The Romance Novel

Publication year

The book seems to have appeared first in 2016 and again in 2017. In addition, it was a bit difficult to tell whether it was published by Macmillan or Gale, Cengage. I have taken the reference details from Hsu-Ming Teo's bibliography in the chapter on "Love and romance novels" in The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction:

Teo, Hsu-Ming. “The Romance Novel.” Gender: Love, edited by Jennifer C. Nash, Macmillan, 2016, 255–270.

Since she's the author of both chapters, I assume this is how she wishes "The Romance Novel" to be cited. Given their subjects, there is some overlap between the two chapters.

The chapter in Gender: Love begins by defining the romance novel and then has sub-sections on:

  • The Early Romance Novel
  • From the Moral to the Secular
  • The Sheik's Impact on the Romance Novel
  • The "Bodice Ripper"
  • Love in the Romance Novel: Continuity and Change


While the romance novel has fixed genre conventions, representations of love in the romance novel have changed over time. This chapter discusses the rise of the modern, or late-twentieth-century, romance novel and how the genre’s publishing history has shaped its content. In the nineteenth-century romance novel, love balanced a desire for individual autonomy with social and familial expectations and with Christian or similarly spiritual values, while love in the twentieth-century romance novel became increasingly secularized and sexualized. Moreover, the function of wealth in the romance novel also changed, from securing the stability of marriage and family life after courtship to securing the possibility of a never-ending romantic courtship based on extravagant consumption. Looking at the romance novel historically illuminates how ideals of love and fantasies of romance are responsive to cultural changes, especially changes in notions of femininity and masculinity, as well as European and North American women’s increasing autonomy and economic opportunities. (256)


The history of the romance novel illustrates changes in representations of love in Europe and North America. Some attributes of romantic love are universal and unchanging: the belief in ‘‘true love’’ and the quest for a soul mate, for instance, or the understanding that love is affectionate, compassionate, kind, generous, self-sacrificial, altruistic and that it involves pain as well as joy. The romance novel has also naturalized and celebrated a vision of love that is heterosexual and white.

Ideas about love in romance novels have also changed according to social mores and publishers’ responses to these values, as well as their sensitivity to the market. Broadly speaking, romance novels shifted from emphasizing love as Christian or spiritual, in the nineteenth century, to emphasizing love as sexual, especially in terms of women’s pleasure. Whereas love in the nineteenth-century romance novel was based on character and virtue, twentieth-century incarnations disregarded this requirement by fusing villain and hero and developing plots whereby the virtuous heroine redeems and tames the hero through love. Moral character no longer provokes love; rather, love transforms character.

The romance novel’s increasing emphasis on the heroine’s autonomy, from the late twentieth century onward, means that finding love has ceased to be her ultimate quest; rather, love, courtship, and marriage have often become extensions of her already full and fulfilling life. Finally, the origins and sustenance of romantic love in the modern romance novel often seem inextricably intertwined with wealth and luxury consumption, because apart from sexual desire and emotional yearning, consumption has become a sign of ‘‘romance.’’ (268)