Romance Novels: Why are they so popular?

Once, after reading one of my manuscripts, my agent said, “I really like the historical part of the story. Why don’t you write it as a stand-alone romance?”

I have a pretty good idea about where this book is going, don’t you?

I winced. A romance novel? Me?

I’ll admit here that I’ve been a bit of a snob in regard to that particular genre, which I was surprised to discover is the number one book-selling category on the planet. Not sure why I’ve often scoffed at romance novels. Perhaps it’s the covers: the swooning women with their heaving breasts, the muscular men, all sixpacks and flowing hair. Those books just never sang to me and I never understood why other people wanted to read them.

So, in an effort to learn, I contacted some of my lovely romance-writing friends. I put on my old reporter’s cap and grilled them like a detective looking for clues, my goal to understand why anyone would want to read a romance novel.

Boy, did I learn a lot!

Author Tina Ruiz says romance novels give readers a glimpse into another world.

“Romance gives us a glimpse into another world,” said author Tina Ruiz. “Sometimes it’s a world that we don’t have around us. Romance novels are like fairy tales to grown up women, where the men are nice, cater to our every whim, and shelter us from everything that might make us sad or hurt.”

“It’s possible the diversity of romance novels is a magnet for diverse individuals,” said romance author Nancy Kay. “From contemporary, to historical, to mystery and thrillers there are any number of themes to attract a number of tastes.”

Okay. But why are these stories tops in sales department?

“In my humble opinion it’s because we live in a shattered world that is full of bad stuff and romance is the ultimate good stuff,” said author Catherine Castle. “True love, loyalty, people who care about each other’s happiness.”

“Simple answer – escape,” said author Sloane Taylor. “Escape from the husband/wife who takes you for granted. Escape from the kids demanding all your time with not even a thanks. Escape from the boss who is a major ass. Escape from the bills that keep mounting. And especially in today’s world – escape from the pandemic and it’s personal repercussions.”

According to author Vonnie Hughs, it’s the happy endings that many romance readers enjoy.

“The mainly happy endings in a frequently bitchy world,” Australian author Vonnie Hughes explained.

Hughes went on to say that romance novels don’t cost as much as other genres and they tend to be shorter, so don’t require a big investment of time.

I have certainly read books that contained romance, though that part of the story was mostly secondary to the plot, so I was curious as to what exactly defines a romance novel. Of course, my first thought in our post Fifty Shades of Grey world was sex. But Ruiz pointed out that actual sex is not always the big draw.

“It is the illusion of sex that grabs our hearts,” she said. “In a lot of movies, the man and woman don’t even kiss until the very last scene.  That moment gets built up from the moment they meet until the end of the book or movie.  It’s the part we are all waiting for, so when it happens, it is absolutely wonderful.”

Still sex is often part of the format.

“Reading a book where sex is prominent is pretty awesome,” Ruiz said. “Because it gets portrayed in a different way than we have it in real life.  Some men…are not perfectly, let’s say, kempt, when they walk into the bedroom.  The men in the books and/or movies are like a Prince Charming. Every hair is in place, his teeth shine, his eyes twinkle, and his breath is probably minty fresh.” 

Author Nancy Kay says it’s the diversity of romance novels that make them so popular.

Another rather obvious requirement in a romance novel is that romance needs to be the most important part of the story.

“The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work,” Kay said. “There can be subplots as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.”

And, there’s something else I learned. Romance novels apparently should not end on a depressing note. There must be an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending,” Kay said. “In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.”

That sounds nice, doesn’t it? I can now see the appeal of romance novels. Perhaps it’s time I gave one a try.

How about you?

Wild Horses on the Salt Cover 2



Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here:

19 thoughts on “Romance Novels: Why are they so popular?

  1. Patricia Bond says:

    Nicely done, Ms. Montgomery! Nicely done.
    Why are romance novels so popular? I think because the one real given – the guarantee – is the Happily Ever After. Or at least, the Happy For Now ending. In a world where so much has gone wrong for so long, romance novels give us that escape from reality we sometimes need to stay sane. Often the characters are dealing with at least as much, if not more, than the readers are, and if they can come out happy at the end — well, there’s hope for all of us. That’s the REAL draw. They give us HOPE. Hunky, caring, stable guys are a bonus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • annemontgomeryauthor2013 says:

      And this is what I’ve learned, Patricia. It seems it’s mostly about the happy ending, which we all could use right now. 😉


  2. franhunne4u says:

    I am a reader of (historical) romances – in times when I feel stressed.
    Because it ends before all the everyday life sets in. Georgette Heyer is my go to author and they end more often than not with a betrothal kiss (I am an outspoken German, but I do not want my books full of bedroom scenes, I know how IT works, thanks). All the boring stuff, all the everyday stuff, all the routine is not yet there. That is the huge difference between real life and those novels.

    And while I like my real life being predictable and “boring” (Germans are boring, bureaucrats are boring, can you guess how boring the life of a German bureaucrat is?) – I do not mind some surprises (as long as there is a happy ending) in the stuff I read. Again – when I am stressed and have already enough to deal with.

    Do I like the controlling, stalking behaviour of the Heros? The heroine’s very unfeministic helplessness? Only in the novel. I would have hated living in Regency England …

    Liked by 1 person

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