Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Origin of the Romance Genre

We write them, we read them and above all else we love them. The romance genre comprises more than 55% of all paperbacks sold. Despite the sales, it still endures the uncanny distinction of being the least respected of all literary genres.

I picked up A Moment in Time by, Beatrice Small ten years ago and fell in love with historical romance. I devoured everything the library had to offer by this NYT bestseller but my hungry appetite was not appeased. I branched out and read whatever I could find in my favored sub- genre. When I ran out of things to read, I looked into other sub-genre’s and read them as well.

If someone asked, I doubt I could barely hazard a guess as to the number of books I have read, enjoyed or even loved throughout all those years. I read romance and I write romance.

Until recently, I never stopped to wonder why. I just read, wrote and read some more.
Recently, certain events happened in my life and I looked more deeply into the reason of why I read and write the infamous romance novel. The same wondering led me down a path, to a simple question. Where and how did the romance genre come about?

The very first romance novel emerged in Europe and was written by Samuel Richardson in 1740. The title of the book was Pamela or Virtue Rewarded. The story was revolutionary because it focused on the courtship and was written from the heroines POV.
In the following century Jane Austin gifted the world with Pride and Prejudice. Her work inspired Georgette Heyer who introduced us to historical romances in 1921 (thank you very much).
In 1931 Mills and Boon, a British publishing company began publishing category romance novels. They were an independent company and remained that way until they were purchased in 1971 by Harlequin Enterprises. Surprised? Me too.

Harlequin resold those books in North America by Harlequin ltd. From there, the modern romance was born with Avon’s publication of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’s, The Flame and the Flower. Her novel was the first single title romance to be published as an original paperback.

The romance genre is also popular in Europe and Australia. Romance novels appear in more than 90 different languages. A number I find amazing if you consider they were written primarily by English speaking Countries.

I have looked into Samuel Richardson’s biography and I am surprised by the growth and movement of the romance category but I am also surprised by the lack of respect this genre still receives after two hundred years.

I am biased to the genre and I am probably not the best to person to figure out why it receives the lack of respect it does. If I had to provide an opinion, I would have said this. “Romance novels are quaranteed to deliver a happily ever after but in real life, people do not always get the HEA.”

Despite the unfortunate facts of life, I still read, write and love a well written romance novel. I still want the fairy tale ending. As an author, I want to provide an avenue of escape for my readers who need to be swept away, if only for a little while to a place of happily ever after.

The emergence of the romance novel came about due to the efforts of many people. As soon as I return from the RT Convention, I will dive into the biography of those who helped develop the largest selling, literary category.

Check in Sunday for a tasty treat (I promise you will not be disappointed). Drop by again on 4/29/09 for Samuel Richardson's biography.

Happy Reading


  1. Hi Tricia,

    Interesting facts. I've actually read PAMELA by Samuel Richardson--an antique copy, no less (but not an original). So, it's kind of cool to know I started at the beginning!

    Thanks for the great post!


  2. Wow! I was on my way to find a copy. I wasn't even sure I could find one. Wish me luck because I too want to read it.

    Thanks for stopping by

  3. Wonderful post, Tricia! And very interesting. Yes, I'd like to thank our founders as well. :-) Reading and writing is a journey and a great escape.

  4. I meant reading and writing ROMANCE. Slow down fingers!

  5. Great post! I'd like to read Pamela, also.

  6. WOW! Great post! I never knew any of that. I'd be down to read "Paula' if I can find it

  7. You said I would be suprized and were you ever correct! My favorite author too!
    Found it very interesting.
    Keep up the great bloggs! I enjoy reading them.