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A Natural History of the Romance NovelA Natural History of the Romance Novel

Pamela Regis

Narrated by Rosemary Benson

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Pennsylvania Press

The romance novel has the strange distinction of being the most popular but least respected of literary genres. While it remains consistently dominant in bookstores and on best-seller lists, it is also widely dismissed by the critical community. Scholars have alleged that romance novels help create subservient readers, who are largely women, by confining heroines to stories that ignore issues other than love and marriage.

Pamela Regis argues that such critical studies fail to take into consideration the personal choice of readers, offer any true definition of the romance novel, or discuss the nature and scope of the genre. Presenting the counterclaim that the romance novel does not enslave women but, on the contrary, is about celebrating freedom and joy, Regis offers a definition that provides critics with an expanded vocabulary for discussing a genre that is both classic and contemporary, sexy and entertaining.

Taking the stance that the popular romance novel is a work of literature with a brilliant pedigree, Regis asserts that it is also a very old, stable form. She traces the literary history of the romance novel from canonical works such as Richardson's Pamela through Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Brontë's Jane Eyre, and E. M. Hull's The Sheik, and then turns to more contemporary works such as the novels of Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, Janet Dailey, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Nora Roberts.

Pamela Regis is Professor of English at McDaniel College and the author of Describing Early America: Bartram, Jefferson, Crèvecoeur, and the Influence of Natural History.


“Finally, a true and insightful history of the romance novel. This book establishes the historical legitimacy of an important literary genre.”

—Jayne Ann Krentz

“Regis sets out to analyse the formal features and literary history of this much-maligned genre.... A thorough, sensible, and partisan book, arguing for romantic fiction as a genre that celebrates freedom of choice.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Useful to those interested in the form and integrity of romance fiction, this volume joins such noteworthy examinations of the romance as Tania Modleski's Loving with a Vengeance and Janice Radway's Reading the Romance.”


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