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1990s Romantic Times Community

The Romantic Times: Community and Connection in the Romance Genre

By Angela Greene (2024)


The Romantic Times, created in 1981, played a multifaceted role, serving as a nexus where authors, readers, publishers, and industry professionals converge to celebrate and drive the evolution of romance fiction. While it was a platform for marketing and advertising the genre, it allowed for a shared camaraderie in what was considered a highly derided pastime. Authors, publishers, and other industry professionals could speak directly to readers in a shared space, allowing for a growing rapport and credibility. All of these factors culminate in how it became an influential figure. I will argue how the publication and its creator, Kathryn Falk, played an influential role in the romance genre through its ability to generate community and reader engagement with the specific use of issue #116 from November 1993. I will support this argument by primarily analyzing issue #116 for reader engagement and use the year of issues published in 1993 of the Romantic Times for context. 

“The Den Mother and Bible of Romantic Fiction”

Kathryn Falk was the creator of the romantic times and can be considered “The Den Mother of Romance Writers.” [1] Though not a romance writer herself, she was an avid romance fan. Before and after the initial issue of the Romantic Times, Falk had written multiple books meant for the community of romantic readers and writers. Starting with Love’s Leading Ladies (1982), it was a whose-who in romance fiction in the early 1980s which contained personal interviews with sixty-five of the most prolific romance writers of the time. Then, other publications like How to Write a Romance and Get it Published (1983), made it clear that Falk was dedicated to the genre. She turned to creating a newsletter, The Romantic Times, for the other millions of women who enjoyed romance fiction just like her.[2]

The Romantic Times was a literary magazine that focused on romance fiction novels, dubbed the “Bible of Romantic Fiction.”[3] What started as a newsletter on newsprint with 3000 subscribers, it eventually gained over 150,000 active subscriptions.[4] I will heavily attribute the growth of this to Falk and the increasing popularity of the romance fiction genre that started in the 1970s. It’s also worth noting, that Falk produced multiple editions of certain books and they were all advertised in the magazine and vice versa. She facilitated a synergistic relationship between her role as publisher and owner. There might be a conflict of interest, however, Falk stateed that these were all created to be used as tools for readers like her who want to be well-informed about the genre and their favorite authors.[5] Thus, I believe that continuing to advertise all of the materials she produces, while entrepreneurial, does serve the greater purpose of empowering and educating the Romantic Times’ readership. 

Establishing Connection

As I’ve discussed above, the Romantic Times was a periodical for romance readers by a romance reader. Shared community was central to its mission, as stated many times by Falk herself through her “To Booklovers…” letter at the beginning of every issue. In issue #116, she welcomed all new readers to their “unique subculture of very warm and friendly people.” Besides the cover, this was the initial interaction a reader has with Romantic Times. They are being welcomed and taken into the fold of an exclusive group. The exclusive group in this case is romance fiction enjoyers. Further, there was more from Falk, discussing the success of the “romance business,” discussion of Fabio on the cover, how successful Romantic Times had become, the fact that it was being sold where paperbacks are also sold, and much more. It’s personable, pertinent, and personal. This outright tells the reader how they are going to be treated, that this was a safe space for romance readers. 

The reason why a safe space was important for readers is due to the shame that readers often faced for being romance readers and it’s crucial to understand the broader cultural context of the time. Romance was regarded as the “trash of trashes” when discussing different genres, particularly by popular media and the academic community.[6] While romance fiction was derided as such, it paradoxically held a significant cultural sway, touching the lives of millions of readers. Through different readings, such as Janet Radway’s Reading the Romance, it’s known that the novels themselves can be empowering, providing solidarity among readers. However, the taboo that was put upon the genre itself can quiet down any community from direct interaction with each other.[7] In this light, the Romantic Times emerged as not just a magazine but a cultural phenomenon, offering a platform where these discussions could take place openly and unabashedly. Falk’s dedication to the genre, coupled with her astute business acumen, allowed Romantic Times to transcend its role as a mere publication and become a catalyst for change within the romance community. 

Direct Reader Engagement


The Romantic Times was filled with reader engagement meant to link the readers with other readers, authors, and industry professionals. It provided a place where they could directly interact and the Romantic Times made that evident. Each issue started with Falk’s letter to the readers, before the table of contents, it then had a section of posts about authors’ personal lives. While it did have announcements such as an author winning a Romance Writers of America Award, it also just had general life updates interlaced with advertisements for said author’s novel. “Meg Chittenden went sailing on the Chehalis River recently,” “Connie Rinehold’s new grandson…was born,” and “Margaret Moore and her friend Deb Booke have created charming sample sachets.” These are all instances of authors generating intimacy, similar to how people will share updates about themselves on social media nowadays. While perhaps these authors may have had the intention to share interesting news about themselves, the intentional inclusion of these details with the ad of their novels in the section titled “Under the Covers,” was meant to humanize them, to garner familiarity and relatability with the authors themselves instead of just their novels. 

The next instance of direct interaction with readers was a section titled “Letters,” where the Romantic Times responds to letters sent in by readers and authors. There was a multitude of different types of letters sent in by readers, but the ones I want to discuss are specifically two that highlight the role the Romantic Times held in a reader’s life. Firstly, a reader who was giving feedback on changes to the Romantic Times’ rating system: 

I’ve been reading Romantic Times since the magazine started eleven years ago, and I want to commend you on your decision to change your rating system to a standard format. I always use your magazine as a buying guide, and now it is easier for me to pick the books I want to read.[8]

This was an interesting inclusion in “Letters.” While it addressed changes, it served as a direct testament to the influence Romantic Times held over its readers’ purchasing decisions. By including this reader’s feedback, it underscores the practical impact of the magazine on the audience. The Romantic Times was not only a crucial tool for readers in navigating their book choices, but the magazine was also responsive to its reader base, adapting its features to better serve their needs. It also highlights the communal aspect of the magazine, showing it as a dynamic entity shaped by its audience’s preferences and feedback which highlights how community-centered the publication was. Not only that but the inclusion of a longstanding relationship with a reader in an issue that was going to be seen and potentially bought by a larger and newer audience was meant to display the trust and credibility that the Romantic Times had established with its audience.[9]

This is furthered by another letter written by a different reader that discusses the “Reading Corner” included in the magazine: 

My favorite part of your magazine is the Readers Corner. I’m glad you are paying so much attention to us. I love the profiles of readers. I feel like I can identify with everybody. Thanks also for the favorite reads. It is a great source for really fabulous books.[10]

This reader serves a very similar purpose as the last discussed: to emphasize reader-centric content, a reflection of inclusivity and identification, and the Romantic Times’ role as a trusted source. This directly points to the “Readers Corner” as a favored section, indicating the magazine’s successful efforts in creating content that resonates deeply with its audience. By focusing on reader profiles and preferences, Romantic Times not only acknowledged its readers’ individuality but also fostered a stronger reader-to-reader connection. It also underscores the inclusivity promoted by Romantic Times, which relates to the magazine’s broad appeal. It can underline how the respect towards its readers contributed to the sustained popularity and relevance of the magazine. Further, this reader also mentioned “favorite reads” as a great source for book recommendations which highlights the crucial function of acting as a trusted advisor in the literary choices of its readers. This, again, reinforces the influence it has over the reader’s purchasing decisions, affirming its significant impact on the romance industry, not only discussing literature but actively shaping reading habits and trends. The expression of gratitude to the magazine’s attention to reader preferences demonstrates the effective engagement strategies employed by the Romantic Times. Readers felt valued and heard, which then in turn fostered reader loyalty which is vital for maintaining a strong subscriber base and community over time.[11] There was another important reason to include this specific letter as the Romantic Times responded to the reader beginning with “we know the reader’s voice is the strongest in our industry… we need comments and suggestions that truly reflect all the remarkable changes and expansion going on.” This further reinforces the idea that the Romantic Times went beyond merely providing content, it created a space where readers felt included and influential. 

Professional Support 

Discussion of readership engagement would not be complete without noting the work Romantic Times put to contribute to the professionalization of romance writing and publishing as a viable career path. There were a lot of sections that were purely dedicated to the general readers, but a lot more were dedicated to readers who wanted to be or were authors. The team behind Romantic Times truly strived to help authors in the industry from what can be seen from just the magazine. In issue #116, there were bulletins about sending in manuscripts and the Romantic Times editors that will “read your work and guide you to improving, polishing, and, if publishable, placing it with an agent or an editor.”[12] Next to it, was another advertisement for the Booklovers Convention, which in this issue took up over nine pages discussing special events during the convention that specifically catered to authors and authors-to-be.[13] Advertisements for writing materials to help idea generation for writing, online services to talk to already established authors, promotion tips and tricks columns, columns from agents, classifieds – there was a plethora of resources that the Romantic Times made sure were highly visible and accessible. 

Moreover, the editors themselves were highly accessible and wanted to connect people with professionals in the industry. In the December 1993 issue, there are a few instances of this. In the “Letters” section, a reader wrote in to talk about the experience of calling the hotline number and talking directly to Kathryn Falk who helped to market their manuscript better.[14] In the same issue, a different section titled “Letters to the Editor,” a main artist at a private publishing company in the USSR wrote how much he enjoyed the content, how his skill was wasted because of improper equipment, and if it would have been possible to work for the Romantic Times.[15] While this did not get him a job with the magazine, the editor forwarded his information to a project coordinator at Kiosk Enterprises who had a project that specifically works with Russian artists. The active engagement from the editorial team with authors and industry professionals provided personalized assistance. The effort put in by them serves to underscore the Romantic Times’ commitment to supporting professional growth and the success of its readership. By providing their readers with valuable resources, opportunities, and guidance, the magazine played a significant role in contributing to the professionalization of the genre, making it a cornerstone of support for romance writers worldwide.


The Romantic Times, under the guidance of Kathryn Falk, significantly shaped the landscape of romance fiction. Its role as a community hub and marketing powerhouse fostered a unique space where readers, authors, and industry professionals could interact and grow together. This discussion of the Romantic Times’ influential legacy reveals its enduring impact on the community and genre, making it a seminal chapter in the history of literary publications.


[1] Tom Huff, introduction, in Love’s Leading Ladies, (New York City, New York: Pinnacle Books, Inc., 1982), ix–xvi.

[2] “Romantic Times a Dream Come True, Love Stories Making a Comeback,” The Palm Beach Post, September 23, 1981.

[3] Huff, ix–xvi.

[4] Kathryn Falk, “To Booklovers…,” Romantic Times, December 1983.

[5] “Romantic Times – the End of an Era,” The Romance Dish, May 16, 2016, https://www.theromancedish.com/2018/05/romantic-times-end-of-era.html.

[6] Susana Lozano Moreno, “Romance & Melodrama: Feminine Genres Reputed as Trash: Gone with the Wind: The Study of a Case,” The Grove 5 (1998): 57.

[7] Jyoti Puri, “Reading Romance Novels in Postcolonial India,” Gender & Society 11, no. 4 (August 1997): 434–52.

[8] S. Tomkins, in “Letters,” Romantic Times, November 1993, 9.

[9] Falk, “To Booklovers…,” Romantic Times, November 1993, 4.

[10] N. Phillips, in “Letters,” Romantic Times, November 1993, 9.

[11] “Leveraging Loyalty to Transform Publishing,” Leveraging Loyalty to Transform Publishing – Report – Thought Leadership – CMO CouncilTM, accessed May 2, 2024, https://www.cmocouncil.org/thought-leadership/reports/leveraging-loyalty-to-transform-publishing.

[12] “RT Bulletin Board,” Romantic Times, November 1993, 34.

[13] Romantic Times, November 1993, 68-77.

[14] Maura Ryan, “Letters,” Romantic Times, December 1993, 7.

[15] Neftekamsk Bashkortostan, “Letters to the Editor,” Romantic Times, December 1993, 22.


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Falk, Kathryn. How to write a romance and get it published. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc, 1983.

Falk, Kathryn. Romantic Times, November 1983.

Falk, Kathryn. Romantic Times, December 1983.

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“Leveraging Loyalty to Transform Publishing.” Leveraging Loyalty to Transform Publishing – Report – Thought Leadership – CMO CouncilTM. Accessed May 2, 2024. https://www.cmocouncil.org/thought-leadership/reports/leveraging-loyalty-to-transform-publishing. 

Michelson, Anna. “Redefining the Romance: Classification and Community in a Popular Fiction Genre.” Illinois: Northwestern University, 2022

Moreno, Susana Lozano. “Romance & Melodrama: Feminine Genres Reputed as Trash: Gone with the Wind: The Study of a Case.” The Grove 5 (1998): 57–70.

Puri, Jyoti. “Reading Romance Novels in Postcolonial India.” Gender & Society 11, no. 4 (August 1997): 434–52. https://doi.org/10.1177/089124397011004004. 

Radway, Janice A. “The Readers and Their Romances.” Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature, 46–85. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991. 

“Romantic Times – the End of an Era.” The Romance Dish, May 16, 2016. https://www.theromancedish.com/2018/05/romantic-times-end-of-era.html.

Stewart, Barbara. “Magazine for Romance Novels and Women Who Love Them.” The New York Times, December 10, 1996.

“‘Romantic Times’ a Dream Come True, Love Stories Making a Comeback.” The Palm Beach Post, September 23, 1981. 

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