The new HarperCollins subscription service, and how romance fiction is “different”

Mills & Boon launching subscription service We Love Romance

This is a subscription service that will provide unlimited reading for about $9.99 per month. (The service will launch in the United Kingdom and Ireland.)

Interesting—and probably smart—that HarperCollins decided to focus on romance fiction.

Why? Consider the following points:

  • Romance readers are “different” from the readers of thrillers, horror, mystery, or just about anything else. (Read on.)


  • About 85% of romance readers are female. (Sorry–but that’s just a fact.) While there are exceptions, most men aren’t interested in reading romance fiction.


  • Romance readers are voracious. They read a lot. (More on that shortly.)


  • Romance readers  fixate on incredibly specific tropes that make little sense to people who don’t read romance: paranormal reverse harem romance, billionaire cowboy Christian romance, etc. (Yes, really.)
Romance fiction: pornography for women?
  • Romance fiction is for women what pornography is for men. Or at least we can reasonably make that argument….Think about it: Pornography depicts the fulfillment of unrealistic male sexual fantasies (ex: a threesome with two Swedish lingerie models). Romance fiction, likewise, is all about unrealistic female sexual fantasies. But whereas men crave variety and numbers, women usually crave specific flavors of alpha male.


  • As in porn, the tropes in romance fiction are more important than the plots. Most romance novels follow one  of two basic plot lines: a.) A female protagonist chooses between two alpha males, or b.) an alpha male chooses between the female protagonist and another woman. (Alternative spin on b.: The alpha male might be choosing between the female protagonist and fame/career/status, etc.) But if it’s a romance novel, it’s almost always one of those two basic plots. 
  • Whereas porn is an addiction for some men, romance fiction seems to be  addictive for some women, too. This is why some female romance readers read a book a day.


That’s some serious reading. I certainly like the novels of Stephen King, John Grisham, and Michael Connelly. But I’m not going to read a book a day—not even a book by one of those guys.

Almost no one does read a book a day—except for romance readers.

Therefore, subscription services are a draw for romance readers…and romance writers. (Writers like to go where the readers are.)


Romance fiction mislabeled as science fiction, horror, etc.

Those of who don’t read (or write) romance have occasionally complained that romance fiction is the kudzu that invades other genres on Amazon 

There is so much romance fiction, that it is often miscategorized for marketing purposes.  The “romance” category on Amazon simply can’t contain it all. 

For example, search for “vampire novel” on Amazon. You might expect that the top results would be novels like ‘Salem’s Lot, Dracula, and I Am Legend

You’d be wrong: Your first fifty results will be “romantic” vampire novels–Twilight knockoffs, in other words. 

Mislabeled romance fiction also plagues the science fiction and fantasy categories. This caused Amazon to issue a policy statement a few years ago.

As science fiction author Peter Grant wrote:

Military SciFi fans have been complaining for years about Romance taking over their top slots and making the lists unusable. They’re generally, as a genre, much more closed-door on sex and in depth on military tactics than, ah, the Romance-SF books that take over tend to be.

Heck, right now #12 in scifi – military – space marine is “mated to the alien” with a nekkid male torso. If that’s not a perfect example of wrong category, I don’t know what is.


I realize that this post has drifted a bit. What started out as a report on the HarperCollins subscription initiative has turned into something of a rant against romance fiction.

I have nothing against romance writers—or readers—but it would be nice to see fewer romance titles placed in the wrong categories on Amazon.

Amazon Kindle Unlimited vs. Harper Collins?

At present, the best known subscription service is Amazon Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service is heavy on romance fiction.  That may change if We Love Romance takes off in the UK and makes it to the United States 

We’ll see. In the meantime, though, readers who who want an all-you-can-read offering (in romance and other categories) still have Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service

Kindle Unlimited is priced reasonably; and it’s a good destination if you actually want to read vampire romance novels.