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Why Romance Fiction Is More Than Just Steamy Stories

Courtesy of Sonali Dev

Romance novels made up almost a quarter of the U.S. fiction market in 2016, second only to general fiction. Some people may think of the genre solely as Harlequin-published books with a man who looks like Fabio on the cover. But romance fiction encompasses more than this stereotype. 


In the last decade, in particular, it has become increasingly open and diverse, featuring work that includes more characters of color, more LGBTQ relationships, and more atypical characters. 
Host Frank Stasio talks about the history and evolution of modern romance fiction with Katharine Brophy Dubois, a romance fiction writer and lecturing fellow in the departments of history and religious studies at Duke University. She shares how the second wave of feminism shaped romance fiction in the 1970s. Dubois writes under the pen name Katharine Ashe.

Sonali Dev joins the conversation to detail the changes she has witnessed in the genre, particularly how more authors are playing with gender in their stories. Dev is an author of romantic women’s fiction, and her upcoming book is “Pride, Prejudice, And Other Flavors” (William Morrow Paperbacks/2019).

Damon Suede also participates in the discussion to share his experience as the author of gay romance novels. He is also a member of the national board of the Romance Writers of America. Dev and Dubois will participate in an upcoming conversation about how real world events shape their writing at Duke University in Durham on Friday, Feb. 15 at 12 p.m.

Amanda Magnus is the executive producer of Embodied, a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships and health. She has also worked on other WUNC shows including Tested and CREEP.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.