Romance Novel Themes

In honor of a personal anniversary I have a special giveaway today, but more on that later.  It was thirty years ago, when I was in my junior year in college, that I read my first romance novel.  I was pursuing a double major in Economics and Religious Studies at the time.  Both subjects required intensive reading of complicated material.  Some of the texts weren’t even in English, but rather Latin, German and Hebrew.  A sorority sister noticed my eyes crossing after a long night of study and took pity on me.  She handed me a Harlequin Presents romance novel by Penny Jordan and said, “Take a break.”Penny Jordan I did.

Sara CravenI read five more that weekend.  I’ve been hooked ever since.  Romance novels became my greatest treat after a long day of studying or test taking.  At the time, I never dreamed I’d one day write a novel (see my majors up above) or that I would write for the company where it all began for me.  I certainly never dreamed I would include some of very same themes I enjoyed all those years ago in my own novels.





Here is a list, in no particular order, of my favorite romance novel themes.

  1. Marriage of Convenience
  2. Reunion/Old Flame
  3. Fish out of water (i.e. city girl on a ranch, etc.)
  4. Cowboy
  5. Matchmaker/Matchmaker kids
  6. Widow/widower
  7. Single parent
  8. Twins
  9. Mistaken identity
  10. Nanny
  11. Guardian/Protector/Lawman
  12. Bad boy and Good girl


Within each of these themes are a million different storylines and thus the opportunity for lots of books.   As I look through my top twelve favorite themes I realize I’ve used one or more in all of my published novels to date.

9780373828296For example, I used marriage of convenience and widow/widower in my book HEARTLAND WEDDING.  In MISTAKEN BRIDE I had twins, mistaken identity, nanny, single parent, and widow/widower.                                                       



Mistaken Bride Cover





What about you?  When did you first start reading romance novels and what are your favorite themes?  Leave a comment and I’ll put your name in a drawing to win my November release FINALLY A BRIDE, book 7 in my Charity House series.  By the way, FINALLY A BRIDE has the reunion/old flame and matchmaker themes.FINALLY A BRIDE cover art


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40 thoughts on “Romance Novel Themes”

  1. I was on a high school band trip killing time in a mall. Of course, I went to the book store. I spent all my time there. This particular trip, though, I was having a hard time finding something that really grabbed my attention. Then a friend of mine (a boy, no less – said his sister liked them) handed me a copy of Independence! – the first in Dana Fuller Ross’s wagon train romance series. I fell in love on the spot. I ended up reading at least 8 books in that series before I started looking for other historical romances.

    Fun peek into your past, Renee!

  2. Renee, you brought back memories. I’m older than you are, so my romance reading began with magazines I’d read at Grannie’s house. “True Romance” and “True Confession”. At the time I didn’t realize that writers wrote the stories, I thought they were written by the women in the stories. LOL As an adult, I cut my teeth on Kathleen Woodiweiss “The Wolf and the Dove” and “The Flame and the Flower”, along with LaVyrle Spencer. “Hummingbird” is still on my favorite shelf! Now I have a whole slew of favorite writers. Good blog, Renee!

  3. Oh, Phyliss, The Flame and the Flower…yes, yes, yes. A true classic. I discovered that one a little later, though. I was too busy devouring Barbara Cartland’s books.

  4. Was there a romance novel with a title like, The Wolf and the Dove. For some reason that comes to minds as my first romance and then The Flame and the Flower was in there somewhere. I have always loved the strong hero showing up to take care of the woman in need. Books are wonderful!

  5. Hi Renee, I started soon after we got married…I’d pick one up at the supermarket every time we went grocery shopping. Okay, that’s 39 years ago. In those days, the stores had a whole aisle with all kinds of paperbacks. First, I fell in love with highlander stories.

    I think marriage of convenience or forced marriage stories are my favorite because…WE know they’re gonna fall in love even though they don’t, so the conflicts just burgeon.

    Sighing, nanny? Is Jane Eyre coming to mind, everybody? Okay, I guess that’s the first romance I ever read, sixth grade.

    Great post today, Renee xoxox

  6. I also was hooked through my mom’s romance books. Those “old” covers above bring back memories. 🙂 I think I was about 17 when I read my first one. I will have to look up your books – they sound good, especially since you have those themes in them! I’m a fan of cowboy, mistaken identity and fish out of water. Of course, I like all the others too. lol

  7. It has been a very, very long time since I picked up my first romance book.. I can remember reading Nora Roberts forever in a contemporary or modern setting and when it comes to historical romance it would have to be those books from Rosemary Rogers, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and Bertrice Small…
    I like a book with lots of conflict between a very masterful hero and an heroine that is not going just give herself without a good give and take scenario.. I am not a fan of the simpering heroine.

  8. Oh my gosh! What a list. It’s so hard to choose. But Cowboy would be my #1 followed by Guardian/Protector and Bad Boy/Good Girl. But I also like Marriage of Convenience and……I might as well cut to the chase. I like ’em all. Romance makes the world go ’round!!

    My first romance was THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I still remember that story vividly. After I read that one I bought all of hers and then anxiously awaited for each new one to come out.

  9. I had always been a reader but didn’t start reading romance novels until l was working and was introduced to it by a co-worker. She said “You need to read this one” as she gave me her copy. I said ‘Sure’. it was around my house until I finally gave it to my Dad to read. He read all kinds of books. My mother called and said “What kind of book was it-your Dad stayed up all night reading it”
    When he gave it back, I let it lay around my counters for awhile. No time to read. Then I was on vacation and one of my friends had a copy and said “You have got to read this one” so when I got home I thought I had better read it. It was Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss and from the moment I put that book down, i went on to other romance books. LaVeryl Spencer, Bertrice Small, Natasha Peters, Rosemary Rogers were my early fav auhors. i now have several favorites and have read probably 2-3 books per week. I supplement romance books with mysteries. I love to read.

  10. Tanya, I loooove Jane Eyre. Still do. My daughter (a senior in college) recently discovered the novel and couldn’t put it down. She couldn’t believe how good it was…kept saying, “Why didn’t you insist I read this before now?” Er…I did. Same goes for Pride and Prejudice. Ah well, at least she finally found her way to one of the most romantic novels ever written.

  11. Kathleen O, Nora Roberts is still a favorite of mine, at least her straight contemporary romances. There’s a reason why so many people have read her books. 😉

  12. Oh I love the variety out there… I started reading Romances after High School… got hooked after reading a Catherine Coulter historical! Some of my fav themes are mistaken identity , Guardian/Protector/Lawman, Marriage of Convenience, etc.

  13. I started reading romance when I was around 13-14 years old. My first one was a historical by Caroline Courtney, since my mom prefered (and still prefers) historical romances. I read the book again some time ago and let’s just say there are books you should never read again as an adult. I found I couldn’t stand the hero and the heroine in the book any longer. These days I read more paranormal romances and my new favorite, steampunk. My favorite themes are beauty and the beast (like in Jax Garren’s series, Tales of the Underlight)and sleeping beauty/handsome (like in Miranda’s Viking by Maggie Shayne. It’s also fish out of water story).

  14. I started reading romances in high school. Read only a little in college because I was so busy with school. Then took quite a hiatus from reading fiction for about ten years. It seemed that I was always picking up non fiction during those years with little babies and children around. Then about five years ago, I started reading fiction again. Marriage of convenience stories are definitely my favorites, however, I love all kinds of plots.

  15. My mom gave me Christian fiction romances as I grew up in my teenage years, and I’ve loved the thrill of romance ever since 🙂 I enjoy all plot types.

  16. Hi Renee – I love a bad boy, who is changed when he meets the right woman. I also love any theme that really pulls me in. Single mothers, twins, etc. Babies are always fun to read and write! First romance book I ever read was The Flame and the Flower. Need I say more?

  17. I’ll read just about anything. I think it comes from my mom bringing home books from the church rummage sales and my grandfather always having a book he was reading. I got hooked on romance novels when my sister gave me Janet Dailey’s “Fiesta San Antonio” and then she sent me more of that series. I had discovered a great stress reliever—lose myself in grown up fairy tales.

  18. I used to read romance novels on vacation. My family went fishing….not my thing. So they’d go fish and I’d read, just consume romance novels. That was about it. I didn’t do a lot of reading the rest of the year when the kids were younger, though I read like crazy as a kid.

    But when the children got older and I finally had some spare time I really settled in to reading.
    What are my favorites? well, I’m not sure. I know I am a sucker for women who sacrifice for their children or for the happiness of others. Who give up everything…and of course through that find their happily ever after.

    I wonder what that’s about? Probably need some time on the couch for that one. 🙂

  19. Mary, there’s nothing like a mother’s sacrifice. I just saw the movie, LOOPER. I resisted watching it, but got hooked almost from the start. If you haven’t seen it, watch it so we can discuss!!!

  20. I was late getting into reading romances. I was curious, but the “bodice ripper” covers kept me from trying them. I found a run of Julie Garwood’s historical romances that had jeweled broaches and scarves on the cover and picked them up. The first one I read was THE PRIZE andI was hooked. I now have more historical romances, anthologies, and just about every sub-genre than I will probably ever be able to read. It doesn’t stop me from buying more and finding new authors I enjoy. I have enjoyed your books and am glad you are one of those authors I discovered.

    My favorite themes are Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella.

  21. I tend to lean heavily toward historical romances because they have danger and love! Probably around 2009 is when I first got into Love Inspired from my Mom! The first book I read was Shield of Refuge by Carol Steward!

  22. I have been reading romance since I was a teen and now….well mid 40’s. I love a variety of themes, but I would say any that offer the characters facing oppositions that we all do with love winning in the end is all I need. I love reading various centuries…regency, medieval, pioneer, western. It doesn’t matter as long as I am intrigued.

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