Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meditation on 2010 Romance Novel Titles

In late 2009, I reviewed the Romantic Times list of award nominees for that year and came up with some conclusions about their titles, particularly about historical romances. This past year, I was late on the RT nominees, but that's fine, because I am just in time to evaluate their 2010 list and the
Romance Writers of America 2011 RITA and Golden Heart finalists (for books published in 2010; some titles appear on both lists). Last time, my approach was haphazard, to say the least, but this year I have a larger pool--let me pause to emphasize that these are all award-nominated books, and therefore I am being magnanimous by only evaluating the "best" titles out there--to work from, and I am prepared once again to come to Startling Conclusions about romance novel titles. My approach is still haphazard, but I've expanded the artificially-created categories that I'm arbitrarily using, so it's totally more scientific, right?

Notable Players:

Nobility: As usual, having a title is a big deal in romance-land (particularly for historicals), and the clear winner was Duke, with 8 titles. Er, should that be title-titles? [Followed by Lord: 4, Lady: 3, King, Prince, Earl, and Countess: 2, Queen, Duchess, Baron, Royal, and "Gentleman": 1] I'm going to go ahead and put the two "Heiress" titles here as well. Total: 30 titles. My favorite: I Kissed an Earl.

Punctuation: This is my favorite trend. There were, naturally, a ton of series romance books using colons in ill-advised ways (eight titles), but the question mark made a strong showing as well this year, appearing in five titles. There was also one title that sported an exclamation point! My favorites (I can't choose just one): Hired: Sassy Assistant and, doubling up on punctuation, Marriage: For Business or Pleasure? Total: 14 titles.

Rogues: There was some speculation on Twitter that Rogan (he prefers to be known as "Rogue") was "in" as a hero name after I posted my review of The Master's Mistress. Not only is Rogue popular as a name, "rogue" was big in titles as well, carrying five novels alone, and there were an additional four with the synonyms "rebel" or "renegade" to recommend them. My favorite: Red-Hot Renegade. [Related: There were also five book titles that referenced rakes, scoundrels, or libertines. Those words have a somewhat more unsavory flavor, however, so I didn't include them in "Rogue" proper. Feel free to disagree violently in the comments.]

Death: A surprising number of titles were "deadly," "fatal," "lethal," or had something else to do with killing. I am going to chalk this up to genrefusion and move on. This category is so boring that I don't have a favorite title.

Christmas: As I noted in an earlier post on Christmas titles, they're the gift that keeps on giving. From the gag-worthy Christmas with Her Boss (... award-nominated, remember?) to my personal favorite, A Cop in Her Stocking, these books are apparently year-round favorites. Total: 10 + 2 novellas.

Notably Absent or Diminished:
  • Only 3.5 (one was a novella) mentions of millionaires or billionaires or tycoons or magnates. This has to be an ALL-TIME LOW. And as much as I hate the boss-employee trend that is so hot right now, there were only six titles that overtly referenced it.
  • Corollary: Only THREE Sheikh titles! What is this world coming to?
  • Only seven Scots titles. I feel like I personally have ordered at least 10 "Highlander" books this past year, so it surprised me that there were so few, especially considering there is a whole category for "Scotland-Set Historical Romance" in the RT awards. There was one, ahem, rogue title that went Irish instead.
  • Four "angel" titles. I don't think this is as much of a thing as we were led to believe it might be, and here is the evidence. Speaking of "evidence," that word was featured in two titles. 
  • The four "devil" titles pretty much cancel out the angel titles, right?
  • Marriage or weddings were mentioned in eleven titles. Brides or wives were mentioned in an additional eight. 
  • A solid 15 titles contained the words "night" or "midnight," with an additional seven calling on "dark" or "darkness." I'll also throw the four "moon" or "moonlight" titles on top of that heap.
  • Eleven titles referenced temptation or seduction in some way. Not surprising, as these are romance novels we're discussing. Another eight talked about kissing. 
  • Emphasizing the moral element, nine titles were "wicked" while four talked about sin. 
  • There were a few surrenders (4), some "forbidden" romances (3), and, interestingly (possibly only to me?), four "stranger" titles.
  • There must be something in it, because several titles referenced the sea, or sailing, or islands, or water. 
For those of you who are visual learners, I have made graphs to chart the most frequent themes and the most frequent "atmospheric" choices:
    These are the themes or words that came up most often in the pool of 100+ nominees. Someone interested in publishing the next big romance novel would be wise to include ALL of them, or at least as many as possible. For example:

    The Roguish Duke's Midnight Seduction: Island of the Deadly Christmas Moon?

    I think it has a nice ring to it. Feel free to submit your own Ideal Title in the comments.

    ETA other favorite titles:  Dad's E-mail Order Bride; Knight of Passion; They Almost Always Come Home; and Zoe and the Tormented Tycoon.

    Meditation Index


    Anonymous said...

    I'm sensing huge potential for a romance novel title Random Name Generator, here.

    Anonymous said...

    Is /Cop in Her Stocking/ not about the heroine discovering that her tough law-enforcement lover is also a cross-dresser who needs her sensitive acceptance?

    Helgagrace said...

    Please PLEASE write that version!

    The official description:

    Tyler Davis comes from a long line of cops, and he's learned the hard way that police work and families don't mix. But his solitary life is about to be called into question with the return of Megan Garvey, the woman he once loved…and lost.

    Now, Megan is determined to keep her emotional distance— though it's clear that she and the rugged lawman still share something special. But a predator has come to Lake Hubbard for Christmas. And when Megan's young son disappears, there's only one cop to believe in. This holiday, Ty has been given a second chance to be the hero Megan needs…if he can bring her boy home alive.

    If not . . . forget about it.

    Helgagrace said...

    Ok, I may have added that last part.

    Karie said...

    "Titles of romance novels are well known for being silly. Thanks for this post it is a very interesting look into the trends in the romance book publishing world."

    kamagra said...

    Romance novels are divided into two sub-sets, category romances, also known as series romances, and single title romances.