From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Heterosexual men are, of course, aware that the female sexuality portrayed in men's magazines reflects male fantasy ore than female reality, just as heterosexual women are aware that the happy endings of stories in romance magazines exist largely in the realm of fantasy."--The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1979), p. 293, see romance fiction as porn for women
A romance novel is a genre of literature popular all over the world. Novels in this genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and generally has a happy ending. Through the late 20th and early 21st centuries, these novels are commercially in two main varieties: category romances, which are shorter books with a one-month shelf-life, and single-title romances, which are generally longer with a longer shelf-life.
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 female protagonist. In the next century, Jane Austen expanded the genre, and her Pride and Prejudice is often considered the epitome of the genre. Austen inspired Georgette Heyer, who introduced historical romances in 1921. A decade later, British company Mills and Boon began releasing the first category romance novels. Their books were resold in North America by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd, which began direct marketing to readers and allowing mass-market merchandisers to carry the books.
The modern romance genre was born in 1972 with Avon's publication of Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower, the first single-title romance novel to be published as an original paperback and the most sensual romance novel to date. The genre boomed in the 1980s, with the addition of many category romance lines and an increased number of single-title romances. Popular authors began pushing the boundaries of the genre and plots and characters began to modernize.
In North America, romance novels are the most popular genre in modern literature, comprising almost 55% of all paperback books sold in 2004. The genre is also popular in Europe and Australia, and romance novels appear in 90 languages. Most of the books, however, are written by authors from English-speaking countries, leading to an Anglo-Saxon perspective in the fiction. Despite the popularity and widespread sales of romance novels, the genre has attracted significant derision, skepticism and criticism.
Romance novels can also trace their roots back to gothic novels, if not to the idea of the "Roman" itself through the romance (genre), a heroic prose and narrative form of medieval/Renaissance Europe. Ann Radcliffe's gothic novels influenced writers ranging from Jane Austen (who parodied it in her Northanger Abbey), Charles Dickens, and the Brontës.
One of the earliest romance romance novels was Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, by Samuel Richardson. Published in 1740, Pamela was the first popular novel to be based on a courtship as told from the perspective of the heroine. Unlike many of the novels of the time, Pamela had a happy ending. The book was one of the first bestsellers, with five editions printed in the first eleven months of release. The genre did not fully take form, however, until the nineteenth century.
Jane Austen is widely considered to be one of the masters of the romance novel genre, with Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, considered "the best romance novel ever written." Critics, however, lamented that Austen's works reinforced the sexist stereotype that women must marry. The Brontë sisters built upon Austen's work with their novels. Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, published in 1847, introduced the orphaned heroine. Incorporating elements of both gothic novels and Elizabethan drama, Jane Eyre "demonstrate[d] the flexibility of the romance novel form."
The genre continued to be popular into the twentieth century. In 1919, E.M. Hull's novel The Sheik was published in the United Kingdom. The novel, which became hugely popular, was adapted into a movie, which established star Rudolf Valentino as the top male actor of the time. The hero of this book was an iconic alpha male who kidnapped the heroine and won her admiration through his forceful actions. The novel was one of the first to introduce the rape fantasy. Although women were gaining more independence in life, publishers believed that readers would only accept premarital sex in the context of rape. In this novel and those that followed, the rape was depicted as more of a fantasy; the heroine is rarely if ever shown experiencing terror, stress, or trauma as a result.
The first historical romances appeared in 1921, when Georgette Heyer began writing romances set during the English Regency period (1811-1820), when the Prince Regent ruled England in place of his ill father, George III. Heyer was inspired by Austen's novels. Although Austen had also written romances set in the Regency period, hers were contemporary novels, describing the times in which she lived. Because Heyer's writing was set in the midst of events that had occurred over 100 years previously, she had to include more detail on the time period in order for her readers to understand. Unlike the other romance novels of the time period, Heyer's novels used the setting as a plot device. Her characters often contained more modern-day sensibilities, and more conventional characters in the novels would point out the heroine's eccentricities, such as wanting to marry for love.
En Espagne, l'auteur le plus prolifique et le plus célèbre est Corín Tellado, qui a publié son premier roman en 1946. Toutefois, dès la Seconde République espagnole, Concha Linares-Becerra avait publié Por qué me casé con él (1933). En 1939, vint le premier roman de Luisa-María Linares (1915-1986) : En poder de Barba Azul (1939). Plusieurs de ses romans ont été adaptés au cinéma entre 1940 et 1976, par entre autres, Juan de Orduña et Ladislao Vajda. Ainsi, six films inspirés par ses histoires sont sortis en 1944. Carmen de Icaza (Madrid, 1899-1979) a écrit Cristina Guzmán, profesora de idiomas en 1936 et utilisait également le pseudonyme de Valeria León.
Corín Tellado apparaît dans ce panorama éditorial. L'auteur asturienne est décrite comme un "phénomène socioculturel" par Vargas Llosa et qualifiée d' "innocente pornographe" par Cabrera Infante. Elle a écrit régulièrement, jusqu'à atteindre les quatre mille titres publiés. Ses ventes se montent à plus de quatre millions d'exemplaires. Ses œuvres les plus récentes, éditées par Suma De Letras, S.L. sont : Te acepto como eres, Mi Nita querida, La Amante de mi amigo, Un caballero y dos mujeres, Semblanzas intimas, Cásate con mi hermana, El Engaño de mi marido, El Silencio de los dos, Los Amigos de Kima, El Testamento et Fin de semana.