Romance is a genre that will never die—at least when it comes to books. Romance novels are just as satisfying to write as they are to read, which is why we’re sharing some general tips on how to master the subgenres. Whether you’re planning to write an epic romantic journey taking place in the 1800s, or a contemporary romance novel like Valentine to Faith, command of these subgenres is essential. While it’s common to blend or crossover, you’ll want to have a strong grasp of the conventions that define the romance subgenres.
Genres are defined by conventions that include settings, narratives, characters, themes and issues. Romance novels are specifically characterized by strong protagonists, including a sympathetic heroine and irresistible hero, as well as steamy sex scenes, a compelling love story, and most importantly, a happy ending.
Romance, as a genre, is wide-ranging. There’s no one “right” way to write romantic novels—except for the requisite inclusion of a happy-ever-after ending. Some of the most successful romance writers find their niche and develop their style within it. When writers have a passion for the subgenre, it helps them create their love story within a rich context. For example, if you’re obsessed with a specific era, such as the 1800s, then historical romance may be your niche. Author Anne Rice clearly had a passion for the paranormal, which is so eloquently apparent in Interview With the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned.
Read on to learn about some of the most popular subgenres of the romance category.
- Contemporary Romance
This is one of the largest and most popular subgenres of romance. Contemporary romance novels, also referred to as modern romance, are often set at present—when the book is written—or within the past few decades. They typically deal with modern themes and conventions, though they may circle back to happenings from recent times to tell stories of origination, such as the award-winning contemporary romance novel, Valentine to Faith.
- Young Adult
This genre surged in popularity with the widespread success of Twilight, Hunger Games and the Divergent series over the past 20 years. Young adult romance novels contain dramatic themes with a central romantic story involving teenage protagonists. The characters typically deal with issues common to their age ranges, like growing up or falling in love for the first time, though they may be considered old souls or wise beyond their years.
- New Adult
This category is very similar to young adult—and evolved directly from it—but the characters are slightly older, typically falling between the 18–29 age bracket. Themes may revolve around adulting, discovering their path and slightly more seasoned relationships. When it comes to readership, New Adult books are popular among the same age range as the characters, as well as younger and older generations, just like the Young Adult genre.
- Historical Romance
Historical romance novels are geared for a mass market and focus heavily on historic periods, typically set before 1945. They are defined by an accurate portrayal of the era they’re set in, with the relationship obstacles reflecting the struggles and limitations of the time period. It’s essential for authors of this subgenre to do extensive research on the era.
- Paranormal Romance
Paranormal romance is considered a subgenre of both speculative and romantic fiction. While it’s focused on a central romantic story, it includes integral elements of fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal occurrences and sometimes, horror. Paranormal romance is typically characterized by supernatural elements like magic, ghosts, witches, vampires, shapeshifters and other fantasy creatures, or may take place in an alternate world or other fantasy setting.
- Romantic Suspense
This genre is characterized by suspenseful, mystery and thriller plots that are solved within the plotline while a love story develops or evolves. The characters may have to save one another, solve a mystery together or discover a secret.
We hope you enjoy these tips! To delve deeper into the world of writing romance, read our recent blog post, The Five Basic Elements of Romance Novels.