Publishing: Passion on the Pages

Thousands of novels are published each year, all telling the same story: girl gets boy. Critics huff, but can tens of millions of female readers be wrong?

What, Freud famously wondered, does a woman want? Well, one answer crops up in a survey commissioned by the Romance Writers of America and released last June: during the preceding year, 37.9 million females age 10 and over in the U.S. had read at least one romance novel. One what? The R.W.A. helpfully provides a definition: "A romance novel is a love story with an optimistic and emotionally satisfying ending."

Never mind, for the moment, that this definition could, with a little tweaking of emphases, apply equally well to Homer's Odyssey, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Austen's Pride and Prejudice....

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