chapter  5
Women’s desire and popular romance fiction
ByMary M. Talbot
Pages 17

It is something of an understatement to say that the bulk of romance fiction read by women is not held in high regard. The genre is judged to be a legitimate target for ridicule by the non-romance-reading public, with equal quantities of scorn heaped on romance readers themselves. A frequent and familiar criticism, particularly of publications at the bottom end of the market, is that ‘they are all the same’. The fact that the genre is as varied as any other, and has a very respectable parentage, tends to be overlooked. Among the predecessors of modern romances are some literary classics from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.