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What is the Category Romance Genre?
Essentially there are two main categories of romance out there: category and single title. The main difference is the length of the novel. Category romance length is strictly prescribed by the publishing house which is distributing it, which is usually between 200-250 pages. These novels are numbered sequentially and published in a clear series (although they are often not related to one another), and released each month.
Category romance, also referred to “Series romance,” is BY FAR the most prolific genre in all of romance, and also the most looked-down-upon, often being dismissed as “trash.” But regardless of the dismissiveness with which people view the genre, the reality is that the most popular publisher of category romance is Harlequin/Silhouette which has been publishing these novels since 1949! Just this one publisher releases over 100 novels PER MONTH, and publishes in 27 different languages, and it seems like they are found in every grocery and drug store in the world! So trash or not, someone (and chances are millions of “someones”) are reading these books each month!
What to Expect in Category Romance Fiction
- Each series has a different tone and focus (i.e. some focus on sweet stories, some on intrigue, others on categories like “medical romance,” etc) – the reader always knows what to expect from each series line
- The romance between the hero and heroine dominates the story
- Very few supporting characters, situations, storylines or other points of view are developed in any depth
- Often have hilariously ridiculous titles
Characteristics of the Category Romance Genre
- Level of Angst
These novels are written as escapist fun, so while there are some variations between the various series’ approaches, in general there is a moderate level of angst that is usually assuaged within in the first couple of chapters.
- Character Development
We don’t read these books looking for a psychological study – subsequently while actual character development is certainly present, they are not nearly as fully developed as you would find in a single title romance. In general, each main character is portrayed as a solid and caring individual, even if they are sometimes misunderstood.
- Plot Strength
Similar to character development, the plots in this genre tend to be less fully developed than with single title romance. It’s much more “boy meets girl,” “girl tries to decide what she wants,” “girl gives boy a chance,” “they have sex,” “some crisis/situation occurs which threatens their future happiness,” “they have more sex,” “crisis resolved,” “more sex,” HEA. Ahhh…
- Romantic Tension
Ditto my comments in the level of angst above, it is dependent on the individual writer and the direction in which they want to take their story. That said, the tension is developed, but also resolved very quickly in these novels.
- Level of Eros
There is no consistent answer, but the level of eros in these novels tends toward the moderately high side – after all, that’s why a lot of people read them. That said, there is a boundary – if someone picks up one of these novels to read in the grocery store check-out line, you don’t want them embarrassed by what they are reading.
- Prose Quality
There is a lot of variation in the quality of writing in this subgenre – some of them are entertaining and well-written, and others just do “wham – bam – thank you maam” and we really are not invested in the characters or the story.
Readers tend to be pretty loyal to one publisher/series line – I know my favorite line was always Loveswept, and I was sorry when they stopped publishing. Then within that series there were a few authors I really liked, and some that I didn’t. The formula from novel to novel was always the same, but some writers just put the story and characters together better.
Related Romance Subgenres
Many: Every single subgenre could be related to this genre – it is simply a matter of length of novel, the novel’s tone and the novel’s topic (and how it fits into the other series’ being published).
Category Romance isn't for you if
you like fully developed characters and situations, like understanding the foundations for how the relationships develop, and really want to understand the motivations of the characters in the novel.
Category Romance totally for you if
you like romance which (quickly) gets to the point, don’t need a lot of supporting characters and storylines to enjoy the novel, and prefer the more formulaic and predictable approach.
- 1 Loving Jenny (1987)
By Billie Green. It is about a woman who crashes her ex’s wedding when she discovers they are still married. She’d turned his life upside down once already and he wasn’t about to give her the chance to do so again, but finding out they were still married gave him pause – could they really find a way to make it work?
- 2 Just One Night (2014)
By Lauren Layne. A woman with a LOT of experience writing about sex – she has a column in a local magazine that is hot, hot, hot. Her “real world” experience, however, is severely limited. She has been attracted to her older brother’s best friend forever, and now needs to call in a favor in the name of research. What starts off as “just one time” quickly becomes much, much more…
- 3 The Next Santini Bride (2000)
By Maureen Child. Tells the story of a single mom who finds one night of passion in the arms of a Marine. After it’s over, she can’t believe she actually went through with it…but now she cannot stop thinking about it, about him, and wishing for another chance. He is a bachelor who’s pretty set in his ways – so why can’t he stay away?
- 4 Ruthlessly Bedded, Forcibly Wedded (2009)
By Abby Green. Was honestly chosen for inclusion on this list just for the title. Fortunately, the story is pretty good…it tells the story of a woman who is seduced by a man who blames her for his sister’s downfall. But she is innocent. Shocked by the deception, she is heartbroken to realize she is now pregnant, and he means to keep her as his wife.
- 5 A Magnificent Affair (1992)
By Fayrene Preston. Is about a woman who literally crashes into an inn, and finds an instant attraction between her and the inn’s owner. She is there for her own wedding, so is completely off limits. However, the more he tries to avoid her, the more their attraction continues, until they finally need to decide who will be saying “I do….”
- 6 To Tempt a Sheikh (2011)
By Olivia Gates. Focuses on a young prince who rescues a woman being held hostage by a rival clan, only to realize that she holds the key to his own family’s survival. Her brain tells her not to trust him as far as she can throw him, but her body and heart keep betraying her every time he is around.
- 7 Maybe No, Maybe Yes (2016)
By Cait London. Tells the story of a woman who is determined to be a successful investor. The star of her firm is a total player, and she seems to be his favorite target. A series of events lead to her disguising herself to get close to him, and when he finds out he is furious. Unfortunately, she is already starting to fall for him, cheesy lines and all.
- 8 Only Mine (2011)
By Susan Mallery. Tells the story of a town with very few eligible men which is hosting a bachelor contest. The heroine’s job is to screen the contestants and, of course, she runs into some trouble when she ends up being attracted to one of them. Fling ensues…
- 9 Because of the Baby (2014)
By Cat Schield. Is the story of a baby who is a miracle survivor of a tornado which left her mother in a coma and her father missing. She also brings together a tough rancher and a caring nurse to care for their niece. In order to do so, they need to bridge the wide chasm caused by a family falling out decades before, and which still threatens today.
- 10 Guardian Ranger (2013)
By Cynthia Eden. Tells the story of a woman desperate to find her missing brother. Despite being warned to stay away, she enlists the assistance of a former Army Ranger and soon finds herself in the middle of a very dangerous game, and finds that her savior might not be exactly what – and who - he claimed to be.
Publicly Ranked Version of the List21 items >>
- Persuasion (Jane Austen)
- Emma (Jane Austen)
- Katherine (Anya Seton)
- Ravished (Amanda Quick)
- Saving Grace (Julie Garwood)