Is it any wonder?

I have occasionally mentioned that I hate literary snobbery, especially the kind that makes people declare that a whole genre of literature (be it fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, romance or whatever) is no good without having read any of it, or at the most merely sampled it a bit. Romance has especially been reviled as stereotyped and inane, called the female equivalent of porn and its readers dismissed as being entirely female, with little education, a small income, who read it to escape their daily drudgery and dream of marrying a [insert Mediterranean ethnicity of your choice] billionaire prince.

I may be exaggerating somewhat, but you get the picture.

But, I really do have to ask myself: Is it any wonder people think this way when they see the titles of many of the romances available?

I am referring to the type of book known as a category romance. These are short romances written to specific standards and formulas that pertain to sub-genre, setting, time and certain other guidelines, like level of sensuality, type of conflict or type of couple and so on, and published under a category name. Examples from Harlequin Enterprises include Everlasting Love, American Romance, Blaze, Medical Romance, Intrigue and Superromance, to name a few that are published under their imprint. They have a limited print run and usually only stay on the shelves for about a month before they are removed (if there are any left) to make way for the next batch.

Now, I realise that when you publish over 100 titles every month like Harlequin – most of which are romances – it is probably hard to come up with decent titles for each and every book, and in addition you want to make sure the customers can easily find a book in the sub-genre they prefer, so you give them titles that suggest what the book is about. The books also have a short shelf life and each title generally sells a few thousand copies at best, so they must be produced cheaply, meaning you're not about to pay someone to think up original titles for the books.

(BTW, if you thought the writer gives the book its title, you're mostly wrong. According to an article I read somewhere – possibly in the At the Back Fence romance reader's e-column – it is generally only the really popular writers who are allowed to do that. It looks like the rest have to suffer the indignity of having their book reduced to a few keywords that are then fed into a romance title generator. At least that's what it felt like to browse some of the category titles available through Amazon.com.)

The majority of the titles below, randomly taken from a search of the Amazon website, are Harlequin romances that take place in a modern setting, under different categories. I only chose descriptive titles (which are in the majority) because they are the ones I think give romances a bad reputation.

Please note that while I may ridicule the choice of title, I am not placing any judgment on the stories told in the books and how they are written. I am merely lamenting the unoriginality of the titles.

Read through it the list and you will quickly see patterns emerging, mostly involving virgins, mistresses, brides, wives, pregnancies, babies (usually secret babies, a popular sub-genre), rich men, exotic men (generally Italians, Greeks, Spaniards or ‘Sheikhs’), dominant men, weddings and marriages of convenience. Many titles also suggest reluctance on behalf of the women and use of force by the men.

A Mother for the Tycoon's Child
A Virgin for the Taking
Aristides' Convenient Wife
Arranged Marriage
At the French Baron's Bidding
At the Greek Tycoon's Pleasure
At the Spaniard's Convenience
Bedded by the Desert King
Bought for the Greek's Bed
Bought for the Marriage Bed
Bought: The Greek's Bride
Bride for the Taking
Claiming the Cattleman's Heart
Convenient Wife
Cowboy's Woman
Executive Bodyguard
Expecting the Playboy's Heir
Exposed: The Sheikh's Mistress
Finn's Pregnant Bride
For the Sheikh's Pleasure
Her Honorable Playboy
Her Italian Boss's Agenda
Her Parenthood Assignment
Her Secret, His Child
Her Sister's Children
His Pregnant Mistress
His Private Mistress
His Wedding Ring of Revenge
Husband by Request
Husband of Convenience
In the Venetian's Bed
Kept by the Spanish Billionaire
Longshadow's Woman
Love-Slave to the Sheikh
Marine & the Princess
McCavett's Bride
Million-Dollar Love-Child
Mistress for a Weekend
Mistress on Loan
Possessed by the Sheikh
Pregnant by the Millionaire
Purchased by the Billionaire
Reluctant Mistress, Blackmailed Wife
Royally Bedded, Regally Wedded
Saying Yes to the Boss
Seduction of an English Beauty
Surgeon Prince, Ordinary Wife
Taken by the Sheikh
Taken: The Spaniard's Virgin
The Australians Convenient Bride
The Australian's Housekeeper Bride
The Billionaire Boss's Bride
The Billionaire's Marriage Bargain
The Billionaire's Scandalous Marriage
The Boss and his Secretary
The Boss's Pregnancy Proposal
The Brazilian's Blackmail Bargain
The Defiant Mistress
The Disobedient Bride
The Doctor's Mistress
The Forced Bride
The Future King's Bride
The Greek Boss's Bride
The Greek Millionaire's Mistress
The Greek Tycoon's Virgin Wife
The Greek's Chosen Wife
The Greek's Christmas Baby
The Greek's Virgin
The Italian Boss's Secretary Mistress
The Italian Millionaire's Virgin Wife
The Italian Prince's Pregnant Bride
The Italian's Convenient Wife
The Italian's Forced Bride
The Italian's Future Bride
The Italian's Virgin Princess
The Italian's Wedding Ultimatum
The King's Mistress
The Kouvaris Marriage
The Kristallis Baby
The Lawyer's Contract Marriage
The Marchese's Love-Child
The Marriage Bed
The Mighty Quinns (series)
The Millionaire Boss's Baby
The Millionaire's Runaway Bride
The Millionaire's Virgin Mistress
The Mistress's Child
The Petrakos Bride
The Pleasure King's Bride
The Prince's Convenient Bride
The Ranger's Woman
The Rich Man's Baby
The Rich Man's Royal Mistress
The Rich Man's Virgin
The Roman's Virgin Mistress
The Santorini Bride
The Secret Baby Bargain
The Seduction of Sara
The Sheikh's Bartered Bride
The Sheikh's Convenient Bride
The Sheikh's Disobedient Bride
The Sheikh's Innocent Bride
The Sheikh's Ransomed Bride
The Sheikh's Reluctant Bride
The Sicilian's Christmas Bride
The Sicilian's Marriage Arrangement
The Sicilian's Red-Hot Revenge
The Spaniard's Blackmailed Bride
The Spaniard's Marriage Demand
The Spaniard's Passion
The Sultan's Virgin Bride
The Taming of Jessi Rose
The Ultimate Seduction
The Wealthy Man's Mistress
Traded to the Sheikh
Wife By Contract, Mistress By Demand


A couple of others that I want to comment on specially:
It's a Wonderfully Sexy Life (pun on the movie title that makes it sound like a sex manual)
Slow Hand Luke (another movie/book title pun that sounds more like porn than romance)

Comments

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