Romantic Conventions

Romantic Conventions

Romantic Conventions

Romantic Conventions


Traditionally, romance novels have a reputation as being no more than trashy, sex-filled fantasy escapes for frustrated housewives. But books in this genre account for nearly half of the paperbacks published. Contributors examine the patterns used by the romance authors to tell their stories.


Anne K. Kaler

Telling a story's an art, writing's a craft.

—Nora Roberts (Second Nature 99)

Just when does the craft of writing become the art of storytelling?

Just when does a rosebud become a rose?

Within the popular genre of romance, craft becomes art when the story unfolds seamlessly, the conclusion ties all loose ends together in a happy ending, and the conventions blend so perfectly that the romance is completely satisfying to our expectations, like a rosebud opening to its full glory.

Critics unravel the apparent mystery of the art of the romance by inspecting the crafts and techniques which authors use to create it. In order to understand the means by which a complex art has been created, we often explicate the tale via a process of studying what elements or factors determined the author's use of various conventions or literary devices. The critics in this book believe that the romance genre is an important part of the literary scene, not only because it has captured nearly fifty percent of the paperback market, but also because it employs sympathetic values and identifiable conventions of its own. Like the genetic makeup of the rose, these sympathetic values—literary, challenging, and socially redeeming values—are actually encoded in the themes, conventions, patterns, or familiar images that are the very tools of the craft of romance writing. How well each author uses those tools determines how well she tells her story, her tale, her art.

When I was a youngster, I wept when I could find no new fairy tales to read. I rejoiced when I found them again in the myths. When I was a teenager, I wept when there were no more romances to read after Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Sheik. Later, I rejoiced when I discovered category romances; however, because of years spent in the scholarly pursuit of distinguishing the finer points of literary worth, I approached these romances with reserve even as I consumed them. Why was I consuming these bits of "marshmallow fluff' so heartily and hardily?

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