Romance - there, I've said it. It is now more acceptable to admit to being gay, than it is to admit to reading romance. (Note - this is a broad generalisation, made for fun and not to be taken seriously).
Could it be the titles? The Billionaire's Virgin Bride's Secret Baby? Could it be the covers, which are often lushly sensual? (They can be the sort of thing you hide behind brown paper so you can read on the train).
For a smile, drop by here to see the cover with the three armed woman. The author, Christine Dodd, doesn't mind.
Here is a post by someone who attended the Australian Romance Readers Conference. There is a section on a panel of academics discussing romance.
But seriously folks, romance makes up around 65% of the fiction market (depending on your sources) and there is a major overlap with speculative fiction: fantasy-romance, paranormal-romance and futuristic-romance. Although you will probably have noticed the Dark Urban Fantasy on the shelves as this sub-genre, along with its cousin paranormal-romance, has been going strong for several years, so strong in fact that it seems to have almost consumed fantasy-romance and futuristic-romance.
The difference between a paranormal-romance and a Dark Urban Fantasy is in the 'endings'. Both are set in our world where the paranormal exists alongside the mundane world, either acknowledged or in secret. Both have a strong female heroine who fights evil. The difference is that in a DUF the heroine may (probably) will sleep with the guy, but she won't end up with him. She'll go on for further adventures. In the paranormal-romance you'll get a HEA - Happily Ever After ending.
NY Best Selling, author Nalini Singh is a good example of a writer who sets related stories in an invented world but gives the reader a HEA (in her Changeling-Psi books) and an open ending in her Guild Hunter novels.
Now what is the difference between a DUF like Keri Arthur's books (another NY Best Selling author) and a DUF like Trent Jamieson's Death Most Definite? Both are set in our world with a paranormal twist. Both have a protagonist who falls in love with someone.
The difference is in tone. Trent's book has a male protagonist and has more in common with Simon R Green's Nightside series.
While a DUF will have blood, swords and/or guns but it will also have a lush sensuality. Imagine one book as a three course meal and the other as a similar meal with lashing of sauce to titillate the taste buds.
The romance writer sets out to create a heightened sensual experience. They set out to connect the reader with the character so the reader can vicariously enjoy this experience. If you're interested in how they do this, then take a look at the paranormal-romances that are short listed for the RITA. (This is the RWAmerica's peer award).
I am going to come out of the closet and admit that I've read all of Nalini's Changeling -Psi series and enjoyed them. I've read every Regency that Georgette Heyer ever wrote. I've read some of Keri Arthur's books and enjoyed them. She delivers on both pacing and sensuality.
I've also read Simon R Green, China Meiville, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ian McDonald and Jeff VanderMeer.
Is anyone else brave enough to come out of the closet?