Since August is Romance Awareness Month, it’s only right to share it before the month ends yet this study goes beyond that scope. Harlequin shared the “Love Lowdown Study” which was a study on Modern Romance by the publishing company.
The study talked to romance readers and got their input on relationships, romance tropes, and how reading romance affects their daily lives. Of course, we’re mostly talking about love lives which is something we all deal with day-by-day.
In addition, we were also able to talk to Stacy Boyd who is a senior editor at Harlequin but first, let’s get into some of the data shared within the study.
Harlequin shares its “Love Lowdown Study” for Romance Awareness Month.
Let’s start with who Harlequin talked to which was 2,000 US adults along with 681 romance readers. That’s a huge chunk of people so let’s talk about some of the data for non-readers before jumping into the data about romance readers. The stat that stood out most to me was that 57% of people surveyed shared that they can have their happily-ever-after with or without a long-term partner.
In addition, over half of the responses shared that they’re more focused on spending time with friends than finding a partner. One thing almost all of them can agree on though is the fact that summer is the best time to find love. Lastly, one of the more polarizing stats was how people feel about first dates as 20% hated them while 42% enjoyed them but let’s talk about how romance readers fit into this.
When talking to romance readers, Harlequin dug in deep and got to the nitty-gritty which I love to see. The stat shared above is simple but speaks volumes as romance readers believe they are better at spotting red flags. Frankly, I can see why as reading romance gives such a unique insight into relationships so it’s clear some would pick up tips from that.
Before getting into my favorite set of stats, the study also shared that romance readers are focused on self-love and being with friends over finding a partner. Considering what was shared via non-romance readers, that makes sense. In addition, almost half of the people talked to use romance novels as a way to escape.
Then for my favorite stats, Harlequin asked readers about tropes and the most popular one is Enemies-to-Lovers which came in at 29%. Followed up by Friends-to-Lovers at 28.5% and then in third place, it was Forced Proximity with 9% of the votes. You can see the full breakdown below but that didn’t surprise me as Enemies-to-Lovers has been a very popular romance trope within the past few years.
In sharing the study, we got the chance to talk to one of the senior editors for Harlequin: Stacy Boyd. We talked to her about romance books, tropes and even the launch of the upcoming Afterglow Books so let’s get into it.
Culturess: The term happily-ever-after has been a mainstay in romance books and your
recent study highlighted that. Do you believe that will cause a rise in evolving
romance book endings?
Stacy Boyd: The research we conducted, and then published in The Love Lowdown report, confirmed that people have broad definitions of ‘happily ever after.’ It’s not just about finding a romantic partner. It’s also about friends, family, career and a meaningful life.
Romance novels, as a genre, are defined by a happy ending, but happiness in life hasn’t ever
been just about romantic love. Harlequin’s romance novels reflect the world we live in, and so
they reflect the reality of this broader ‘happily ever after’ too. The wide selection of stories we
publish hopefully meets readers where they are—however they define ‘happily ever after’ for
And—the team at Harlequin monitors trends, tastes and the romance market all the time. It’s
constantly changing! Our programs and books evolve to meet those market needs, and we do
our best to publish books avid romance readers want to read.
This January, for example, we’re launching a brand-new line, Afterglow Books, where spicy
romance is intimately intertwined with characters’ pursuit of happiness in all areas of their lives
Culturess: According to your study, the most popular romance trope among romance readers
was enemies-to-lovers. Do you think this is due to BookTok or a shift in general
Boyd: I’ve worked in romance for nearly 20 years, was a romance reader long before that, and for as along as I can remember, enemies-to-lovers has been a popular trope. It’s a classic! This trope immediately sets up the delicious tension, conflict and banter romance fans crave. It’s no
surprise to me that it’s a favorite! I love that the BookTok audience is (re-)discovering how fun
enemies-to-lovers can be!
Culturess: As a romance reader, Harlequin is often the first romance book picked up. How do
you think that speaks to the company’s current brand?
Boyd: Folks who love romance are usually avid readers, and they share their favorites by word of mouth all the time. And Harlequin romance readers have been doing this for decades.
Harlequin is a brand synonymous with romance, with a happy reading experience, with fun and
joy. Who wouldn’t want to pass that on to their friends and family? And that’s just as true for
Harlequin today as it was in the past.
There are so many stories I’ve heard about readers coming to the romance genre through their
mother’s or grandmother’s Harlequin books, or finding them in used bookstores, at the library,
at garage sales. In a way, BookTok is just a new way to spread the love of romance by ‘word of
mouth’ for a new audience. Harlequin novels are often quick, engaging reads. These short
romances are great at creating that ‘butterflies in the belly’ feeling and are a tried-and-true way of pulling a reader into the romance genre.
One of my favorite stories about Harlequin romances being passed along was one a woman
shared at a conference many years ago. She said her mother had introduced her to the genre,
and then she read the books aloud at her mom’s bedside as her mom battled cancer. The books
brought them happiness, helped them feel like they were traveling to far-off places together.
The books connected them, and were a light in that dark time.
From Harlequin books being passed from mothers to daughters, or from BookToker to
BookToker – we are so proud to be publishing contagious stories of love within the romance
Culturess: Since we’re all romance readers and lovers, which current Harlequin titles would
you recommend for fall 2023?
Boyd: Oh, my favorite question!! There are so many great reads, but I’ll pick three that come to mind right away. One that’s out now, The Witch is Back by Sophie H. Morgan, was an Amazon
Editors’ Pick. It’s a charming, witchy rom com about former childhood sweethearts who have to
fake a relationship and fit into a world they thought they’d left behind. The second is a 2in1
volume coming out in October—One Steamy Night & An Off-Limits Merger by two USA TODAY
bestselling authors, Brenda Jackson and Naima Simone. You get a one-night-stand seduction
plan plus a Boston socialite paired with a bad boy motorcycle designer. So fun! And finally,
another one coming out in October, The Vet’s Shelter Surprise by Elle Douglas—a city vs
country, grumpy/sunshine sapphic romance set in a tight-knit community in the Canadian
And though it’s further away than this fall, I highly, highly recommend the steamy, funny,
emotional Afterglow debut by Timothy Janovsky, The (Fake) Dating Game, out in January 2024.
A story of two young men fake dating to get on a Supermarket Sweep-style game show only to
really fall in love and find the lives they’re looking for. Allison Cochrun, author of The Charm
Offensive, said, “…this book is everything I want in a romance novel!” You can read samples of
The (Fake) Dating Game, and other upcoming books, on the Afterglow Books website.
Whether you’re a romance reader or not, I’m sure you’ll be able to discern something about yourself from the Love Lowdown study shared by Harlequin. It made me reflect on myself and my relationships along with my tastes as romance reader so I appreciated being able to study it and talk to Stacy Boyd.
What do you think of the study, my fellow readers? Do you have a favorite Harlequin title? Share with us in the comments!