I have somewhat arbitrarily assigned three general categories within "romantic fiction": Gothic, as characterized by writers such as Mary Stewart and Catherine Cooke; Harlequin, a type unto itself; and Romantic Saga, as characterized by such writers as Rosemary Rogers and Patricia Matthews. (25)
Of the three categories of romantic fiction, Gothics are the most inventive. Harlequins make some pretense at an idealized verisimilitude, and the romantic sagas are often romans a clef, based as they are in authenticity. (27)
The second category is the Harlequin romance. There are many romances exactly like the specific Harlequins, and almost every publishing house features them because they are so lucrative - names like Coventry Romances, Regency Romances, Candlelight Intrigues abound - but the book published under the Harlequin imprimatur is the prototype to end all prototypes in this class. [...] Its product differs little from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. (27)
The romantic saga is perfectly characterized by the novels of Kathleen Woodiwiss, Patricia Matthews and Rosemary Rogers. [...] As in epic poetry, everything in these romances is larger than life.
The extraordinary ebullition of romantic sagas that has taken place in the last decade differs substantially from the Gothics, to say nothing of the Harlequins. Not only do they take place in the past but they are chock-full of rape, adultery and prostitution. (29)