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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Our Life Is Like an Open Book

Each of us is the hero/heroine of our own story and every day we awaken to turn the next page. Some days we are able to anticipate the path our lives will take just as a skilled author will move her characters from one moment to the next. We too move through a passage of time. The books we read are as different as the lives we live. Every chapter in a book is different than the previous one. Just as our days, weeks, months and even years differ from the preceding ones. Our life is a series of measured moments. In a book we call these moments chapters.
Some chapters are filled with excitement and joyous occasions. Just like the H/H of our story we rejoice in those circumstances. Some books move from one scene to the next with barely a moment of rest for our H/H. At times we humans feel as though life has spun out of control and like our favorite characters we fight to hold our heads above water.
Our lives may not involve exploding car crashes or raging battles where young boys and men die at the bloody point of a sword. There are however, those moments of utter surprise. A singular event, so life altering it knocks the main characters off of their feet. All too often real life heroes suffer and live through tragic events. The threat of a life limiting illness, the sudden death of a loved one or even the loss of a job. Luckily for us, these are just a momentary passage of time, a small chapter written into the bigger story of our life.
Like the H/H of our story we might have to fight and claw ourselves out of the rubble and ash. We might be forced to rebuild and start anew even when there is no hope. Worst of all, no desire. Romance authors are honor bound to find a HEA (happily ever after) for our characters regardless of the struggles we force them to overcome. In the end, they learn and grow. Their triumphs make them larger than life, their struggles make them human. It is the reason we fall in love with them.
Much like the H/H in our novels we too must endure a tragic chapter. How we prevail is entirely up to us. We move from page to page until, at last, we find ourselves at the end of that difficult chapter. Like the H/H of our novels we will learn things about ourselves we never knew. We will grow in ways we never thought possible. Perhaps we will even be the better for it.
Regardless of what interval you are now living, or how difficult it may seem, remember it is only one chapter. A small part of the big book we call life.
Tribute to My Late Husband, Patrick Charles Wood