Romance is one of the most popular and most lucrative literary genres. The optimism, emotional conflict, and the inevitable “happily ever after” make for great escapism. However, romance novel writing isn’t as simple as it first seems. In an age where the market is saturated with everything from quintessential bodice rippers to highly niche-specific romances, many wonder what makes a romance novel worth reading. This article will discuss exactly that.

What Makes a Romance Novel a Romance Novel?

According to the Romance Writers of America (RWA), romance novels consist of two main elements: a love story and a happy ending. The main plot surrounds individuals who fall in love and must overcome obstacles to make their relationship work. Additionally, the story must have a happy ending to be categorized as a romance novel. The conclusion should be optimistic and satisfy readers emotionally.

Elements That Make a Romance Novel Good

While romance novels come in different formats and have a wide variety of sub-genres, such as historical romance, young adult romance, and paranormal romance, it’s not the genre that makes the novel worth reading. While some individuals say that romance novels are a dime a dozen, they fail to mention that not every novel finds mainstream success. Like all novels, romance novels need to be interesting and believable while maintaining excellent writing and nuanced, emotional conflict. The following are some of the elements that add up to make a great romance novel.

Lovable, Three-Dimensional Characters

A fundamental rule of romance novel writing is to have interesting, three-dimensional protagonists. They must be complex, and their internal conflicts should be nuanced. Characterization is the main element that separates an average romance novel from an exceptional one. However, it’s integral to note that this doesn’t mean writing perfect characters with no flaws. Characters’ flaws give them depth and make them more relatable.

It’s also essential for characters to be lovable. The readers must root for the protagonists and their love, and be satisfied by the happy ending, i.e., the couple ending up together.

Believable Conflict

There’s nothing more frustrating than an unbelievable conflict that could be resolved through a single text message or phone call. Far-fetched or unrealistic conflicts simply don’t make for good romance novel writing. The contention that challenges the romantic relationship must be believable. There should also be enough depth and nuance for it to be overcome by the end and involve a complete storyline.

Evoking Emotions

Romance novel readers love the genre because of its ability to make them feel strong emotions. They enjoy being engrossed in a story and having a romance play out. The emotional depth and connection between the protagonists make the readers connect to the characters.

Romance Novel Tropes

Hate to love. Best friends to lovers. Friends with benefits to developing emotions. A fake relationship to love. Forbidden romance. Second chances. These are all examples of quintessential romance novel tropes.

Beginners shy away from tropes, but every romance novel writer needs to understand that tropes exist for a reason. These are consistently popular plots that have engaged readers for decades. Some of the best romance novels on the market use tropes and make them their own by subverting them and defying readers’ expectations.

A Satisfying Ending

The optimistic ending, the happily ever after, is what romance novels are known for. A happy ending is one of the most fundamental rules when learning to write a romance novel. Readers expect happy endings and the two protagonists finding love with each other. As an essential element of the genre, it is one of the aspects that makes romance novels great.

Slow Development

The beloved “slow burn” refers to the protagonists slowly growing together and falling in love. While love at first sight exists in classics such as Romeo and Juliet, the best romance novels consist of slow development and growth.

For example, in Pride and Prejudice, both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy grow to love each other. Their relationship evolves as the story furthers the central conflict and their internal conflicts. In fact, the slow development of their feelings and mutual respect is why Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy remain one of the most popular literary couples to date.


This one may seem obvious, but every romance novel must have passion. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean steamy scenes. You can have an excellent novel without inserting those. However, every great romance novel must have passion. The electric chemistry between the protagonists captures readers’ hearts and boosts emotional investment in the storyline.

While many other elements contribute to great romance novels, these are the primary aspects that make or break a romance novel. Ensure your romance novel is free of errors and expertly proofread by utilizing Edit911’s book editing services. Contact us here for additional information.