A big percentage of the books in the fiction genre that you will find on the shelves of bookstores have elements of romance in them, including science fiction books, horror stories and pretty much everything else. However, these books are not romances.
A romance novel is a piece of literature that focuses on a romantic relationship. Everything else that happens in such a novel happens to support the main story of romance.
Most readers of romance books are women. They are knowledgeable and very aware of what they like and what they don’t like. They have very specific expectation about the books that they choose to read. They want to identify with the heroine. They want the relationship to overcome the obstacles that it has on its path. Contrary to a popular belief, romance novels do not need to follow a formula. They do need to have certain elements and to mix and match those elements, but romance writers have a lot of freedom in doing so.
Romance novels are about 50% of all mass market paperbacks and romance is the most popular literary genre.
Within this genre, there are a lot of subgenres, including historical romance, contemporary romance, category romance and others.
Readers of historical romance novels expect their authors to do their research into clothes, traditions, social hierarchy, language and daily schedules of characters. All of these elements need to be accurate and believable. Characters need to behave in ways that are plausible in their world and their society. Certain plots and story lines work great within the boundaries of historical romance, while others don’t.
These novels are set in modern time, which means that they get a lot of scrutiny from the readers. For example, the characters can’t use language and slang that are out-of-date.
Category romance books are also known as series romances. These books are typically published on a monthly based. A category or a series usually have from four to six different novels in it. The books in a series are similar in length, focus, and design. Category romance books appear next to each other on bookshelves and are marketed as part of a series, not as individual titles. Most series of romance novels consists of contemporary romance works.
These books are also known as single titles, as opposed to series romances. A single title is a very accurate description of how mainstream romance is marketed and sold. Each book has its own plot, story line, and vision. Single titles are usually placed on bookshelves in an alphabetical order. They also have larger page counts compared to individual books in a series. This allows single title romance books to have more complex stories and a bigger cast of characters.
Beyond these categories, romance novels break into subgenres such as romantic suspense, romantic westerns, romantic comedy and so on.