6 Common Romance Subgenres
The broad simplicity of the romance genre’s goal leaves plenty of room for many different types of romance novels. With so many subgenres of romance, the variety of storylines available is nearly endless for romance authors and romance readers alike.
If you’re interested in writing romance, check out some of the many different kinds of subgenres available:
- Contemporary romance. One of the largest subgenres of romance, contemporary romance is often set in the time it’s written, encompassing the time after World War II all the way to the present. Contemporary romances reflect the current conventions of a more recent time period, giving the genre a more modern approach. Some contemporary romance topics include true love in the workplace, like in a hospital or at a startup company, LGBTQ stories featuring romantic relationships between individuals of that community, or romance fiction that features an empowered heroine who doesn’t fit the conventional standards of beauty.
- Historical romance. Historical romance novels are set before 1945 and rely on the accurate portrayal of the period. Everything that occurs or exists in a historical romance is affected by the limitations of that era, and attention to details is an integral part of the writing process as well. For example, characters in a story set during the Civil War era would not be driving cars or using phones. Researching the rules of courtship, the culture, clothing, and customs of the historic period you plan to write your romance in will help give your novel more depth and realism. Regency romance is an example of a historical romance subcategory, portraying stories set during the British Regency (around early nineteenth century), and made popular by famous author Jane Austen.
- Romantic suspense. Romantic suspense novels combine mystery and thriller elements with the main relationship of the plot. Two love interests must solve a crime or uncover a secret together, with one character serving as the victim, and the other as the protector. In romantic suspense, the pacing of the romantic story often dovetails with the pacing of the premise, providing a satisfying blend of both danger and romance.
- Inspirational romance. Inspirational romance stories feature religious themes or spiritual beliefs that play a central role in the main love story. For instance, the romantic themes in a Christian romance story are generally more pure, gearing towards a moment like an explosive kiss, rather than the more risqué intimate interactions typical of other types of romance genres. Characters in an inspirational romance are driven by their faith, whether the character is finding their faith, or the writer is using faith as a plot device.
- Speculative romance. This subgenre includes a number of subcategories, such as paranormal romance, which can involve a variety of futuristic or fantasy elements. Some common themes in this genre of story includes time travel romance or gothic romance stories involving ghosts, vampires, or werewolves. These particular stories may involve supernatural or magical occurrences that go beyond the realm of scientific explanation. However, paranormal romance also has much overlap with science fiction romance, which can include alien love stories, or complicated romantic entanglements with artificial intelligence (AI). Worldbuilding is an important aspect of any fantasy or science fiction novel, and it is useful in speculative romance writing to keep your world consistent and grounded, providing a solid backdrop for your love story to unfold.
- Young adult. Young adult romance novels showcase the lives of young people and often contain dramatic romantic themes. Characters should properly reflect their age —just because someone is “wise beyond their years” does not mean they do not have to deal with the emotional obstacles of growing up—and have an organic, believable attraction (not just be stuck together because they are common tropes). If that subgenre skews too young, new adult is an emerging subgenre that is similar to young adult, except the characters are a little bit older. New adult themes often deal with young adults being on their own for the first time, which can make for an exciting path of discovery for your protagonists. Learn more about writing young adult fiction with R.L. Stine in our complete guide here.
Want to Learn More About Writing?
Become a better writer with the MasterClass Annual Membership. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by literary masters, including Neil Gaiman, R.L. Stine, Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, and more.