Here's what Romance Writers of America (RWA) has to say about what defines romance:
Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.
A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love. Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction.
Romance Novel Formats
There are two formats for romance fiction:
Series or "category" romances: books issued under a common imprint/series name that are usually numbered sequentially and released at regular intervals, usually monthly, with the same number of releases each time. These books are most commonly published by Harlequin/Silhouette.
Single-title romances: longer romances released individually and not as part of a numbered series. Single-title romances may be released in hard cover, trade paperback, or mass-market paperback sizes.
If you want to read more, check out the RWA site at
Tomorrow, let's talk about subgenres and how to figure out where to classify your novel.