Romantic fictionRomantic fiction is one of the oldest genres in literature, with a history that goes back at least to the medieval concept of courtly love, the "cult of the Virgin Mary" and beyond. In this context, the term, "romance", which originally referred to any kind of adventure story, has developed a specialised meaning.
Romantic fiction may include drama, poetry and short stories, but (in English literature, at least) the term is often regarded as synonymous with the romantic novel. The earliest romantic novels in English appeared during the 18th century.
Modern romantic fiction is often looked down on as inferior to "literary" fiction, particularly where it appears to be written to a "formula". In the UK, publishing houses such as Mills & Boon and Robert Hale are specialists in the publication of romantic fiction, and the acceptance or rejection of submissions is governed by specific criteria which include the nature of the plot and conduct of the characters. Although they are not generally popular with men, many women find romance novels to be a form of erotic literature that is as effectively arousing as pornography.
A common mechanism of the romance novel is unresolved sexual tension, which enables the relationship between the principal characters to build up a powerful erotic charge without actually becoming sexual until the end of the book.
There are a number of sub-genres of romance novel.
- Doctor / nurse
- Aristocrat / commoner
- Boy from the wrong side of the tracks