Americana: The Institute for the Study of American Popular Culture
Americana vol:12 issue:1
The boom of narrative serialization is one of the most significant developments in the popular romance genre during the last thirty years. The massive commercial success of the serialized romance novel raises a number of interesting questions. Romance and serialization are forms driven by opposing narrative dynamics; romance is commonly defined by its happy end while serialization is predicated on its resistance to ending. This paper traces the strategies romance novelists have developed to overcome the inherent challenges to the combination of romance and serialization. It coins a first typology of romance series and argues that while serialization might stretch the romance genre’s narrative possibilities to the breaking point, it also enables the genre to formulate romantic fantasies that appeal particularly to its contemporary reader. These fantasies are articulated in the “post-HEA”, a new narrative space that consists of representations of the fictional world after the happy ending or HEA (Happy Ever After). These representations provide the genre’s predominantly female community with a fictional space of their own in which to negotiate the romantic fantasy at the core of romance’s generic project. In doing so, comparative analyses of romance series by Nora Roberts and J.R. Ward illustrate, the romance community is given the opportunity to (re)address and (re)evaluate the narrative and ideological underpinnings of its foundational narrative project.