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Here we take a brief look at the definition of Romantic Fiction, and as a genre, to say that it is popular is a huge underestimation.
Literary snobs may have always been rude about romantic fiction, yet romantic fiction is not only one of the most popular forms of fiction we have, it is one of the oldest and most distinguished. If you count the medieval verses of courtly love, it pre-dates the novel by several centuries; if you count Classical literature, then the poems of Catullus and Sappho, Virgil's Aeneid and even the Odyssey could count.
To explore further into the definition: "A romance is a work in which the plot centers around a love relationship. The plot line must be substantial enough for the reader to maintain interest from chapter to chapter. In other words, the reader must be able to say when reading the book, "I care about these people and what happens to them. I want the best for them, despite the personal and circumstantial obstacles that war to keep them apart."
The genre of Romantic Fiction has two strict criteria: The first is that the story must focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people. Secondly, the end of the story must be positive, leaving the reader believing that the protagonists' love and relationship will endure for the rest of their lives.
If a novel does not fulfill those conditions, fans of the genre are likely to claim that it belongs to a related genre, such as women's fiction or chick lit, or that it is just a mainstream fiction novel.
Some readers of paperback genre romances may only like romances with happy endings, but others may well argue that you shouldn't force that preference onto a definition of the form. Because, by removing tragic romances like Romeo & Juliet from the definition, we could be doing a disservice to romances as a respectable literary style.
One definition of Romantic Fiction is that romances are our modern fairy tale. A romance is a work in which the plot centers around a love relationship and draws its power from the feeling that falling in love is one of the defining moments of our lives: if it culminates in marriage and a family, it is an event that affects the future as well as the present.
The plot line must be substantial enough for the reader to maintain interest from chapter to chapter. In other words, the reader must be able to say when reading the book, "I care about these people and what happens to them. I want the best for them, despite the personal and circumstantial obstacles that war to keep them apart."
Romance is that aura that surrounds falling/being in love. It's that light-headed, stomach dropping, lump-in-your-throat feeling you get when the man you love says something sweet, does something silly that touches your heart. It's the excitement of the chase and the capture. . . and later the eternal imprisonment of your heart.
However forget the love stories of twenty years ago or more. Today's trend in women's magazines is for real-life situations that deal with the trauma of messy divorce, life-threatening illness, and warts-and-all relationships. A modern romantic short story is just as likely to be about dirty laundry as about hearts and flowers. Couples are as likely to meet in the supermarket as at a romantic ball.