The Politics of the Contemporary Romance Novel

Instructor(s): Maria DeBlassie

Course Description

This aggressively-paced course examines contemporary romance, or romance novels set in the same time period in which they were written. As one of the largest and most profitable genres in publishing, romance is at once stigmatized and beloved for focusing on stories that center on love and HEAs (Happily Ever Afters). This class will explore not only the history of the contemporary romance novel, but also film adaptations of these works, and how popular culture perceives the genre and romance writers in general.

From the small-town romance to true love in the big city, contemporary romance covers a variety of romantic experiences and fantasies. In this class, we will examine a variety of tropes, from boss ladies and sexy billionaires to grand gestures and big misunderstandings, in addition to common narrative themes, patterns, and subgenres that explore our relationship to sex, love, and gender norms, not to mention race, class, and ability. We will likewise unpack common misconceptions and stereotypes about the genre and how it has evolved over time. 

Lastly, we will discover how changes in the publishing industry, including the increased visibility of indie and self-published authors, have changed the kind of narratives the genre centers and who gets to have a HEA. Many authors with historically marginalized identities, including BIPOC and LGTBQ+ writers, have consistently resisted the het-cis ableist white-washing of the genre throughout history and instead continue to use the genre to make romance more inclusive by reclaiming their space in those narratives. 

In essence, we will explore how this genre both resists and reinforces gender, sexual, racial, ableist, and class ideologies of the time in which they were written and, ultimately, what they tell us about our own lived experiences and current pop culture conversations surrounding romantic ideologies. The romance is, by its very nature, both a conservative and a transgressive genre.



Romancing the Stone (1984)

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

The Lost City (2022)

The Book Club (2018)

Deadly Sexy (2018)

Red, White & Royal Blue (2023)

Passionflix Film TBA


Nora Robert’s Irish Thoroughbred (1981)

Kathy Cano-Murillo’s Waking Up in the Land of Glitter (2010)

Pamela Sanderson’s Heartbeat Braves (2016)

Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient (2018)

Alyssa Cole’s A Princess in Theory (2018)

Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material (2021)

Category Romance TBA

Excerpted Works

Maya Rodale’s Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained (2015)

Sarah Wendell & Candy Tan’s Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches Guide to Romance Novels (2009)

Sarah Wendell’s Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels (2011)

Excerpts from various blogs, news sources, and podcasts.


Students will participate in weekly class discussion boards and regular quizzes. They will likewiseneed to complete assigned readings and film reviews, develop and share two presentations, write two 2-4 page analytical essays, and complete a final project. 

No Video

About the Instructor(s): Maria DeBlassie

Dr. Maria DeBlassie is a native New Mexican mestiza and award-winning writer and educator living in the Land of Enchantment. She writes and teaches about spooky stuff, romance, and all things witchy. She is forever looking for magic in her life and somehow always finding more than she thought was there. Find out more about Maria and conjuring everyday magic at