It’s Valentine’s Day. Romance, hearts, flowers, bubbly drinks, chocolate, aromatic bath oil, candlelight, poetry; and all of that is just to set the stage for my favorite novel category – romance.

Don’t roll your eyes. You know you are reading them. And here’s a secret – we’re not alone.

Romance novels sweep the industry in sales right now. According to the Romance Writers of America – better known by its initials: RWA – it accounts for more than a billion dollars a year in sales.

RWA reports 2012 as having more than $1.4 billion in sales, and 2013 has been estimated to exceed $1.3 billion. This isn’t too shabby for an industry being batted around by all of the publishing changes and bookstore closings.

Two more statistics from RWA:

•Romance was the top-performing category on the best-seller lists in 2012 (across the NYT, USA Today, and PW best-seller lists).

•74.8 million people read at least one romance novel in 2008. (source: RWA Reader Survey)

And why not? Even Oprah has posted an article about it titled: ‘Why People Love Romance Novels’. There’s sure to be a subgenre within the romance category that will pique your interest.

There are so many subgenres within the genre labeled – ROMANCE. Mystery/suspense, contemporary, futuristic, science-fiction, historical, paranormal, inspirational, young adult, fantasy, and erotic are a few, with LGBT on the rise.

Think romance is something new?

Think again. According to Wikipedia – and I’m quoting directly here – “one of the earliest romance novels was Samuel Richardson’s popular 1740 novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, which was revolutionary on two counts: it focused almost entirely on courtship and did so entirely from the perspective of a woman protagonist.”

Wow. Who knew?

Jane Austen has an entire following still swooning over Mark Darcy and the nineteenth century mores of the day. Authors keep rewriting versions of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ – ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ by Helen Fielding to name one, which is currently on its third book of the series. Many of us know it from the movie, made popular by Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, and Hugh Grant.

courtesy of Wikipedia
courtesy of Wikipedia

Excuse me while I nibble chocolate and conjure images of their fight in the fountain to the tune, ‘It’s Raining Men.’ Mmmm. Oh yeah, back to work.

I recently watched Austenland, the movie based on a novel by Shannon Hale, which is another of the retakes on Jane Austen’s work. (That’s what you do when laid up with knee injury – rent movies and read books in between interesting events of the Olympics, but I digress.) I thought it was a fun movie, but I’m taking medication. Rent it at your own risk.

Charlotte Bronte gave us ‘Jane Eyre’ and Mary Ann Evans, writing as George Eliot, gave us ‘Middlemarch.’ In the early twentieth century we got D. H. Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover.’ Although it was published in Italy in 1928, the language was too risqué for mass publication. It didn’t become mainstream until the sixties. Of course, there was the private printing of it and it was kept as a ‘dirty little secret’ in many a boudoir. Sound familiar to any ‘Fifty Shades’ fans?

courtesy of Goodreads
courtesy of Goodreads

The British have given us many great romance authors. Georgette Heyer is haled as the forerunner of the historical category. Dame Barbara Cartland (can we think of her without conjuring the color pink or the fact that she was Princess Diana’s step-grandmother?) wrote more than 700 romance novels, which were translated into 36 languages. And my personal favorite – Victoria Holt – transported me to many Welsh moorlands, Scottish highlands, and old English castles where danger lurked for a heroine with little going for her except spunk.

courtesy of goodreads
courtesy of goodreads

Another statistic about romance novels – and my last, because who wants to ruin Valentine’s Day by reading a bunch of statistics – according to Wikipedia, romance novels are the most popular genre in modern literature, accounting for 55% of paperback books sold in 2004 and appears in ninety languages.

But going a bit further back in history is another Englishman, Shakespeare, whose ‘Romeo and Juliet’ has come to epitomize the tragic love story. We can’t give him the official title of ‘romance’ novelist, since he was a poet and playwright, and didn’t adhere to the HEA – happily ever after – contract with the reader. He was more of a ‘death becomes her’ and ‘leave them in tears’ kind of guy.

And even further back, the Bible is full of romantic tales. King David and Bathsheba to name one. And The Song of Solomon is full of romance and intimacy. Don’t believe me? Read a bit of it again. Here’s one passage. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for thy love is more delightful than wine.”

But what is a valentine without a gift? Here’s mine to you. The Weather Girls with ‘It’s Raining Men.’ Click and enjoy! The men in this video are so hot, I swear they’re melting the snow off the porch rails!

Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food.  She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.