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Romance makes a comeback

Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy: back in vogue

For decades, the publishing industry regarded romantic fiction “with Darcy-like disdain”, says The Economist. Not any more. Sales of romance and saga fiction in the UK have risen by 110% in three years, and are now higher than they’ve been for a decade. Bookshops have moved “books with pink covers” from the back of the store to “tables near the tills”; publishers even use the word “heartwarming” without embarrassment. One of the main factors is TikTok, where obsessive fans have carved the genre into endless sub-categories: #friendstolovers, #forbiddenlove, #billionaireromance.

The novels themselves are mostly modern and American. “All have taut-jawed heroes and a fondness for exposition.” Dialogue is not a strong point, with lines such as “I think I like you too much” and “Your mother is wonderful, by the way”. But romance fiction is moving with the times, after a fashion. The “Regency rake” has become less popular, apparently because readers want to know how they acquired their wealth. #MeToo has diminished the appeal of wealthy but controlling Sheikhs. And, naturally, billionaires now outnumber millionaires. Inflation really is everywhere.