The Romantic Genre 4/4: Characteristics of Literary Romance


This is the fourth and last post in my series about the romantic genre. After reviewing the reasons behind the success of the romantic genre, the history of romance publishing, and the Commercial Romance it's time to talk about the future of romance publishing: the Literary Romance.

The Literary Romance: An Undeveloped Niche

The Literary Romance, like the Commercial Romance, also evolves around a love story, but unlike the Commercial Romance the Literary Romance has higher literary standards and it uses the love story to explore social and cultural aspects of life. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, for example, follows the love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, but also deals with social issues in England at the time (early 19th century) such as class differences and a woman’s life without a husband or money.

Some people mistakenly think of Literary Romance as Women’s Fiction. Women’s Fiction is a story about a woman or women. Unlike a romantic story, it does not necessarily have to be a love story or end up happily.

Currently there are no publishing houses that specialize in Literary Romance. Books in this genre fall under the category of Literary Fiction. Most of the known Literary Romance novels that we have today are actually classics like Pride and Prejudice, as mentioned before, and Persuasions by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emma Orczy etc. Today there is a vacuum in this genre.

The Literary Romance is emotionally satisfying as the Popular Romance, since it also describes a love story with an optimistic ending, but it is also intellectually satisfying. Literary Romance writers have more freedom with the story structure, since it is a literary genre that encourages self and artistic expression. This genre requires more sophistication with the language and the story content. Literary Romance is suited for educated women who have developed literary taste but still crave for heart warming stories.

In the US there is a growing market of educated women that the publishing market has been overlooking their needs. Right now the Literary Fiction aims for both sophisticated men and women readers, though women are the majority of fiction consumers. Combining both the emotional traits of the Romance Fiction and the intellectual traits of the Literary Fiction in one genre – the Literary Romance – has a strong potential to capture a large market share. It is a great opportunity for any publisher to create and lead a new romance market.

If you live in the Seattle area and are interested in writing romance check out my romance writing classes at Bellevue College: