What Are the Subgenres of Romance Novels?

Published: 2 July 2023 | Last updated: 19 August 2023
Written by Penny Somerset

Navigating the world of romance novels can feel like getting lost in a maze with countless paths. Trust me, I've been there too! But don't worry, after extensive research and immersing myself into this captivating literary genre, I have created an informative journey through the various subgenres of romance novels.

By sharing my knowledge in this blog post, you'll be able to identify and explore your preferred style of romantic stories based on their unique elements and themes. Ready for a love-filled adventure? You're just a scroll away!

Table of Contents

• Historical Romance
• Contemporary Romance
• Fantasy Romance
• Erotic Romance
• Romantic Comedy
• Romantic Suspense
• Romantic Mystery
• Young Adult Romance
• Clean Romance
• Plus Size Romance
• Single Mom / Single Dad Romance
• Uniform Romance
• LGBTQI+ Romance
• Inspirational Romance
• Common Romance Tropes
• Closing the Book on Romance Sub-genres

• Related Posts
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Historical Romance

Historical romance novels take readers back in time, exploring love stories set in different eras such as Regency England, the Wild West, the medieval era, and even pirate-infested seas.

Regency Romance

Diving right into the world of regency romance, we find ourselves transported to a charming era from 1811 to 1820 known as the British Regency period. This subgenre is more than just heart-fluttering love stories set in a bygone era; it's an invigorating journey that paints vivid pictures of societal norms and conventions unique to this time frame.

An illustration of a couple in Regency dress

The beauty of these novels lies in their varying tones - some are light-hearted comedies, others pulse with suspense, while still others sizzle with steamy erotica. In essence, they cater to every taste imaginable within the romantic sphere.

A number of well-established authors have made significant contributions to this genre, earning top spots on readers' favorite lists. Despite their historical settings, many modern regency romances subtly incorporate contemporary values for relatability.

To enhance your reading experience further you'll also find 'clean' regency romance tales that focus solely on the emotional depth rather than explicit content if that's more your style.

Western Romance

In the vast landscape of romance genres, Western Romance holds a unique place. Think of it as a fusion of classic love stories with the wild west's rugged charm. This subgenre can be set in either contemporary or historical times and is also known as cowboy romance.

It often incorporates aspects associated with rural American life, from horse riding and cattle ranching to saloon showdowns, offering narratives tinged with adventure.

The allure lies not only in its distinctive backdrop but also in its hardy characters who exemplify resilience and integrity. The romance usually blossoms amidst conflicts and dangers that are intrinsically woven into this untamed setting.

Intriguingly, Western Romance literature shares close ties to the Historical Romance genre because both narrate tales from yesteryears - albeit one opts for regency ballrooms while the other favors dusty prairies! So if you're fascinated by cowboys or pioneer life coupled with heart-throbbing romance plots, then this subgenre should be your next stop among what are the subgenres of romance novels.

Viking Romance

Emerging from the depths of historical romance and capturing imaginations with its potent mix of adventure, passion, and love is the Viking Romance subgenre. Noted for its alpha male heroes, these novels depict larger-than-life characters shaped by the rugged beauty and challenging living conditions of their Nordic homelands.

These stories often involve strong-willed heroines taming unruly Vikings against a rich historical backdrop ranging from medieval periods to 17th-century Scottish Highlands and even colonial America.

Many shield-maidens and Valkyries have found themselves at center-stage in this romance genre due to their widespread popularity among readers who value courageous female protagonists. While trends shift in Romancelandia - an affectionate name given to the world of romance novels - Viking romance books continue their steady course through time just like our seafaring heroes, offering passionate escapism that's both timeless yet captivatingly niche within the broader landscape of what are considered as subgenres of romance novels.

Medieval Romance

Medieval romance is a captivating subgenre of romance novels that transports readers to a time of chivalry and heroic quests. It emerged in the mid-14th century, showcasing love stories and epic adventures set during the Middle Ages.

These fictional works often feature knights, damsels in distress, and noble heroes on daring quests. Medieval romance holds an important place in English literature and has influenced storytelling for centuries.

An illustration of a couple inside a medieval castle dining hall, romantically lit by candles

From tales of courtly love to thrilling battles against evil forces, medieval romance books offer a unique glimpse into a bygone era filled with passion and valor. Whether you're drawn to tales of knights jousting for honor or maidens yearning for true love, medieval romance provides an enchanting escape into history's most romantic period.

Pirate Romance

Arrrrr, pirate romance novels! These swashbuckling tales of adventure on the high seas are a thrilling subgenre within historical romance. Picture dashing rogues with smoldering gazes and irresistible charm, sailing the ocean blue in search of treasure and love.

From "Diary of an Accidental Wallflower" to "The Princess and Her Pirate," there's no shortage of pirate-themed historical romances to captivate readers. These stories transport us back to a time when pirates ruled the waves, filled with daring escapades and passionate encounters.

Through centuries of melodrama, romance novels, and adventure stories, pirates have become legendary figures that continue to fascinate readers today. So if you're looking for a romance that will whisk you away on a thrilling voyage, look no further than pirate romance novels!

Contemporary Romance

Contemporary romance is set in the present time and focuses on modern relationships.

Sports Romance

Sports romance is a popular subgenre within the larger romance genre that combines the excitement of sports with the emotional journey of love. These novels typically revolve around some aspect of the sports world and feature main characters who have a connection to sports, whether they are athletes themselves or involved in sports in some way.

With themes like competition, teamwork, dedication, and overcoming obstacles, these passionate and emotionally charged stories appeal to readers who enjoy both the adrenaline rush of sports and the rollercoaster ride of romance.

Set in various settings such as college sports or professional leagues, sports romance novels often feature strong female protagonists challenging stereotypes in male-dominated athletic realms.

Rock Star Romance

Rock Star Romance is an electrifying subgenre of contemporary romance novels that focuses on the passionate and sometimes tumultuous relationships between musicians and rock stars. These books take readers behind the scenes of the music industry, allowing them to experience the excitement and intensity of being with a famous rocker.

A beautiful woman and a famous rock star holding a guitar embrace on stage.

With popular themes like friends-to-lovers and enemies-to-lovers, rock star romance captivates readers with its love stories set against the backdrop of fame, fortune, and all-consuming passion.

Whether you're a fan of rebellious bad boys or powerful divas, Rock star romance books offer a thrilling escape into a world where love and music collide. From "Rock Addiction" to "Lick," this subgenre has produced some unforgettable reads that will have your heart singing along to their beat.

Fantasy Romance

Fantasy romance combines elements of fantasy, magic, supernatural beings, or science fiction with the development of romantic relationships. Well-known authors in this genre include Emily Henry and Jayne Ann Krentz' Arcane Society series

Paranormal Romance

Paranormal romance is an exciting subgenre of romance novels that incorporates elements of fantasy and science fiction. It takes readers on a journey beyond traditional romance tropes and introduces mythical creatures or supernatural elements into the mix.

Think vampires, werewolves, witches, and other intriguing beings! This genre is a combination of romantic love and speculative fiction, often blurring the lines between reality and imagination.

Paranormal romance can encompass a variety of futuristic or fantastical settings, making it incredibly immersive for readers who enjoy escaping into magical worlds. Its popularity has been greatly influenced by books like Twilight, captivating audiences with its blend of suspenseful storytelling and passionate relationships.

Science Fiction Romance

Science Fiction Romance, a genre that marries the boundless possibilities of the future with the timeless allure of love, offers readers a unique blend of technological innovation and heartfelt emotion. In these narratives, the backdrop of otherworldly settings, alien species, and advanced technologies serves as a vibrant canvas upon which complex romantic relationships unfold.

The genre's strength lies in its ability to juxtapose the familiar human experience of love and connection against the backdrop of the unfamiliar and the unknown. Characters navigate not only the challenges of their romantic entanglements but also the complexities of futuristic societies or interstellar adventures.

Thus, Science Fiction Romance provides a compelling exploration of love's resilience and adaptability, demonstrating that even in the face of the extraordinary or the extraterrestrial, the human heart's capacity for love remains a constant.

Vampire Romance

Vampire romance is a captivating subgenre within fantasy romance that explores passionate relationships involving vampires. These books transport readers into a world where love intertwines with the supernatural, creating an alluring blend of danger and desire.

In vampire romance novels, the hero or heroine may be a vampire themselves or become entangled in a forbidden bond with one. From forbidden love to thrilling adventures, these stories offer a unique twist on traditional romance, bringing together the allure of eternal life and undeniable passion.

Whether you're drawn to brooding vampires or epic battles against darkness, vampire romance novels are sure to captivate fans of both fantasy and romance genres alike.

Post Apocalyptic Romance

An illustration of a couple hugging in a post apocalyptic setting

Post-apocalyptic romance is an exciting subgenre of romance novels that brings together the intensity of apocalyptic stories with the emotional depth of love and connection. These books feature romantic relationships set in a post-apocalyptic world, where characters navigate through dystopian societies while finding love amidst the chaos.

They combine elements of science fiction, fantasy, and even paranormal romance to create thrilling plotlines filled with action, adventure, and passionate tension. In these novels, protagonists from different backgrounds must overcome their differences to discover a deep connection and forge relationships against all odds.

Post-apocalyptic romance books explore themes of survival, hope, resilience, redemption, and rebuilding society after catastrophe strikes. It allows for creative world-building and imaginative storytelling as authors craft unique post-apocalyptic settings and societies.

Erotic Romance

Erotic Romance is one of the exciting subgenres within the world of romance novels. It's a genre that delves into intense and explicit sexual interactions, which are integral to both character growth and the love story itself.

From light-hearted and playful to dark and intense, Erotic Romance offers readers an escape into a world of passion, desire, and sensual exploration. Whether set in contemporary times or different eras like historical or fantasy settings, this subgenre focuses on building emotional and physical connections between characters.

It's incredibly popular among those who enjoy steamy and sensual stories that push boundaries while enhancing the love story with deep emotional connections. Often found within other romance subgenres like paranormal or BDSM romance, Erotic Romance allows authors to explore unconventional relationships and fantasies in provocative ways.

With many talented writers specializing in this field in recent years, there is no shortage of thrilling adventures awaiting those who crave passionate reads.

Romantic Comedy

Romantic comedy is a delightful subgenre within romance novels that brings together the best of both worlds - love and laughter. These books focus on the humorous aspects of romance and relationships, making them perfect for readers who enjoy a light-hearted and entertaining read.

With funny and relatable situations, romantic comedies explore the ups and downs of falling in love with plenty of laughs along the way. From witty banter to comical misunderstandings, these stories offer a delightful blend of romance, humor, and entertainment.

An illustration of a couple falling in love

Whether set in modern times or different settings like historical eras or fantasy worlds, romantic comedies provide readers with a wide range of stories to choose from. And if you're looking for LGBTQ+ representation, there are also romantic comedies featuring diverse characters gaining popularity within this subgenre.

Romantic Suspense

Romantic suspense is a captivating subgenre of romance that combines the thrill of mystery and suspense with the power of love. In these novels, two intriguing characters find themselves entangled in a dangerous situation, often involving crime or intrigue, which brings them closer together as they work to solve the thrilling plotline.

With high stakes and heart-pounding action, romantic suspense novels keep readers on the edge of their seats while also delivering an emotional and intense love story.

Similar to its cousin genre, Gothic romance, romantic suspense explores themes beyond the traditional windswept moors and spooky houses. These books often feature plots involving drugs, murder, or other risky situations that heighten tension and create a palpable sense of danger for both the characters and readers.

The integration of mystery or thriller elements into the romance plot adds another layer of excitement to these stories. Whether it's unraveling a complex web of clues or facing life-threatening obstacles together, romantic suspense novels guarantee an exhilarating reading experience for fans seeking adventure within their love stories.

Romantic Mystery

Romantic mystery is a captivating subgenre of romance novels that brings together the excitement of solving a puzzling crime with the heartfelt connection between two individuals. In these stories, love interests join forces to unravel mysteries or solve crimes, creating an enthralling blend of romance and suspense.

Whether set in medieval times or modern-day settings, romantic mystery novels offer a diverse range of time periods for readers to explore. Some even incorporate supernatural elements or elements of horror for added excitement.

Similar to romantic suspense but with slightly lower stakes, romantic mystery keeps you on your toes as you root for both the characters' relationship and their quest for truth.

Young Adult Romance

Young adult romance is a captivating subgenre of romance novels that focuses on the trials and tribulations of teenage love. These books often feature young protagonists, exploring the joys, heartaches, and complexities of their romantic relationships.

What makes young adult romance particularly exciting is its ability to tackle important issues like identity, self-discovery, and acceptance. LGBTQ+ themes and characters play a significant role in these novels, providing much-needed representation and celebrating diverse love stories.

A romantic young couple in an urban setting at sunset

Popular examples include Becky Albertalli's "Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda" and John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars." With relatable characters and universal themes, young adult literature has become one of the hottest subgenres in publishing today, attracting a passionate fan base across all age groups.

Clean Romance

Clean romance, a delightful genre that has caught the fancy of many readers, is essentially a love story where physical intimacy takes the backseat. The focus here - unlike in traditional romances - is wholeheartedly on emotional connectivity between characters as they navigate their feelings for each other. Unlike their steamier counterparts, clean romances uphold an aura of wholesome innocence where hand-holding and coy glances might just be the height of romance! It's all about fostering deep connections with heartfelt emotions and minimal physical interactions. This unique sub-genre allows room for blossoming friendships, intricate emotional growth and refreshing character development while delivering satisfying happily-ever-afters that are bound to make your heart flutter!

Plus Size Romance

Plus Size Romance is a subgenre of romance novels that focuses on love stories featuring curvy or plus-sized heroines. These novels celebrate body positivity and empower readers through heartwarming stories.

They often feature dashing heroes who fall in love with these confident and beautiful heroines. Plus size romance is a popular choice among readers who appreciate diverse representation in romance novels, offering relatable characters and swoon-worthy love stories.

These novels can be found in various settings, including science fiction/alien romance, historical romance, and contemporary romance. Plus size romance novels provide an alternative to traditional romance by highlighting the beauty and attractiveness of plus-sized individuals.

It offers readers the opportunity to see themselves represented in romantic relationships, bringing greater inclusivity to the genre. Plus Size Romance is just one part of the wider world of subgenres within the vast landscape of romance novels, promising something for everyone's taste.

Single Mom / Single Dad Romance

Ah, single parent romance novels - one of my personal favorites! These delightful stories revolve around the love lives of single moms and dads, making for heartwarming and relatable reads. Whether it's a second chance at love or finding unexpected romance while parenting solo, these books beautifully capture the challenges and rewards of balancing family life with matters of the heart.

In this subgenre, you'll encounter various tropes like friends-to-lovers and enemies-to-lovers that add delicious twists to the romantic journey. Publishers like Forever have curated collections showcasing both classic tales and recent releases in this genre.

Single parents staring lovingly into each other's eyes

Bestselling authors such as Devney Perry ("Juniper Hill") and Melanie Harlow ("Ignite") have penned captivating single parent romances that will leave you swooning.

What makes these stories particularly appealing is their realism. The presence of a child adds depth to the characters and creates a more complex romantic relationship. Plus, there's something undeniably heart-melting about seeing two people find love while navigating parenthood together.

If you're looking for recommendations or want to join discussions with fellow enthusiasts, platforms like Goodreads and Reddit offer curated lists from avid readers.

Keep an eye out for upcoming releases - it looks like the single parent romance genre is set to continue growing with even more heartfelt stories on the horizon!

Uniform Romance

Uniform romance is a popular subgenre of romance novels that feature captivating love stories set against the backdrop of professions like law enforcement, military, and superheroes. Explore the thrilling world of uniformed heroes finding true love in unexpected places.

Cop Romance

Cop romance is a thrilling subgenre within the larger world of romance novels. It revolves around passionate relationships a character who is a police officer. These stories often explore the tension between duty and love as characters navigate dangerous situations while finding solace in each other's arms.

With intense action, high stakes, and steamy romance, cop romance novels keep readers on the edge of their seats. Whether it's solving crimes or protecting their loved ones, these men and women in uniform captivate readers with their bravery and passion.

So if you're a fan of crime-solving heroes and sizzling chemistry, cop romances are sure to leave you breathless.

Navy SEAL Romance

An illustration of a beautiful woman and a Navy SEAL embracing

Navy SEAL romance novels are an exciting and captivating subgenre within the broader world of romance books. These stories offer readers a thrilling combination of danger, suspense, and love.

With their military theme and focus on Navy SEALs, these novels take readers on a unique journey that keeps them hooked from start to finish. Navy SEAL romance books are similar to other romance novels but with the added element of military life, creating a compelling backdrop for heart-stopping romances.

From sweet moments to steamy kisses, these books have it all. It's no wonder that Navy SEALs have become sex symbols in popular media, thanks in part to their portrayal in these captivating romance novels.

Superhero Romance

Superhero romance is an exciting subgenre within the world of romance novels that combines elements of fantasy and action with love stories. It revolves around romantic relationships involving characters with extraordinary powers, abilities, or superhuman alter egos.

In these captivating narratives, readers get to explore the dynamics between heroes and their partners as they navigate the challenges of balancing a life of crime-fighting with maintaining a fulfilling romantic connection.

Superhero romance books often delve into themes of trust, sacrifice, and finding love amidst extraordinary circumstances. With its unique blend of passion and adventure, superhero romance adds an exhilarating twist to the traditional romance genre, offering readers an escape into a world where love conquers all - even when villains are lurking in the shadows.

LGBTQI+ Romance

LGBTQI+ romance includes stories that focus on the romantic relationships of LGBTQI+ characters.

Lesbian Romance

An illustration of a lesbian couple holding hands on a beautiful tropical beach at sunset

Lesbian romance is a subgenre of romance novels that focuses on romantic relationships between women. It is a part of the LGBTQI+ romance genre, which includes stories about various sexual orientations and gender identities.

In lesbian romance books, the protagonists are usually women who fall in love with other women and navigate their relationships amidst societal challenges and personal growth. These novels provide representation for lesbian readers and offer a chance to explore diverse relationships within the context of love and intimacy.

From lesbian historical fiction to contemporary tales, lesbian romance offers a wide range of stories that celebrate love in all its forms.

Gay Romance

Gay romance is a captivating subgenre within the world of romance novels that focuses on LGBTQI+ characters and their journeys towards love and connection. It explores same-sex relationships, highlighting the experiences, challenges, and triumphs of gay individuals in navigating romantic connections.

Whether it's MM romance books portraying deep emotional bonds between two men or FF lesbian/sapphic romance books showcasing the love stories between women, gay romance offers a powerful representation of LGBTQI+ love and relationships.

An illustration of a gay couple having dinner by the beach at sunset

These novels not only provide an authentic reflection of queer experiences but also contribute to diverse storytelling within the broader genre of romance. From obscure gems to modern bestsellers, gay romance novels continue to offer readers poignant narratives filled with passion, emotional depth, and themes of self-acceptance.

Inspirational Romance

Inspirational romance, a captivating genre of literature, intertwines the threads of love and faith into a tapestry of emotional resonance and spiritual growth. These novels, brimming with heartwarming narratives, illuminate the journey of characters who, while navigating the labyrinth of romantic relationships, also grapple with their spiritual beliefs.

The genre's unique charm lies in its ability to weave together the delicate dance of love with profound spiritual insights, offering readers not just a tale of romance, but also a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. The protagonists in these stories often face trials and tribulations, yet their faith, whether it's being discovered, tested, or reaffirmed, plays a pivotal role in their romantic relationships. Inspirational romance, therefore, serves as a beacon, guiding readers through the complexities of love and life, while simultaneously igniting a spark of spiritual reflection and enlightenment.

Common Romance Tropes

Best Friend's Brother

One of the most beloved and widely used romance tropes is the "Best Friend's Brother." This trope creates a connection between the main characters through their shared relationship with a sibling.

It often leads to a forbidden or secret romance, adding tension, conflict, and emotional complexity to the story. The Best Friend's Brother trope can be found in contemporary romance novels but also extends to other subgenres like historical or paranormal romance.

It's a versatile trope that can adapt to different settings and time periods, creating complicated dynamics between the best friend, sibling, and main characters. If you're a fan of swoon-worthy romances filled with forbidden love and hidden desires, then stories featuring this popular trope are definitely worth exploring.

Roommate Romance

Roommate romance is a popular subgenre within the romance genre, where two people who live together as roommates develop a romantic relationship. It explores the dynamics of everyday life and how living in close proximity can lead to unexpected feelings of love.

One example of a romance novel that falls into this subgenre is "Hook, Line, and Sinker" by Tessa Bailey. Roommate romances often incorporate common romance tropes like friends to lovers or forbidden love, adding excitement and familiarity to the story.

An illustration of roommates about to share their first kiss

By delving into the complexities of living together and navigating shared spaces, roommate romances offer an engaging journey towards finding love in unexpected places.

Friends to Lovers

One of the most beloved romance tropes found in romance novels is the "Friends to Lovers" storyline. This trope explores the beautiful transition from friendship to romance, and it's a favorite among readers for its relatability and emotional depth.

It often involves two characters who have known each other for a long time or have developed a strong bond recently. As their feelings evolve, tension and anticipation build up, creating a slow-burn love story that keeps readers hooked.

The "Friends to Lovers" theme can be found in various subgenres of romance novels like contemporary romance, romantic comedies, and young adult romance. It taps into our desire for love blossoming from existing connections and resonates with readers who appreciate the idea of finding love with someone they already know and trust.

Arranged Marriage

Arranged marriage is a popular trope in romance novels, where the main characters find themselves betrothed to each other by their families or other parties. This theme often adds elements of tension and conflict, as the individuals involved may initially resist the arrangement due to cultural differences, personal preferences, or even animosity towards one another.

However, as they navigate this forced union, they begin to discover unexpected feelings and grow closer. The arranged marriage trope is commonly found in historical romances but can also be seen in contemporary settings or even within fantasy worlds.

It offers a unique dynamic for couples to overcome obstacles together and explore themes such as trust, compromise, and love against all odds.

Fated Mates

Picture two characters drawn together by an inexplicable force, a connection so profound that destiny itself has intertwined their paths. This isn't your run-of-the-mill love story, but a narrative where soulmates are preordained, and no obstacle, be it distance or circumstance, can keep them apart.

It's about recognizing one's true partner at a single glance and feeling a pull that defies logic, yet feels as natural as breathing. Through trials, triumphs, and the undeniable sizzle of attraction, fated mate romance explores the timeless notion that love isn't just a chance occurrence but a destined reality.

Closing the Book on Romance Sub-genres

In conclusion, the world of romance books is vast and varied, offering readers a wide range of subgenres to explore. From historical romance set in different time periods to contemporary love stories that tackle modern-day relationships, there's something for everyone.

Whether you're into paranormal romances with vampires and werewolves or steamy erotic tales, the options are endless. So grab your favorite subgenre and get lost in the captivating world of romantic fiction!

If you love romance novels you might enjoy the works of Colleen Hoover, or the young adult fantasy Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi.

Portrait of the article author, Penny Somerset
Penny Somerset

I'm an avid reader and bibliophile. With an unquenchable thirst for stories, I love nothing more than burying my nose in a good book - whether it's curled up on the sofa or out in nature. My deep curiosity and appreciation of diverse writing means that there's no one genre that I prefer, but I'm especially keen on books full of adventure and vivid imagination.
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