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Why Women Rule the Romance Novel

Women seem to dominate the publishing and consumer industry for the romance genre. Could there be a specific reason for this?

Dimly lit paper with a romantic typewriter message reading "i love you".
Credit: Shutterstock/Vira/Mylyan-Monastyrska

If you were to walk into a bookstore today, there’s one genre that you’re sure to see advertised: romance.

From Colleen Hoover to Emily Henry to Ali Hazelwood, romance now, more than ever, seems to be one of the most popular book genres. However, one thing seems to be common among both the audience and creators of romance books: the majority is female.

Has this always been the case, or is there a reason for the genre’s seemingly new female domination?

History of the Romance Genre

The romance novel is no pop-culture trend. Throughout history, romance has always been a prominent subject for entertainment. 

Jane Austin, for instance, was one of the most renowned authors of her time and she specialized in writing romance. Many Victorian plays and novels included romantic subplots. In the 16th century, Shakespeare was writing sonnets lamenting on the endeavors of love. 

Pride and Prejudice book
Pride and Prejudice. Credit: Unsplash/Elaine Howlin

When the film industry came around, romance made itself a prominent genre there as well. People can’t seem to get enough of the romantic drama. Some of the most beloved classic movies, which happen to be rom-coms, came out of the 80s and 90s. 

There is no doubt that the romance genre has always been around in some form. However, it seems that, as of late, the romance genre has particularly thrived in the form of the novel. Why exactly might this be?

Woman Run Writing

For centuries, it has not been easy for women to publish books and make a living as an author. Like so many professions, writing was once a male-dominated industry.

However, one thing that makes the romance genre special is that it is dominated by women. Take a minute to look up the most popular romance authors or books right now. Clearly, the industry is ruled by women. 

Collage of some of Colleen Hoover's romance books.
Here is just a handful of romance books that Colleen Hoover has put out in the last few years. Credit: Amazon.

Colleen Hoover, for instance, is an icon for the romance book genre. With her overnight popularity due to BookTok, many people credit Hoover for igniting (or even just resparking) their love for reading with her books. Not to mention, Hoover constantly dominates the charts. In fact, It Starts With Us, one of her most recent novels, broke records with its number of sales.

The romance book genre provides a great opportunity for women’s success. Interestingly enough, female readers seem to be the ones relentlessly consuming romance novels. And there are several reasons why romance specifically draws women in. 

A Welcome Escape

Like many genres of fiction, romance is a form of escapism. It is a way for people to delve into a world that is not their own and attach themselves to the lives of people that are not themselves. 

Escapism is so addicting because it enables people to forget about their own problems and stresses for a moment. Though fictional characters may face some real-world struggles, because they are fictional, readers ultimately know that there are no real repercussions. It can be almost therapeutic to indulge in fake people’s problems for a bit. 

Escapism tied in with the game of love is exciting, especially for women who tend to love love. This is not to say that men cannot enjoy consuming media about love. However, I think women tend to be more likely to have higher emotional intelligence and to classify themselves as “hopeless romantics”. 

An Ideal Man

What seems to be so intriguing about the combination of a predominately female producer and consumer of romance novels is the relation to the female experience.

Many women struggle in the real world with relationships. Things like cheating, miscommunication, outside uncontrollable forces, distrust, and are extremely prevalent in the modern era, especially in the digitized world. While technology makes it easier than ever to communicate with those you love, it also makes it easier than others to destroy relationships. 

Essentially, women tend to write love interests with traits that they want in their own partners. In turn, women consume these books because it allows them to, for a moment, go to a different reality with an ideal partner.

@bellyvmtz

like ya’ll bffr half of these men are actually mid but they would do anything for her and THATS WHAT COUNTS #fypシ #books #booktok #bookish #romance #romancenovels #bookboyfriend #boyfriend #men #highstandards #reader #relatjonships

♬ Cupid – Rulydows

Many people write not only as a passion but also as an outlet. Women are no exception. If women are experiencing trouble with love in the real world, why not create a fictional man who represents everything they desire in a partner? It is easy to create someone that is understanding, communicative, and passionate and put that on paper.

In turn, women turn to the romance genre because it allows them a glimpse of reality with an ideal partner. Most romance stories deal with characters who are madly in love but often must face a tough conflict. In the real world, these conflicts could make or break relationships. However, in the fictional world, there is almost always an assurance that the book will have a happy ending.

Romance novels and even other romantic media allow people to get the same fulfillment that comes from successful romantic relationships without any of the anguish and turmoil that it might take to get there in the real world. The romance genre provides love with no consequences. And love, fortunately, will always be a timeless story.

If this has inspired you to pick up a romance novel for yourself, check out these lovely book recommendations:

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