There Are So Many Types of Romance Novels, We Spelled It Out for You

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Read all about your favorite types of romance novel.

Types Of Romance Novels

Many people that don't read romance novels think of romance as this large genre in which all the books are the same. Like with any other genre, nothing is farther from the truth. There are six main types of romance novels and many books even cross genres. Different plots, tropes, and character personalities and backgrounds all make romance subgenres different from each other. Folks like to pick on romance because it's a genre primarily read by women and thought of as less intelligent than other fiction genres.

Luckily, romance fans know better! We know just how rich and intelligent the genre is. The types of romance novels each bring something unique and special and give readers a story that fulfills them.

Black and people of color romance, LGBTQ romance, and young adult, new adult, and adult encompass each of the subgenres of romance novels.

In this article, we'll dig into the six main types of romance novels and give you the rundown on just what's important about each subgenre.

1. Contemporary Romance

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Contemporary romance is one of the more popular romance subgenres fans flock to. It's fun to read, familiar because it's set in some version of the world we already know, and feels very natural and modern. People talk and dress in modern ways and use modern technology.

According to the Romance Writers of America, the definitive definition of contemporary romance is "romance novels that are set from 1950 to the present that focus primarily on the romantic relationship." All the Kissing brings up an excellent point in their article "7 Different Types of Romance Subgenres," stating that the definition of when contemporary romance begins will change in the future.

While you'll still get your happily ever after in contemporary romance, the tone of the story can vary from sweet to sexy to downright dark.

2. Historical Romance

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While bodice rippers set in Victorian England might be the first thing that pops into your head when you think of historical romance, the RWA defines it as any romance "set prior to 1950." Essentially, this covers from the dawn of mankind until the beginning of the Korean War. If you can imagine a historical time period in which humans were alive, there's a good chance someone's written a romance - or even a series - about it.

Regency romance remains popular, but other popular historical times and cultures include vikings, Scottish highlanders, World War II, westerns, and medieval. You don't have to worry if you find yourself interested in another historical time period or culture. A bit of googling should help you find several romance books written about a specific period or culture.

Other than the time period a novel is set in, what separates contemporary from historical is the language used, the clothes worn, the technology used, the means of transportation, and more. It's much more difficult to relate to a historical romance, but that's often why people love them!

3. Erotic Romance

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Though erotica and erotic romance sound like they may be the same thing, they are a little different. Cordelia Logan, an erotica writer, says, "Erotica is just people doing it...[Characters] are having sex in interesting ways and with interesting people. There's not a lot of character development. The plot revolves around how these people are going to do it, and what's getting in the way." Erotic romance on the other hand, according to the RWA, is when "strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline."

Erotic romance may have a lot of steamy, sexy scenes, but there's still a plot throughout the book. The characters are developed and have their own wants, needs, and desires. A majority of erotic romance novels are contemporary, but they "may contain elements of other romance subgenres," such as historical, paranormal, or speculative.

The sex scenes in erotic romance tend to be longer and more explicit and detailed than in other romance novels. They're often kinkier too, featuring things like BDSM, ménage à trois, and exhibitionism.

4. Romantic Suspense, Thriller, and Mystery

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Romantic suspense, thriller, and mystery novels are similar in nature to their non-romance counterparts. However, at its heart, it's still a romance novel and will have a happily ever after while "suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot."

All the Kissing says you'll often find a "fast-paced, heart-pumping plot," something that will jeopardize the main romantic relationship, and "realistic details" within a modern setting in romantic suspense, thrillers, and mysteries. Many take place in contemporary settings, though there are some historic or speculative romances that have elements of suspense, mystery, and thriller too.

A lot of romantic thrillers, mysteries, and suspense novels feature characters in law enforcement, the military, espionage, or civilian crime solving, all falling in love while their lives are in peril.

5. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance

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The RWA states that "romance novels in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot." While they're all a little different, science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal romance all fall under the speculative romance umbrella. Speculative romance is any romance "in which the 'laws' of that world (explicit or implied) are different than ours." For example, we don't have vampires and wizards running around in our world.

Science fiction romance is often set sometime in the future when technology has advanced, or at least has very "futuristic elements" and technology. Sometimes love interests include non-humans, such as aliens.

Fantasy romance is set in a different world. Magic tends to play a large part in fantasy romance. Love interests often include elves, dwarves, and other humanoid folks. The fantasy elements are a big part of the story, but the romance is still the main focus.

Most paranormal romances are set in the modern world that is somehow different from our own. Whether they know it or not, humans tend to coexist with supernatural people like ghosts, witches, werewolves, vampires, demons, and more.

6. Spiritual and Religious Romance

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Spiritual and religious romance novels are romances in which "religious or spiritual beliefs are an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline." While many people tend to think of spiritual and religious romance as Christian romance, that's inaccurate. Spiritual and religious romance includes any spiritual belief or religion. Christian romance is just one subgenre of many.

Characters may not start the books with strong spiritual or religions beliefs, but have them by the end of the novel. Sometimes a character's religious faith is tested, but ends up strengthened by the end. When sex is in a spiritual or religious romance it's often fade to black or very light, but is usually not a part of the subgenre.

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