As defined in my last post on the romance genre, a romance novel centers on the developing relationship of two people, culminating with a happy ending. Length can vary from 25,000 (Novella) to 75,000+ words (Single Title).
The heat level divides romance novels into very specific classifications. Publisher guidelines provide specificity. My classifications for readers include:
Erotica is no holds barred with the caveat that the novel must have a compelling story.
Most mass-market romance stories fall under the General Market (Steamy) category. Readers expect several sex scenes. Descriptions within the sex scenes are toned down, euphemistic.
Sensual romance novels have kissing, heavy petting, making out, but explicit body parts are not mentioned, and the deed occurs behind closed doors or off the page. If you watch Lifetime movies, you know what I mean.
Sweet is sometimes classified as clean, i.e. no sex, no swearing and no religious/spiritual content. If you love The Countdown to Christmas Hallmark movies, you understand clean.
In Inspirational stories, characters are Christians when the story begins. Physical attraction centers on character, not lust. There is limited physical contact. (Occasional kissing allowed.) NO sex before marriage. No quoted scripture, sermons. Story may center on a spiritual lesson like forgiveness.
Evangelical stories follow inspirational guidelines with additional limits on sensuality. Publisher guidelines define specifics such as only one or two kisses, scenes should include quoted scriptures, prayers, and sermons, and the resolution of the relationship must include a profession of faith.
Romance novels also fall into recognized subgenres. These are what I consider major subgenres:
- Romantic Suspense – the two main characters must are involved in something that threatens one or both of them. If the romance is removed from the plot, the suspense is gone and vice versa.
- Paranormal – stories include vampires, werewolves, faeries, shape shifters, etc.
- Fantasy – a romance story in a fantasy setting
- Time-Travel – one or both of the main characters travel through time. The most famous is probably Outlander.
- Science Fiction/Futuristic – To be classified as romance, the fantasy must center on the relationship.
- Licensed Theme – Publishers sign licensing agreements with a professional sport or organization and writers’ books feature that sport or organization. Harlequin’s NASCAR series would be an example.
- Medical – one of the main characters must be a medical professional and a medical situation must be resolved along with the relationship.
- Regency – stories set in England between 1800 and 1820.
- Medieval/Highlander – stories set between 900 to 1400 in England, Ireland, or Scotland.
- Gothic – generally written in first person and the heroine is in peril (real or paranormal, genuine, or imagined)
There are other subgenres combinations — as many as a writer can imagine and mash together. Pam McCutcheon combines fantasy, science fiction and paranormal while Leanna Ellis blends Amish and vampires.
If you’re a romance reader, what would you add to my list?