“Aging Out” of Romances

Elizabeth Camden Ramblings about Romance 7 Comments

Is it possible to “Age Out” of romance novels?

I am now into my forties, yet at the beginning of my career as a novelist, I sometimes wondered if there would come a time when I would “age out” of romances….either as a reader or a writer.

I can comfortably answer that question with a resounding No!

And I am not alone. Industry statistics gathered by the Romance Writers of America indicate that the typical reader of romance novels are between 30-54 years old. And yet, the typical heroine of romance novels, both in mainstream and inspirational romance, is in her twenties. Do older women really want to continue reading about this age?

The answer is YES.    A few years ago, Harlequin (the industry giant and master at gauging reader demographics), tried to launch some series lines featuring significantly older heroines. It failed to perform anywhere close to industry standards. I asked some older women who read romance novels why they continue to read about the trials and tribulations of heroines in their twenties. Here are a smattering of responses:

• Books about women my age (60) seem to be “issue books” dealing with illness, aging, problematic adult children, or something equally bleak.
• I don’t want anything that reminds me of my day job. I like the freshness of women in the earlier years of their life learning to grapple with overwhelming emotions.
• “Hen Lit” doesn’t do it for me.

As I writer, I am interested in women as they struggle to define themselves. I want to capture them on that upward arc when they come into their own in terms of their convictions, their hopes for a career, and what they are looking for in a man. To write such a thing about a woman in her 40’s or older simply won’t work… she will come off as immature and not someone the reader will be engaged with.

There is a recent phenomenon known as the “Twilight Mom.” These are women who picked up the book that was all the rage among their high-school aged daughters and got hooked. Why? Because they liked the depiction of unabashed love and the turbulent emotions portrayed in the books. The age of the characters didn’t matter. I am hoping that many of those Twilight Moms eventually picked up other novels in the romance genre and found them equally appealing.

In any case…I can safely say I have no desire to move into “Hen Lit!”

(photo courtesy of Martin Playing with Pixels)

Comments 7

  1. Paula Osborne

    Elizabeth, I am in my 70’s and still love to read about the young romances but I too like the second chance types where the woman or man is older too. I have not found many books that I don’t like to read. Ones I like the most are the amish stories and books written about actual facts in hx but made fictional to make good story. thanks for sharing today.
    Paula O

  2. Pegg Thomas

    I like a variety. A steady diet of young women falling for wonderful men, following the romance formula gets old. Fast. I’ve read some wonderful stories of older women with many more layers of character – since they’ve lived longer – that have held me spellbound. So I read both. And I like both.

  3. Elizabeth Camden

    Paula, I’m glad to hear you still like reading romances! And Pegg, if you’ve got any recommendations, I’d love to take a peek!

  4. Elizabeth

    Thanks Peg….. it looks really good! I especially like the comments that said it felt like they had made friends with the visitors to the hotel. That’s my favorite kind of book!

  5. Rebecca

    One series that I love is Jan Karon’s Mitford series. It features characters who are around sixty when the reader first meets them. I read these books in my twenties and I now in my mid-thirties. I have always been told that I am “an old soul”, maybe that’s why I don’t mind that Karon’s characters are atypical. I really like the fact that love is much more than romance. I think Karon portrays this very well. Her seemingly simple stories are full of warmth, depth, struggles and small victories. They are stories of faith and life. These are characters I wouldn’t mind knowing in real life.

Leave a Reply