Straight to the Edges: Gay and Lesbian Characters and Cultural Conflict in Popular Romance Fiction

Publication year

The marginality of gay and lesbian characters within romances is not only a product of their relative scarcity. It is also caused by the fact that mass-market romance novels are, per se, heterocentric: they revolve around the loves, concerns, and experiences of heterosexual couples. Therefore, although gay and/or lesbian characters may figure prominently in the overall plot of a romance novel, their concerns and relationships are, in the end, peripheral to the heterosexual love plot. Gay and lesbian characters may also, however, be read as literally marginal, in the sense that they function to visibly and explicitly mark out the territory of, and set boundaries upon, cultural conflicts staged within the heterosexual romance narrative. (164)