In the US, Europe and Australia romance novels account for about 55 percent of fiction books sold, and since the publication of the Fifty Shades of Grey series, we assume that that percentage has gone up even further.
According to the non-profit, Romance Writers of America, the main plot of a romance novel must revolve about the two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship. The novels usually have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.
Denigrators of the genre often refer to it as chick lit, while we at Bookworm like to satirize such faux intellectuals and call it chic lit. After all, who in their right minds would belittle authors like Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer?
The genre blossomed after the 1930s, when Mills and Boon, and Harlequin published inexpensive romance novels, providing rich pickings for a slew of authors who were able to graft their writing skills into a prescriptive formula.
Romance and Astocrats
Still popular are the novels that milk this vein with a financially not-so-well-off heroine being romanced by a rich and titled nobleman. The most popular of all time is Lord of Scoundrels (1995) by Lorretta Chase.
Jessica Trent attempts to save her rather stupid brother Bertie from the supposedly villanous clutches of handsome Sebastian Ballister, the Marquess of Dain, who inevitably falls for her even after she shoots him early on in the piece. The most heart wrenching part is about Dain’s attempts to keep Jessica by his side, who he considers to be the most beautiful woman alive
Fifty Shades of Grey spotlighted female erotic lit, even though it didn’t get anywhere near the nitty gritty until about page 200. Its steamy porn after-effect has meant that well written titles from the past are being reprinted. One of these, after a 30-year hiatus, is Lace by Shirley Conran, which was often publicised as a feminist tract disguised as a bonkbuster. It is also accused of being the precursor of all of the modern sex and shopping sagas in which the heroine’s happily ever after scenario is often not due to a man.
There are graphic sex scenes in the book, but it is far more notable because of its theme of friendships between four high-powered, wealthy women and their different careers.
Sarah Morgan had another hit with book two about an attractive French chef, Elise. who works at mountain resort in Vermont. In this novel the delicious orthopaedic surgeon, Sean, returns to his hometown and to the resort which his alienated family owns. He is determined to have another fling with Elise and attempts to rekindle the passion they shared in a blissful, one-night stand the previous summer.
Both protagonists have had past struggles with love and heartache — romantically and with their families — and both are afraid to commit themselves to another relationship.
Suddenly Last Summer was one of the bestselling books in 2014 and stands above most other small town romance stories because it manages to imbue the main characters with believable vulnerability.
Historical Bodice Rippers
Another 2014 best seller was The Arrow by Monica McCarty. It’s the ninth novel in her Highland Guard series, set in Scotland during the turbulent border wars in the reign of Robert the Bruce.
All of the novels have covers featuring bare muscled torsos of young warriors that are definite turn-ons, even before you get into the action packed and raunchy part.
Gregor is the best Scots archer ever and the heartbreaker of young maidens throughout the craggy land. Cate is a young girl who has secretly been in love with Gregor since he pulled her out of a well in which she’d been hiding after a bunch of marauders raped and killed her mother five years before this adventure starts.
Gregor has had his anonymity breached and has to go into hiding in Cates’ village. Cate recognizes his vulnerable side and sees him as a man who deserves to be loved for whom he really is and not as another notch on the proverbial bedpost.
Naturally there is a secret from the past that threatens to tear them apart and this heightens the tension to heart thumping levels.
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