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Romance Is a Billion-Dollar Literary Industry. So Why Is It Still So Overlooked?

Still, the genre persists. In 2016, romance made up 23% of the overall fiction market. And these novels, whose readership is 82% female and have a rabid fandom, are more progressive and relevant than ever. “Whatever is going on in the world, and whatever is happening to women or marginalized people, is happening in the pages of romance novels,” says novelist, Washington Post columnist, and co-host of the “Fated Mates” podcast, Sarah MacLean. “But with the promise that everything will be okay. That no matter how bad it gets, happily ever after will come.”

Some of the issues in today’s society we’re currently seeing reflected on the page include, “Stories about immigrants starting businesses in small towns in New York State, or women surviving domestic violence to rebuild their lives. Romance fiction is also becoming more inclusive, with more queer protagonists in different sub-genres, more characters of color, from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and of different religions,” says Wendell.

So this week we’re celebrating these novels in all their glory. From a surprise summer smash hit—the queer love story Red, White & Royal Blue—that took over Twitter and beach blankets across America alike. To the books that should be required reading for those looking to portray sex scenes that are hot and consensual. Or the new crop of novels that look at relationships post-happily ever after. And even an exploration of why sexy male models will always have a place on the cover of a romance novel.

Whether you’re a die-hard fan, a skeptic, or just in need of a good book—follow along as we honor the women and novels dismantling the very idea of a bodice ripper, and making romance one of the most exciting and thoughtful spaces in fiction today.

Samantha Leach is the associate culture editor at Glamour. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @_sleach.

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