven’t read very much romance, other than a few chick lits. I shall have to hunt down some horror romances.

  5. Jae

    Great post on defining the genres for romance. There were a few new things I learned. I think this will be a great reference for aspiring romance novel writers.

  6. bwtaylor75

    So the real question is which is your favorite? If I had to guess, I’d say Paranormal Romance. Your trickster research will probably come into play as a shapeshifter. I believe this to be your favorite genre, since you tackled it first (yep, reading between the lines again).

    My sister has whole bookshelves full of Paranormal and Regency romances. She reads Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nalini Singh, and Lisa Kleypas just to name a few. I even won her a book from Nalini Singh’s agent! I think I was the only guy to enter the contest. The things I do for love.

    You’ve put a lot of thought into this post. Nice job. I can’t wait for the horror. I’m sure we’ll have a nice chat through the comments. Oh, and my sister keeps telling me to turn EDEN into a romance with Mitsuko and Sandovol hooking up. Funny right?

    • Doth my eyes deceive me? Brian, your psychic powers have failed you.
      My favorite genres are fantasy, horror, and science fiction. If a book happens to be paranormal romance, I’ll read it. But straight romance, or romance with no fantasy, horror, or sci-fi elements? N.O.

      I don’t like the way Sherrilyn Kenyon writes. I don’t know what it is about her but I can’t stand reading her novels. The ideas are cool but something about the way she writes irks me. Ironically, I’ve read two of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series and thought those were pretty cool.

      That’s majorly awesome that you entered to win her a book!!! I bet you got major brother points there.

      Thank you. 😀

  7. I love how much you work at research! 🙂 Good job!

    • Thank you. I love research!!! And I especially love hearing that coming from an editor. 🙂

      • You are very welcome. Research is, unfortunately, often overlooked. Some of my favorite writers (Tolkien, for example) were known for creating such intricately detailed worlds and histories that can be directly linked to research, study, and an unwavering dedication to what they were creating.

  8. Anonymous

    You will not know if the horse is dead unless you kick it, see…..

  9. It’s like trying to unravel a ball of string! There are so many genres and sub-genres now. You did, however, make it clearer – thank you!

    Love the ‘hate’ of the dead horse comment 😀

  10. I always get stuck on romance or romantic elements. Especially when I’ve read something that I considered ‘with romantic elements’ and was sold as a romance. Go figure… 🙂

  11. Zen

    Out of all these, the only subgenre I can stomach is chick-lit. Other romance genres are usually filled with too many clichés and sex for my liking, and there’s too much drama! Chick-lit is more light and funny. Yesterday I finished Sophie Kinsella’s “I’ve Got Your Number” and loved it! =]

    • I don’t even read straight romance. If it doesn’t have fantasy, sci-fi, or horror elements to it, I get bored. The uber cliches and whimsical desperation for a man to fulfill the character’s life, goes beyond irking me. 😉

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