Just Can't Help Falling In Love...With Romance Novels Romance novels are having a moment. The industry is worth more than $1 billion.

Surprised? You really shouldn't be. In 2015, 75 million Americans said they had read a romance novel in the past year.

What's so compelling about these novels? And if so many people love them, why is it so hard for the literary world to take them seriously?

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Just Can't Help Falling In Love...With Romance Novels

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Just Can't Help Falling In Love...With Romance Novels

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Just Can't Help Falling In Love...With Romance Novels

Just Can't Help Falling In Love...With Romance Novels

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/647503939/647517797" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

A young woman divides her attentions between her amorous suitor and a good book, circa 1799. Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

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Romance novels are having a moment. The industry is worth more than $1 billion.

Surprised? You really shouldn't be. In 2015, 75 million Americans said they had read a romance novel in the past year.

Today's works are not like yesterday's romance novels. They embrace a broader base of fans — and explore much wider experiences.

They include more women of color, characters with mental health challenges, queer characters. But it still has a diversity problem.

It centers around women — in readership and in authorship — but stigma and shaming of romance fans persists.

From Cailey Hall, a PhD student at UCLA, writing in the The LA Review Of Books:

I have found that almost all of the romance novels I have read achieve something that sounds mundane, but remains quite radical: they model a form of female happiness and fulfillment still lacking in most canonical works of literature. Imagining stories for women (too often, but not always, heterosexual, cis-gendered, and monogamous) that end optimistically, these novels not only depict relationships that involve negotiation and growth, but also allow female protagonists to experience a kind of personal, sexual, and professional fulfillment that does not feel like an unattainable fantasy.

What's so compelling about these novels? How are today's works of romance different than a generation ago? And if so many people love them, why is it so hard for the literary world to take them seriously?