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Reader's Corner - Romance: The Romance Genre

Staff Picks

Lists of Romances in the BPL Online Catalog

What Is Romance?

Romance fiction can cover nearly any setting or genre. There are romance novels with contemporary dialog, historical settings, mystery plots, paranormal elements, and any number of other themes.

Two basic elements are in every romance novel:

  • A central love story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

  • An emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love. 

A book that lacks either of these elements may still contain a romance story, but it is not a romance novel -- a distinction that can prove confusing to those unfamiliar with the genre. The authors Nicholas Sparks and Danielle Steel, for instance, are often referred to as writing romances, but their work does not meet the generic requirements for romance novels. 

Popular Romance Tropes

The Boston Public Library subscribes to a resource called Novelist Plus which can help you search for new books to read in a variety of ways. You can search for your favorite book or author and find readalikes, or you can combine a variety of different "appeal factors" such as pace, tone, and writing style to find a book that's just right for you. One other helpful approach that you can take in Novelist is going into the Advanced Search tab and searching by genre-specific "themes" or tropes. You can see a list of themes that the Novelist staff uses to categorize romance novels below. 

  • Best friend’s sibling: Though the characters in these stories are attracted to each other, they feel they shouldn't act on their impulses due to pre-existing loyalties to friends or family. (Adults, Teens)
  • Captive hearts: The hero holds the heroine captive for his own gain, but along the way, they fall in love. (Adults)
  • Childhood sweethearts: Young love blossoms into adult romance in these stories of childhood sweethearts maturing into a realistic partnership. (Adults)
  • Enemies to lovers: There is a thin line between love and hate in these stories where the characters start out as adversaries but end up romantically attached. (Adults)  Note: On the teen side, the heading is called “Hating to Dating."
  • Fake relationship: Whether to make someone jealous or out of necessity, these characters pretend to fall in love, only to find it feels so real. (Adults, Teens)
  • Falling for a friend: Though their relationship begins platonically, the characters in these stories find themselves developing an attraction which deepens into love. (Teens)  Note: On the adult side, the heading is called “Friends to lovers.”
  • Famous flings: The glare of the limelight is no match for the sparks that fly when a famous figure falls in love with an ordinary person. (Adults, Teens)
  • For richer, for poorer: Despite coming from very different social classes, nothing can keep us apart. (Adults)
  • Friends to lovers: Though their relationship begins platonically, the characters in these stories find themselves developing an attraction which deepens into love. (Adults)  Note: On the teen side, the heading is called “Falling for a friend.”
  • Getting together for the kids: An unplanned pregnancy leads to marriage. (Adults)
  • Hating to Dating: There is a thin line between love and hate in these stories where the characters start out as adversaries but end up romantically attached. (Teens)  Note: On the adult side, the heading is called “Enemies to lovers."
  • Home again: Take me back to the place where I belong. (Adults)
  • Love abroad: A travel adventure leads to everlasting love. (Adults, Teens)
  • Love in a small town: Fall in love in a small town where everyone knows your name. (Adults)
  • Love in disguise: Can love blossom even though one or both of these characters is not who they seem? (Adults, Teens)
  • Marriage of convenience: Saying "I do" is mutually beneficial for the couples in these stories, but then the unexpected happens: they fall in love! (Adults)
  • New in town: Moving to a new town leads to new love. (Adults)
  • Once upon a time: The fairy tale couple lived happily ever after, right? (Adults, Teens)
  • One night to forever: What's supposed to be a brief fling turns into a lasting relationship for the characters in these romances. (Adults)
  • Opposites attract: The couple in these novels seems an unlikely match in all ways (except for how they feel about each other). (Adults, Teens)
  • Second chance at romance: Tis better to have loved and lost and loved again. (Adults)
  • Secret baby: The revelation of a secret love child helps these couples reunite and give love another chance. (Adults)
  • Snowbound & stranded: Things heat up in close quarters. (Adults)
  • Sudden baby: Unexpectedly becoming the guardian of a child (or children!), leads to an unexpected romance. (Adults)
  • Together again: Reunited and it feels so good! Former lovers reunite and reconcile in these romantic stories. (Adults)
  • Unforgettable love: Characters suffer through memory loss get another chance for love as they slowly remember their past. (Adults)
  • Workplace romance: Mixing business with pleasure?  Smitten colleagues defy HR regulations in these love stories. (Adults)

Romance Newsletter

Would you like the BPL's romance suggestions emailed directly to your inbox, every other month? Sign up for our bimonthly Now Read This! newsletter for Romance. In each issue, you will find a featured book of the month, a special event worth checking out, a curated selection of newly-acquired and upcoming romance titles, and booklists for further reading. Whether you prefer unconventional love stories or traditional bodice-rippers, your friendly BPL Reader Services Librarians have recommendations for every reader.

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