Monday, March 4, 2013

A Romantic History

This week, we're reading Stuck in Estrogen's Funhouse by Shayna Gier.  It falls firmly into the Chick Lit/romance novel category, so today, I'm giving you a little history on the Romance Novel.  By definition, a romance novel is a book where the main plot must revolve around two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship together.

Samual Richardson's novel Pamela, is usually considered the first romance novel.  Written in 1740, it was the first book that was focused on the romantic relationship between the two main characters.  It was also from the female perspective, which was largely unheard of at the time.

Though Richardson may have created romance, Jane Austen perfected it (really, are we surprised?)  While Pride & Prejudice is considered the best of the romance genre, all of her books focused on the courtship of a specific man and woman, told from the woman's perspective.  Austen's main reason for this was that she didn't KNOW what men did when they weren't around women, so she never wrote about them.  You notice in her books that she never writes about men without the presence of a woman.

The Bronte sisters compounded on her success, putting out Jane Eyre, a wildly popular novel that combines romance with the Gothic novel.

The modern version of the Romance novel didn't appear until the 1970s, though they really took off in the 1980s.  Avon published a romance novel by Kathleen Woodiwiss in 1972, called The Flame and the Flower.  It was the first book to be a single-title paperback.

Romance novels are hugely popular these days, sales comprising more than half of the paperback market.  There are hugely recognizable names, such as Danielle Steele.  She made her entire career on romance novels.

Harlequin Romance novels are probably the most recognized brand of romance novels.  Richard Bonneycastle bought Mills & Boon, a romance novel publishing company.  Bonneycastle realized that explicit romance novels sold better than the tamer once, thus giving birth to the bodice rippers that Harlequin Romance still puts out to this day (and reaffirming the fact that sex sells, even in 1970.)

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