Have you ever wondered what all the different romance sub-genres are? There are dozens of them and every day it seems more and more are popping up. So today, I’m going to help you out buy given a brief description of some of the more popular and well-known sub-genres.
But first, let’s examine exactly what constitutes a Romance.
What is a Romance:
A romance is any book where a romantic relationship is central to the story. In most cases, there is also a happy ending as well.
That’s it. Simple. Or is it?
The problem with having such a broad definition is that it is difficult to then categorise books for placement on bookshelves or on reader lists. That’s where sub-genres come in. By further narrowing down romance genre into sub-genres, book titles become easier to categorise, display and sell. But how do we define each sub-genre?
Below is a list of many of the most popular romance sub-genres and my definition of what the category represents. These definitions are gleaned from multiple sources and my own reading experience, however, if you disagree with my opinion feel free to state your case in the comments and I will be sure to take your opinion into consideration when revising this list.
Bear in mind that many books can be categorised in more than one sub-genre, where they are eventually placed is usually determined by which sales market a specific publisher is targeting.
Also, over the next few months, I will be exploring each sub-genre in greater detail and will provide popular examples for you to explore. As I publish these posts I will be sure to link back to this page for future reference.
|Category Romance||This isn’t actually a genre, but rather it’s a publishing term used to describe books that are published in a specific categories or series. They are usually short, cover multiple genres, and are lower in price than other romance novels. The most well-known category romance publisher is Harlequin Mills & Boon.|
|Contemporary||The broadest of all the categories, contemporary romance is any romance that is set in the present day with modern technology and modern conveniences. What’s confusing about this category is that any title that was published after World War 11 can be considered a contemporary romance, so long as publication occurred during the time period in which the book was set.|
|Erotica||Largely focuses on sexual relationships and featuring explicit sexual content.|
|Fantasy||Usually set in alternate or parallel worlds, fantasy romance novels feature magic and supernatural creatures or beings such as dragons, monsters or elves.|
|»»»» Urban Fantasy||Set in modern urban environments but featuring magic, supernatural creatures or beings. Often has significant crossovers with the paranormal genre.|
|Gothic||Combining romance with horror, gothic romances tend to explore dark themes with fear, murder and violence featuring heavily. These novels are often set in medieval times, however, this is not an essential element.|
|Historical||Any novel that is set earlier than contemporary times can be considered a historical novel.|
|»»»» Medieval||A popular category of Historical Romance with stories taking place during the middle ages.|
|»»»» Georgian||Refers to novels set during the Georgian period, 1714 to 1830.|
|»»»» Regency||Falling within the Georgian period, the Regency era officially occurred between 1811 and 1820 when the Prince of Wales (later to be King George IV) became the Prince Regent and ruled in his father’s stead due to the mental illness of King George III.|
|»»»» Victorian||The Victorian era is defined by the reign of Queen Victoria and covers the period from 1837 to 1901.|
|»»»» World War II||Refers to novels set during World War II|
|Inspirational||Inspirational romances have a religious or spiritual theme that influences the primary romantic relationship.|
|»»»» Christian/Evangelical||Christian Romances are Inspirational Romances with a specific Christian focus. Often scripture is quoted.|
|»»»» Amish||Amish Romances showcase the morals, values and expectations of the Amish people within the framework of the primary love story.|
|LGBT||Romances that feature same-sex couples as well as romantic relationships involving bi-sexual and transgendered individuals.|
|»»»» F/F Romance||A romance novel in which the central love story is focused on a female/female relationship.|
|»»»» M/M Romance||A romance novel in which the central love story is focused on a male/male relationship.|
|Medical Romance||A romance in which at least one of the main characters is a medical professional.|
|Menage a trois||Romances involving at least three people of any gender combination. Often focusing on the sexual relationship and featuring sexually explicit content.|
|Military Romance||A romance in which at least one of the main characters is in the military.|
|Multicultural||Any romance in which the central romance involves non-white characters.|
|»»»» African-American||As the name suggests, African-American romances represent those stories in which the central love story features African-American individuals.|
|»»»» Inter-racial||Any romance in which the central love story features individuals from different racial and/or cultural backgrounds.|
|New Adult||New Adult refers to novels where the main characters are between 18 and 30 years of age. Often these novels are set around universities and colleges and feature first love themes.|
|Paranormal||Paranormal refers to pretty much anything beyond that which we call ‘normal’. So, think shifters, vampires, gods and goddesses, fairies, witches, ghosts, demons, superhero’s, the list goes on and on.|
|»»»» Vampires||A highly popular sub-category with a strong vampire presence.|
|»»»» Werewolves and Shifters||A highly popular sub-category with a strong shifter presence. If you don’t know, a shifter is any person that has the ability to ‘shift’ into an alternate, usually animal, form. The most common example is, of course, a werewolf.|
|Romantic Elements||Novels that do not necessarily follow the two essential elements of a romance novel, but which have a strong romance theme.|
|Romantic Suspense||In romantic suspense there is the added element of threat or danger that must be present alongside the central love story. Novels in this category are generally fast paced and action packed.|
|»»»» Action Adventure||All the edge-of-your-seat action found in romantic suspense, but the main characters are on a quest to find something/someone.|
|»»»» Mystery||All the action and pace of a typical romantic suspense novel, but with an added puzzle-solving element.|
|Rural||A category of romance used almost exclusively to refer to stories set in regional country areas, small towns and remote outback locations in Australia.|
|Science Fiction||Romance set in worlds with a heavy focus on futuristic science and technological advances. Themes such as space travel, time travel and parallel dimensions are common.|
|Sweet/Clean and Wholesome||Novels with no sexual content described. A kiss represents the extent to which any romantic relationship is consummated, or if a sexual encounter is alluded to, no detail is provided. Although similar to Inspirational, religious or spiritual themes are not explored.|
|Western||As the name suggests, Western romances are set in the American West. Novels can range from those set in the time of the American pioneers, right up until the contemporary romances of today.|
|Young Adult||Young adult fiction is marketed towards and features characters in the 12-18 age range, although some authors push that limit to incorporate the early twenties. It is this ambiguity that sparked the recent establishment of a new genre – New Adult.|
Join the Conversation:
So there you have it, a comprehensive list of the most popular romance genres today. Did I miss any? Do you disagree with the definitions I’ve provided? Let me know by replying in the comments below.