Article: Popularity of Romance Fiction

Popularity of Romance Fiction
What draws readers to this genre?
by Melissa Alvarez

Romance Fiction novels make up over fifty percent of all books sold. Over 50 million women in the United States alone read Romance Fiction. Granted most of the readers of Romance Fiction are women but lots of men read romance fiction too. Men also write romance fiction usually under pen names. Why is this genre of fiction so popular and why does it hold such wide appeal?

Romance Fiction is finally getting the recognition that it deserves. Within the publishing industry general fiction seems to be shrinking while other publishers are adding new lines. 

When Romance Fiction first appeared in the publishing industry in the early 1970’s, there were swashbuckling hero’s and princess heroines. These type of romance novels were considered “Bodice Rippers” and usually featured bare-chested men and voluptuous women on the cover. But in the last ten to fifteen years the “Contemporary” romance has taken the place of the “Bodice Ripper”. The covers now feature pictures that depict scenes from the novel and when heroine is featured her neckline has risen substantially. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with the “Bodice Ripper” romance will probably haunt authors for a long time still.

There have been many sub-genres that have risen out of the traditional romance. Now you can read modern day romances about doctors, investigators, and women in these roles. We can now read about things happening in our world today within the pages of a romance. The hero’s are still dashing but the heroines have developed into strong independent women who don’t necessarily need the hero in their lives. The heroine choose him because of his effect on her senses and her mind. We can now read stories of romantic suspense, the paranormal, chick lit, and the genre has branched out to now include heroes and heroines of ethnic backgrounds.

But does all of this really account for the huge popularity of Romance Fiction. No. In my humble opinion those who read romance fiction want to be drawn into a world where they can escape the pressures of their daily life and experience the growth of a relationship. In some ways Romance Fiction is still a sort of fairy tale with a happy ending. It’s just that the fairy tale has jumped into the twenty first century.