For all the turned-up noses offered by the literary community, the romance novel genre tends to move a lot more volume than your latest John Updike reprint. Sales reached $1.08 billion in 2013, and at least a third of devoted readers buy a minimum of two books every month.
With the rise of self-publishing and e-books, romance readers now have more genres than ever to choose from—some so niche and specific that they’ve created a loyal audience all their own. Take a look at eight categories of romance we promise truly exist.
1. AMISH VAMPIRES
At first glance, a culture that prohibits flashes of flesh and unmarried coupling seems like a poor clothesline for the bodice-ripping prose romance has relied on for decades. But that demure, conservative approach is part of the appeal for Amish romance titles. Books like Amish Redemption and Harvest Blessings feature couples who practice chaste courtships and delay their first kiss for weeks.
To help differentiate the sea of Amish titles released monthly, some authors have taken to amalgamating the genre with vampires. Amish Vampires by Kerry Neitz details a harrowing mission to rescue a space colony of farming Amish from an onboard vampire. In Chosen, book one of The Amish Bloodsuckers Trilogy by Barbara Ellen Brink, an Amish girl named Jael discovers she’s been selected to protect her community against a parasitic threat. While some might perceive the titles to be more in the vein of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, they’re successful. In 2013, The Living and the Undead became one of Amazon’s top 100 e-book titles.
Meet Lance Cooper. A former star of the NASCAR auto racing circuit, he gets into a fender bender with ex-kindergarten teacher Sara Tingle. Sparks ignite. That’s the premise of In the Groove, the first title published under a licensing deal between the Harlequin book group and NASCAR in 2006. Research by the race league found that roughly half their fans were female—and of those, 26 percent were more likely to pick up a romance novel than someone who didn’t follow the sport. To promote the launch of the partnership, NASCAR even hosted some speed dating events at races in Daytona Beach in 2007.
They may flirt uncomfortably with bestiality overtones, but mermaids have long been a source of literal fish-out-of-water romances. Among the standouts: A Mermaid’s Kiss, in which an angel falls into the sea and convalesces under the care of a mermaid named Anna, and Lies Beneath, about a mer-man who falls for the woman his evil mermaid sisters have ordered him to kill.
The success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series opened the floodgates for supernatural romance, which has touched on forbidden love among centaurs, satyrs, and occasionally dinosaurs. Gargoyles were perfectly suited for this kind of template, and titles like Stone Guardian and Rock of Love examined their role as a protector of humans—particularly single women—in the face of otherworldly evil.
5. CAVEMEN SUITORS
Time-travel and some very suspect science sets the premise for many of these books, which feature contemporary women drawn to the simple, dominant brains of Neanderthals. Lust of the Caveman goes the sci-fi route, with a female scientist loading the brain of an ancient man into a modern body. Critics believe the appeal of the books resides in the caveman’s general disregard for both their own appearance and modern societal gender roles—the Tarzan template.
6. ALIEN ABDUCTIONS
For some, being spirited away by orifice-probing extraterrestrials is a nightmare. For some romance readers, it’s a source of relaxation. Titles like Captured and The Survival Race blend sci-fi with distressed-damsel scenarios, as the heroine finds herself on strange planets and in the middle of hostile alien relations.
7. BREWERY OWNER INTRIGUE
Heroines in Love, Chocolate, and Beer and Paradise Hops own and operate breweries when love interests come calling. The dramatic potential of breweries (financial woes, murder, industry sabotage) can also support ongoing series, as in the case of Enemies on Tap, part of the Sweet Salvation Brewery saga. Liz Crowe, author of Paradise Hops, said that focusing on craft beer as a backdrop makes her stories more relatable. The Beer Necessities blog dubbed the emerging trend “50 Shades of Grain.”
8. PARANORMAL PREGNANCIES
A paranormal sub-genre of the paranormal sub-genre is paranormal pregnancy, where the protagonist is expecting some variation of a werewolf, vampire, alien, or other creature. For completists, the WereBabies 10-volume set explores the romantic entanglements for expectant mothers of were-lions and dragon-man hybrids.