Love is in the air with Valentine’s Day just around the corner. Stores are full of red hearts, chocolate candies and sentimental cards ranging from witty to romantic. We dream of cozy dinners by candlelight and lazy weekends at quaint country inns. But we don’t have to wait until February each year to celebrate romance. We can find romance any day of the week inside the cover of a romance novel.
The romance novel has been a popular literary genre since the days of Jane Austen. What are Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, but romance novels layered with social criticism and commentary? There are no words in literature more romantic than the words Mr. Darcy speaks to Elizabeth Bennet “In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Jane Austen was followed by the Bronte sisters with Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and in the twentieth century Georgette Heyer was one of several novelists inspired by Austen’s works to write romantic novels and to firmly establish the genre. Harlequin Enterprises began mass market paperback publication in the 1950s, and Harlequin Romances were soon conveniently available at drugstores and grocery stores. Today romantic novels are the most popular paperbacks sold with titles like It Had to Be You, Lord of Scoundrels, A Kingdom of Dreams and A Fire in the Heart.
Why do we read romantic novels? What is the attraction (no pun intended)? Entertainment, relaxation, and escape are the reasons most often given for reading romance novels. Readers enjoy a fictional world where the hero – always handsome – and heroine – always beautiful – display human emotions of pain, frustration, longing, hope and desire, successfully struggle to confront challenges, overcome adversity and find a fairytale ending with a happily-ever-after. Romantic novels offer the additional charm of sub-genre. They can be historical, suspenseful, inspirational, and multicultural, or even set in future or fantasy worlds. Love is everywhere.
If you enjoy a romantic read, here are some suggestions. Pick-up of the novels of Jude Deveraux, Diana Gabaldon, Colleen Hoover, Eloisa James, Sarah MacLean, Nicholas Sparks, Nancy Thayer, or Susan Wiggs. You’re sure to be swept off your feet and carried away.