Romance novels, while wildly popular, are often “loathed by literary critics” and denounced as formulaic “hackwork” (Crusie). However, popular romance novels cannot be ignored; these books make up the largest market share of genre fiction, earning a total of $1.44 billion in 2022 (Curcic). In spite of this popularity, most university libraries have few romance novels or related nonfiction scholarly and non-scholarly sources about romance novels on their shelves.
At UD, lecturer Amy Krug and her English composition students set out to change that. In the fall of 2023, they collaborated with University Libraries Director of Collections Strategies & Services Tina Beis to curate a list of novels and nonfiction resources about the genre and build a circulating collection. Browse them here and use the links provided to view them in the library catalog.
This project was supported by a grant from the Experiential Learning Innovation Fund. Logo design by Shahd Salem.
Crusie, Jenny. “Defeating the Critics: What We Can Do About the Anti-Romance Bias.” JennyCrusie.com. Accessed May 15, 2023.
Curcic, Dimitrije. “Romance Novel Sales Statistics.” Wordsrated.com. October 9, 2022. Accessed May 10, 2023.
Erik J. Brown
All That’s Left in the World is about two boys, Andrew and Jamie, who are fighting for their lives after a deadly virus has killed off most of the world. With their loved ones gone, the only thing keeping them going is each other. While in search for civilization, Jamie begins to develop feelings for Andrew. This book is not your typical romance novel. It incorporates love between two men and an element of science fiction. This represents an LGBTQ+ subgenre of romance.
Jennifer Crusie is an important author to include in any collection because of the quality of her novels as well as her scholarship: She was working on her PhD when she decided to become a romance author. Her high-quality books reflect her deep understanding of romance.
This book breaks the chains of stereotypes of women in business. The book allows readers to see a successful woman in business and the struggles that come with it. It challenges the stereotypes and helps the character find who she is.
This book exemplifies the topics of female empowerment and independence. It portrays a successful woman focused on her career and growing her business. She finds love, but not at the cost of her passions. This book challenges stereotypes of gender roles and shows that females can focus on their careers and relationships.
J. R. Ward
J.R. Ward launched her long-running Black Dagger Brotherhood series with the publication of Dark Lover in 2005. This paranormal romance series, which mixes romance with intricate world-building, became a decades-long phenomenon with over two dozen books and novellas to date and more on the horizon.
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions — Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). One day every year, 16-year-olds choose which faction to be a part of, and Beatrice makes a surprising choice. Beatrice renames herself Tris during the extreme physical tests of endurance and psychological simulations. Tris is hiding a secret though, and she discovers conflict that disrupts her almost perfect society.
We chose this book because there is a popular movie based on this book, so we think it could capture some people’s attention to read it. Also, it can add to the collection by being a sci-fi book.
This is a terrible book. It’s not well-written; it’s trite; and the characters are two dimensional. Love and happiness seem limited to blond, perky, thin, able-bodied girls. However, I loved these books, and they were the first YA romances I read; the series has well over 100 books and multiple spinoff series. For so many young girls in the 1980s, these books were the ideal depiction of high school romance and drama; even Roxanne Gay mentioned Sweet Valley High’s influence in her book Bad Feminist. This book is important to consider when we look at the evolution of young adult romance, and it makes us appreciate current, more inclusive novels. Notably, most of these books are ghostwritten, a common occurence in romance series.
This novel explores the inner workings of anxiety’s hand in a marriage. Ever After Always encapsulates representation and inclusivity in romance novels by showing a couple already married having real-world difficulties in their relationship, such as deciding on having children, navigating financial issues, and ultimately deciding if a relationship is worth saving. After reading this novel, you see a realistic depiction of marriage and learn more about how a partner’s mental health is just as important as their physical health.
Everything, Everything is an interesting book both entertainment-wise and academic-wise. The story takes an interesting twist on describing the challenges of a disabled, ill individual falling in love with someone she cannot be in close contact with. Academically, toward the end of the book, the reader will discover the true state of her “illness,” which can spark discussions about whether this book properly represents the disability community.
Disability romance novels dispel the common perception of living with a disability as tragic, and Five Feet Apart is a good example of this. Stella Grant takes us through her life and how she lives while trying to find love. This book illustrates that romance is not limited by disabilities.
Gentle Rogue, written in 1990, is the third in Johanna Lindsey’s 12-book series about the Malory-Anderson family. This novel serves as an early example of a series set within one family unit that immerses the reader within a cast of beloved, interconnected characters for a long run of romance books. It also demonstrates the way feminism affected the romance genre in the last part of the 20th century; the story’s heroine, Georgina, masquerades as a cabin boy to board a ship for America and take her fortune into her own hands.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown follows Chloe Brown, who spent most of her time at home due to her fibromyalgia, an illness that causes wide-body pain and fatigue. After a near-death experience, she decided to make a list to become more independent and rebellious. To help her do this, she seeks the help of her landlord.
The author of this book was a diverse romance writer who got started from self-publishing and social media. This book in particular follows a Black woman with a chronic illness, making it unique in the romance world.
It Ends with Us shows a brutal depiction of the long-lasting effects of child abuse and how that bleeds into relationships we might make years into the future. This books shows the complexity of love and abuse and is a great testament to problems with child abuse in our current society.
Not Here to Be Liked tells the story of a high school girl named Eliza, who, after years of hard work, is finally ready to take her position as editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper. But when her last-minute opponent, a totally unqualified ex-jock, is given the position, Eliza pours her anger into an essay. She claims the situation is a classic example of sexism, cheating women out of well-deserved leadership roles. As Eliza becomes the face of a feminist movement, she must grapple with the misogyny faced by women who do not conform to societal expectations, all while falling in love with the boy who started it all.
On Rotation gives readers a twist that challenges a popular culture stereotype. Through reading this book, you will learn how the protagonist, an immigrant medical student, does not follow the typical beliefs of how she should act. After reading this book, a reader may have a new perspective on immigrant stereotypes and realize the uniqueness of each person in the world.
This novel explores the relationship between two men who are looked on heavily by society — a British prince and the son of the president of the United States. This novel is an example of what it is like to navigate a romantic relationship in public society and how opinions of family and society impact a relationship. This novel is a great addition to this collection because of its inclusivity of romantic relationships. The novel allows for other mainstream novels that include LGBTQ+ elements within the romance genre.
Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Shanna was the first official adult romance novel I read. I found it under my mom’s bed on a summer day when I was 12, and I was hooked. Woodiwiss was one of the most popular romance authors in the 1970s and '80s, but rereading her novels is difficult. Coercion, rape, and forced marriage are all themes in her stories, and looking at them through a 2023 lens is very problematic. I included this book to contextualize the evolution of the romance novel and show how far the genre has come with its depiction of women and gender roles. Dedicated to my mom, Sue Krisko.
Sick Kids in Love is an engaging book because it touches on issues that most books do not: romance of characters with disabilities. It shows that there are many good books for young adults and those with disabilities.
Something More, by Jackie Khalilieh, follows a Palestinian-Canadian girl, Jessie, who was diagnosed with autism right before starting her freshman year of high school. This book can give readers a different perspective of what it is like to go through school and social interactions with a disability. Able-bodied readers are able to reflect and grow their knowledge of how people with disabilities navigate their daily lives, all while enjoying a heartfelt love story.
In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf establishes a strong feminist argument against romance and delves into the idea of "the beauty myth," which is a list of stereotypes and rules that women are expected to adhere to in order to be considered beautiful. This piece is an inspiring feminist writing that makes cases for many gender stereotypes.
This book has been chosen for its representation of African American characters in romance. While the book never loses its romance focus, it stays on the track of being an outstanding representation of multicultural romance.
The Bride Test is a heartwarming romance story that follows a character who struggles with romantic relationships because of autism. The diversity in this book can give readers a new perspective on those who are on the spectrum and struggle with real-world relationship problems. The novel also helps readers on the spectrum relate to the main character instead of commonly feeling excluded from the genre.
The Code for Love and Heartbreak is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, following the life of modern Emma, a high school student. Emma is the co-president of her high school coding club and develops a matchmaking algorithm to help her classmates fall in love. This novel represents the often-underrepresented demographic of women in STEM while retaining its unique qualities as a sweet young-adult romance.
The Fault in Our Stars offers readers insight into cancer. While reading this book, readers will feel a range of emotions. This novel has great characters who give the reader a new perspective on life, which can be beneficial to young adults. This novel will challenge readers to reflect on their lives, and it will help readers grow. The Fault in Our Stars is a very entertaining book that offers many readers a new perspective.
Following a family tragedy, the protagonist, Mara, grapples with her emotions and her family's grief. When a "mermaid," Pearl, comes into her life, Mara must decide if she's ready to bring love back into her life again. The Gloaming explores the romantic relationship between Pearl and Mara. The specific dynamic between Pearl and Mara is healthy and realistic, straying from the stereotypes often present in other LGBTQ+ novels.