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Romance Novels  
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The literary genre of romance is basically defined as stories of romantic love and passion, where the lovers face obstacles but are always happily united at the end in a permanent relationship. Other popular conventions, such as an historical or exotic setting and vividly steamy sex scenes, often figure in romance novels, but only the committed relationship and the happy ending are required.

In the past, these stories of romance focused almost exclusively on relationships between women and men. Indeed, some romance novelists rely heavily on gender stereotyping of the manly male hero and the fainting heroine with heaving bosom.

However, as relationships have come more and more out of the closet, the queer romance novel has also begun to come into its own. Especially lesbians, and to a lesser extent gay men, bisexuals, and the transgendered, who savor romantic fantasy have an increasingly wide selection of novels to choose from.

Early Lesbian Romance Novels

Since sexual orientation is generally defined in terms of relationship, much gay literature focuses on the budding sexuality, attraction, and passion of romantic relationships. It is the de rigueur happy ending that most clearly separates the romance novel from other forms of glbtq fiction. However, for queer readers, whose lives and loves have been too often problematic, this "happily ever after" convention makes the gay romance novel not only a satisfying read, but also a wildly radical demand for love lives without tragedy.

Because of this, the early lesbian pulp novels of such authors as Ann Bannon and Valerie Taylor cannot be considered true romance novels. Their tones are too gritty, and their lesbian heroines too tortured. Written during the repressive 1950s and early 1960s, books like Beebo Brinker (1962) and Whisper Their Love (1957) could almost be described as anti-romance novels, reflecting societal assumptions that lesbians could not have happy endings.

A notable exception to the denial of happy endings is the 1952 novel The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith writing under the pen name Claire Morgan. Highsmith's heroines Therese and Carol neither die nor go straight, but choose to stay together at the end of the book.

The gay liberation movement that began with the 1969 Stonewall rebellion began to change gay men's and lesbians' expectations and hopes for their lives. An influential lesbian romance novel, also published in 1969, was devoured by many young feminists who were gathering courage to come out. A Place For Us (later retitled Patience and Sarah), written by Alma Routsong under the pen name Isabel Miller, is a classic historical romance novel, even though it is based on the real-life story of two nineteenth-century lesbians. For young lesbians developing a political identity, the idea of happily loving lesbian foremothers was deeply satisfying.

In 1971, a retired (and closeted) lesbian lawyer named Anyda Marchant, along with her life partner Muriel Crawford, founded Naiad Press, which would become the best-known publisher of lesbian romance novels for almost the next three decades. Marchant wrote many lesbian romance novels herself under the pen name Sarah Aldridge, and she founded Naiad to publish her own work.

Later Marchant went into partnership with two Midwest lesbians, Barbara Grier and Donna McBride. Naiad expanded its author list and published dozens of romance novels and story collections, developing several sub-genres, such as mysteries and erotica. Katherine V. Forrest became one of Naiad's most popular authors, producing detective and science fiction romances, such as Amateur City (1984) and Daughters of a Coral Dawn (1984), as well as standard romance novels. Forrest's Curious Wine, first published by Naiad in 1983, is regarded by many as a classic lesbian romance novel.

Recent Lesbian Romances

Naiad's pioneering led to a wealth of contemporary lesbian romance novels, including the works of Kimberly La Fontaine (Picking Up the Pace, 2005), Diane Tremain Braund (Bold Coast Love, 2000; The Tides of Passion, 2005), and Jane Francis (Reunion, 2004), all of whom are published by Bella Books of Tallahassee, Florida, which has become one of the leading publishers of lesbian romance.

Among the best known new writers of romances is Radclyffe. A surgeon and black belt martial artist who lives in Philadelphia, she has used her medical knowledge and ju-jitsu expertise to create a number of hospital adventure romances and governmental intrigue romances, such as Fated Love (2004) and Above All, Honor (2004).

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