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The Washington Post Reports: How the Romance Genre Found Its Happily Ever After

The Flame and the Flower, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Avon, 1972, Robert McGinnis cover art

How Has the Romance Genre Changed Over the Years?

On April 15, 2021, The Washington Post journalist Angela Haupt spoke with a dozen major players in the romance novel industry to write this engaging article about the evolution of the romance genre:

How the Romance Genre Found Its Happily Ever After

From the roots in bodice rippers like Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ Flame and the Flower to the softer, sweeter writings of LaVyrle Spencer, to Harlequin’s dominance in publishing, to Fabio-mania, to the industry today, the article highlights the major points of the romance genre’s history. The two constants in this ever-changing field are the requirement for a happy, satisfactory ending for the protagonists and the ubiquitous nature of people who read and write romance. I think Beverly Jenkins did an excellent job summing it all up:

“There’s so many different women writing romance. You’ve got marine scientists, you’ve got biologists, you’ve got physicists. You’ve got waitresses. You’ve got stay-at-home moms. So, you know, everybody writes romance, and everybody reads romance, and all of that together generates billions of dollars a year. We’re the people that keep the lights on in publishing.”

My Thoughts about The Washington Post’s Article

I made the following comment about this story at Historical-Romances.Com: Romance Novels are Big Business:

“That’s a fascinating article that brings up a lot of interesting points. However, I have to disagree with the assessment the early clinch covers were directed solely at the male gaze. Certainly there were covers that had women practically bursting out of their dresses, but how can they forget the Robert McGinnis naked man phase that began in 1980 with Johanna Lindsey’s Fires of Winter? Each Lindsey cover was more graphic than the next. The original A Gentle Feuding cover had the hero’s backside completely nude (that version was never published in America). Tender is the Storm was so controversial that bookstores were supplied with stickers to cover the hero’s behind and groin area.

Let’s face it, romance covers have always been a bit salacious, from the very beginning to the naked men’s torso phase of today. Covers have always been controversial. That’s why some readers prefer step-covers or the privacy of their e-readers. Personally, I love the variety of it all: from painted to digital, step-backs or clinch, with a couple or with the hero or the heroine alone. The only ones I’m not fond of in the historical genre are the newer illustrated types, which, in my estimation, are better suited for contemporaries or light hearted rom-coms.”

Have you read The Washington Post’s story? If so, what do you think of what they had to say? What are your feelings on the history of romance? Please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.

Please drop a comment and let's talk romance!