Saturday, April 24, 2010

WildCard Weekend - Celebrating Category Romance!

Linda Ford joins us today with a wonderful, wonderful post - that explains exactly what the Pink Heart Society is all about!

The Pink Heart Society is devoted to category romance and I am unashamedly proud to be writing category romance. So I thought I’d take a peek at what it is and why I’m proud to be part of it.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: The romance novel is a literary genre developed in Western culture, mainly in English-speaking countries. Novels in this genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending."

Umm. I love how they identify romance—satisfying and optimistic. Yes. Just what I need.

One of the earliest romance novels was Samuel Richardson's popular 1740 novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, which was revolutionary on two counts: it focused almost entirely on courtship and did so entirely from the perspective of a female protagonist.

I wouldn’t have guessed the first romance was so early. Did they not still read from parchment rolls back then? Kidding.

In the next century, Jane Austen expanded the genre, and her Pride and Prejudice is often considered the epitome of the genre. Austen inspired Georgette Heyer, who introduced historical romances in 1921. Heyer was a prolific author, and write one to two historical romance novels per year until her death in 1974 A decade later, in the 1930s, British company Mills and Boon began releasing the first category romance novels in hardback. The books were sold through weekly two-penny libraries and were known as "the books in brown" for their brown binding. (They probably bound them like this to ‘disguise’ their content. Aren’t romance novels often considered smut?)

The modern romance genre was born in 1972 with Avon's publication of Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower, the first single-title romance novel to be published as an original paperback. The genre boomed in the 1980s, with the addition of many category romance lines and an increased number of single-title romances. Popular authors began pushing the boundaries of the genre and plots and characters began to modernize.

In North America, romance novels are the most popular genre in modern literature, comprising almost 55% of all paperback books sold in 2004. The genre is also popular in Europe and Australia, and romance novels appear in 90 languages.

A Canadian company, Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd., began distributing in North America in 1957 the category romances published by Mills and Boon. Mary Bonneycastle, wife of Harlequin founder Richard Bonneycastle, and her daughter, Judy Burgess, exercised editorial control over which Mills and Boon novels were reprinted by Harlequin. They had a "decency code" and rejected more sexually explicit material that Mills and Boon submitted for reprinting. Upon realizing that the genre was popular, Richard Bonneycastle finally decided to read a romance novel. He chose one of the more explicit novels and enjoyed it. (Interesting how things changed when a man got involved. )

On his orders, the company conducted a market test with the novel he had read and discovered that it outsold a similar, tamer novel. Overall, the novels were short and formulaic, featuring heroines who were sweet, compassionate, pure and innocent. The few heroines who worked did so in traditional female jobs, including nurses, governesses and secretaries. Intimacy in the novels never extended beyond a chaste kiss between the protagonists.

On October 1, 1971, Harlequin purchased Mills and Boon. By this point, the romance novel genre "had been popularized and distributed widely to an enthusiastic audience" in Great Britain.

Robyn Whyte is quoted in
as giving these reasons for the popularity of the category romance (I have taken the liberty of condensing her excellent article)

Renewal: When all the craziness of day to day life needs to be returned to a balance between living and reacting, there is nothing better than stepping into a romance.

Hope: Romance readers also reported seeing a sense of hope in books about romance. As human beings, we need to have a sense of hope and when our own spirit is battered, why not a romance?

The Predictability Factor: While not every romance is exactly the same, we can take the guess work out of a book by selecting a romance right away. We can know for certain that at the end of the book, we are promised a happy ending.

Sharing the Hero: And naturally, we can also assume that women read romance in droves for the heroes. Think of some of the heroes you may have read. They are usually gorgeous, tortured, complex souls that absolutely would melt the heart. Truly, I think many women just want to entwine their own lives in reading of these men who will do what it takes to solve the day's problem.

My 10 personal favorite reasons for writing category:

1. Having a solid business (HQ) behind me.

2. Being able to write stories of overcoming, enduring love

3. Being able to explore deep emotional issues

4. Being valued as an author

5. Taking my characters, and my readers, on a journey of growth that prepares them to live a full, satisfying life.

6. I love being part of a network of like-minded authors.

7. I value what I do and don’t mind telling those who pooh-pooh what I do, how and why I value it.

8. I get to live in my imagination.

9. I meet interesting people (In my imagination, my research and in writing organizations)

10. I like feeling like Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone--remember her tears of joy and satisfaction?-- when I get to the end of a satisfying story—ones I write and ones I read.

So go out and buy a romance and enjoy the escape into hope and optimism. Enjoy a satisfying ending.

Go and write a romance knowing that’s what our stories bring to people.

And be proud.

So why do you read and/or write category romance?

Linda's latest romance is her Love Inspired title, The Cowboy's Baby.

You can catch up with her at her website:


  1. Linda

    What an uplifting post... To your list of reasons I'd have to add... Being able to pack all that love, hope, dreams and emotions into such a small package!


  2. Lovely post, Linda.

    And to that I'd add being able to put a bit of sparkle into people's lives when the going gets tough - there's no better feeling than knowing that you've given someone the break they needed to help them get through it. :o)

  3. I am addicted to category! I know what I'm getting (sure I've read some I liked more than others), I get to read my favorite authors at least twice a year instead of waiting more than a year! All that greatness packed into 250 pages or less and for a great price too.
    So many choices with the lines - do I want romantic suspense or do I want sweet contemporary - and I don't have to search in a bookstore trying to find the type I want to read. Harlequin has them all!

  4. Insightful post, Linda! And like you, there are so many reasons why I love reading and writing category romance. Authors are deinitely some of the most interesting, and supportive people in the world and I have been fortunate enough to meet some of the biggest names in the business--and they were SO cool!!!

    I would be writing stories even if I didn't have a book deal with Kimani, but I am so very thankful I do. I feel truly blessed to be doing one of the things I love, and I know I am not the only published author who feels this way.

    Linda, you have been a published author for a very long time and I'm curious what you think about the sudden surge of e-books and other on-line reading avenues. What are some other changes you are surprised by in the industry?

  5. Heidi,
    For sure. I love a satisfying read in a short format.

    Another good reason for romances--encouragement. Yah!!

    And Marcie,
    The marketing is a big bonus.

    Love the comments.

  6. Hi Pamela,
    I don't know what to say about e-books and online reads. For me to sit at a computer or any form of screen after writing several hours just isn't relaxing. So I guess I don't see the appeal of such a format. Which isn't to say I don't understand that others might think differently. However, any form of reading is good.

    I really can't see print books going out of style completely.

    What other changes in the industry surprise me? Well, honestly, I have to say that I am surprised by how far the pendulum swings in both directions with erotica and sweet romances. It's like we're bcoming polarized.


  7. I'm not good at writing short, either in short story form or category. That has left me with an abiding appreciation for those who can do it, yet still craft emotionally convincing stories of hope.

  8. Wonderful post, Linda. And how funny to think how different a more explicit novel of the 70's-80's would compare to one of today. :-)

    Why do I love category romance? Because I can travel where I've never been and experience the thrill - and trepidation - of new loves and first kisses without fear of broken hearts. Clearly, the promise of happily-ever-after means a lot to me. :-)

  9. Hi Linda!

    I know what you mean about reading on the screen. I had e-books that never got read because they were on my pc. However a few weeks ago I got an e-reader and I ADORE it. Way more than I expected.

    I'm reading a print book at the moment, but I have to say I love downloading and getting the buzz of instant gratification!

    I don't think print books will disappear, but I hope the accessibility of e-books will mean that more people are reading and BUYING.

    Wonderful post today. :-)

  10. Great post. I love reading category books because my life is busy, and category books are fast, satisfying reads. I write category books because it's a challenge I enjoy, trying to pack all the emotion, intensity and plot density of a single title into the shorter pages of a category novel.

    From the beginning of my writing career, I've targeted category as something I want to write. I may do bigger, single title books one day, but I find it hard to imagine ever not writing category books as well. I love them too much.

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