Romance novels enjoy tremendous popularity among readers of all ages, and for a good reason. Bestselling romance novels are very diverse in terms of plots and often include elements of other literary genres, catering to all literary tastes. Nevertheless, despite their staggering variety, best romance novels share a handful of key features that can be grouped by two fundamental principles:
- Firstly, the plot revolves around a love story with a happy ending. Everything else is secondary. And, while romantic relationships can be found in books of all genres, in a romance novel such relationships become the central theme.
- Secondly, the reader of a romance novel is so emotionally involved in the hero’s relationship that a happy ending brings her a sense of personal satisfaction.
Do you want to know what common features best romance novels have? Let’s figure it out together!
The tonality of best romance novels
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a love story is always an emotional read. It captivates the reader by making her identify with the heroine and vicariously live the plot’s highs and lows. The reader is allowed to feel the power of love in all its multitude: between parents and children, between close relatives and friends; and, above all, between romantic partners. Such emotional unison is the key a bestselling romance novel’s success.
The tone of the romance novel can be cheerful from the beginning to the end, or be overshadowed by sad incidents, but the love affair itself must end happily. Some books of the romance genre have a playful tone, such as Cathie Linz’ ironic novels depicting eccentric and vibrant characters. Others, like those of Jennifer Cruzie, combine a touch of levity with a keen look at family issues. In some science fiction romance novels, the mood is gloomy and disturbing, as in Christine Feehan’s “Dark Series”, as well as in her stories about the Drake sisters. These modern romance novels are characterized by ominous secrets and deadly confrontations that help create an atmosphere of growing suspense.
Situational coherence is also crucial. If the romance novel takes place in the 19th century, the heroes attend balls, ride in carriages, wear magnificent dresses or exquisite costumes, and exchange playful remarks in the manner characteristic of that era. In modern love stories, on the contrary, the emphasis is placed on the professional activities of the heroine, the plot itself unfolds in a big city, and the heroes depend heavily on various gadgets.
The hero and the heroine
In a true love story, the feelings of the heroes get the ultimate spotlight, and the reader follows not only their actions, but also their internal development. Characters share their deepest emotions and eventually come to understand themselves and their relationships. Throughout the book, the hero and the heroine are forced to change and fight prejudice to reach a romantic union which the reader expects.
The heroine is usually a bright, independent, strong-willed lady or a girl, if we are talking about teen & young adult romance novels. She has an attractive, memorable appearance, although she is not always stunningly beautiful because in that case it will be hard for most readers to identify with her. Male heroes must be strong and somewhat detached. The stronger the hero is, the more significant the heroine’s victory will be when she succeeds in awakening reciprocal feelings in him. The best romance novels also introduce well-developed, interesting and often eccentric secondary characters.
The reader almost always knows the point of view of both the hero and the heroine. This allows to feel their inner dilemmas and to trace the course of their thoughts. Therefore, romance novels are most often written in the third person, which reveals the motives of both heroes.
The story line of best romance novels
The plot of a love story focuses on the development of the relationship between the lovers and their happy reunion. The main story-line can be accompanied by several secondary ones, but none of them will be significant enough to distract the reader from the main one. In the end, the heroes always confess their passion, and although not every love story ends in a wedding, it is usually safe to assume that in the future the heroes will marry. Romantic novels with an unfortunate ending, therefore, cannot be considered love stories in the classical sense of the genre.
Although romance novels guarantee a happy ending with the resolution of all love contradictions, many authors in their works also explore provocative moral and social problems and taboos. For example, topics such as domestic violence, alcoholism and other addictions, racial discrimination, poverty are raised. Examples of such novels include the books of Sandra Brown and Lisa Gardner. Many contemporary love novels also address the role of the woman in society.
The pace of a love story
Romance novels have earned the fame of being light literature because they read quickly. They focus on the characters and contain more dialogue than descriptions or reasoning. Best romance novels can be saturated with action, but usually the plot does not require concentration, and the reader, even if interrupted, can easily resume reading, picking up the thread of the story where she left it.
Recently, the genre of romance has expanded its boundaries, including more elements of other genres, such as magical realism, psychological thriller, fantasy, and the Gothic novel. The heroes of contemporary romance novels are vampires and witches, while the action itself moves to magical worlds. Love lines become more overt, relationships more sensual, and sex scenes more steamy. At the same time, romantic comedies with funny situations and witty dialogues do not lose their popularity.
And yet, regardless of how the love story genre evolves in the future, it will not become less popular as long as its readers believe in the main component of these books: true love!
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