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The Formula of Romance Novels

Updated on October 25, 2012

The Formula of Romance Novels and Why It Works So Well

As a woman, one generally regards the Romance novel genre with a bit of embarrassment and, when pressed to admit it, a bit of pleasure. The genre has constantly been looked down upon by critics, yet it is and has been one of the most popular genres for almost two centuries. What is it about these books that appeals so much to women, even if it is in secret? There are a few different elements in Romance novels that work together to create something rather entertaining, enchanting, and one might say addictive.

While there are many categories and sub-genres when it comes to Romance novels, there are always some similarities that almost all Romance novels share. Some novels in this genre do break away from the pack, but a majority adhere to a formula: the hero and heroine, the love, the desire, the obstacle between the couple, the heartbreak, the turning point, and the happily ever after.

-The troubled hero/heroine- (for the purposes of this article it will be a hero)- This character is the Byronic hero type, or the character that has some kind of trait that makes him feel guilty or as if he is a bad person. Something has happened to this person in their past, some kind of tragic experience that has changed this person's life. As a result of this experience, he has created a new set of morals or a changed set of morals apart from traditional or common morals of the world. He meets his counterpart and continuously believes that he is not good enough for her and yet he cannot help from desiring her, or acting on that desire.

-The redeeming heroine/hero- (in this article it will be a heroine) This character is the counterpart to the romantic hero. She is an angelic creature, though she is not always perfect. This person is often set apart from the rest of society in some way, whether she's simply shy and/or very sweet in a society where the women cluster together and gossip about people behind their backs, or she has had some major life experience that allows her to see the world in a disillusioned viewpoint. This character always sees some kind of redeeming or angelic quality in her counterpart. Though sometimes she doesn't see it right away, once she does, she never lets go. She knows without a doubt that her hero is a good person despite all the bad things he does. However, her hero can also break her heart, in which case she loses sight of the redeeming quality, but gains it back easily enough.


-The love- The heroine is usually the one to fall in love first, almost always at first sight. She continuously insists that she is truly in love, and the hero continuously insists that she is only feeling desire, or simply refuses to believe it is real love. In the end, though, the hero realizes his true feelings and they have an unconditional love.

-The desire- Despite how hard he tries to resist it, the hero feels an unrelenting desire for his heroine. The heroine, obviously, feels this desire as well, though she believes it is a symptom of love. At some point, the hero cannot help but give in to his desire and the pair… ahem… consummate their love, to the dismay of the hero. He almost always feels a tremendous amount of guilt after giving into his desire. The heroine almost always feels that giving into their desire proves their love, and then is usually terribly dismayed when the hero isn't as happy as she is.

-The obstacle - This element of romance novels can be anything from the hero's own assertion that he is not allowed to have his heroine because he is not good enough for her, she belongs to someone else, or some other kind of impediment that any outside observer would view as irrelevant or insignificant. It can also be an outside obstacle such as the heroine's family not allowing her to be with the hero, or the hero may be some kind of outlaw. The heroine continuously sees this obstacle as something she and her hero can overcome no matter how difficult it may be.

-The heartbreak- This is an event in which the hero, generally, inflicts some kind of pain on his counterpart. It could be anything from insulting her, acting cold, or betraying her in some way. This event sometimes disillusions the heroine, causing her to not see the shining element in her hero which is his redeeming quality. Sometimes she claims she hates the man, other times she knows he didn't mean it but she still can't forgive him just yet, and again the hero feels a tremendous amount of guilt. This is generally the point where the heroine realizes she doesn't want to be with/marry the hero unless he truly loves her.

-The turning point- Whether he slowly realizes it over time, or he comes to a sudden realization, the hero will always at some point come to the understanding that he really does love the heroine. He realizes that he is in fact a good person, and because of his great love for her, that he does deserve her. Because of his realization, the hero now needs to start making up for when he broke her heart. He achieves this by some grand gesture, whether it be simply by declaring his love for her and asking her to marry him, or by doing some kind of major action that shows her he truly loves her.

-Happily ever after- This, of course, is the ending of the novel. The hero loves the heroine, the heroine has forgiven the hero for everything, and they are married and/or living a happy life together.

Some people may say that if one knows what is in the book and how it will end what is the use of reading it, and they may be right. But as stated before, Romance novels are still one of the most popular genres in the world, so they must be doing something right.

This combination of elements allows readers to escape real life. While many couples do have adorable stories of how they met, not many women can say their heroes fought to defend their honor. Everyone believes themselves to be a little bit different than everyone else around them, and because of that they can place themselves in the part of the heroine and be rescued, or seduced, by the hero.

The obstacles and difficulties the couples in Romance novels endure make it clear to readers that their real-life difficulties are not as bad as they could be or they can learn new ways to deal with them. Not that advice from romance novels is always right, crying hysterically probably will not sway your significant other to love you more. However, it is always good advice to never give up on someone you truly love.

In the end, it doesn't matter if its pirates or gentlemen, police officers or bank robbers, strong, independent women or emotional, virgin women. The characters, elements, and events in Romance novels always add up to an exciting experience that women all around the world enjoy endlessly.

What type of Romance novel do you love the most?

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    • Lynn Savitsky profile image

      Lynn Savitzky 3 years ago from New Jersey

      This is a great article. Romance novels may be predictable, but clearly a lot of people enjoy that. Sometimes it's nice to read something comfortable and familiar!

    • LupitaRonquillo profile image

      LupitaRonquillo 5 years ago

      Predictable or not, romance is never boring for me, I just wish I had more time to read them!

    • CallaLizzy profile image

      Elizabeth Evans 5 years ago

      Thanks! I think what made it interesting for me was that even though all these elements are clear and kind of predictable, Romance novels are still very enjoyable, partly BECAUSE of all the elements.

    • LupitaRonquillo profile image

      LupitaRonquillo 5 years ago

      I liked how you broke down the components of the romance genre, very clear and interestingly written! Great job :)

    • CallaLizzy profile image

      Elizabeth Evans 5 years ago

      Thanks! Romance novels are a passion of mine. I'm so glad I could help!

    • writinglover profile image

      Jennifer 5 years ago from Lost...In Video Games

      This is awesome. Now I can label my ongoing project, "A Dangerous Romance." Well done and thumbs up!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Nice to read more about his genre! Thank you!