What’s this project all about, then?

There has been some academic work analysing representations of disability in romance novels, but no one has yet investigated how readers respond to depictions of disability in romance, or what motivates romance authors to depict disabled characters. By gathering data from readers, writers, and other members of the romance community, this project aims to generate new knowledge about disability in romance novels and in the romance community. The first phase of the project, which launched in April 2017, focuses on romance readers; later phases will focus on writers and other industry professionals.

Who runs the Disability and Romance Project?

Dr Ria Cheyne, a lecturer in Disability Studies at Liverpool Hope University, is the project lead, and Suzie Angus is a part-time research assistant on the project. Find out more about Ria and Suzie on our People page.

Is anyone making money from the project?

No. This is an academic research project and not for profit.

What are the goals of the project?

As well as investigating specific topics, we hope that sharing the results from the project will raise awareness in the romance community about disability issues, and start new conversations about disability and romance.

What do you mean by ‘romance novel’, anyway?

For the purposes of this project, we’re using a slightly modified version of the current (as of April 2017) Romance Writers of America definition.

According to RWA:

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

In practice, the ‘emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending’ nearly always means that the lovers end up together at the end of the novel – either they live happily ever after or they are happily together at least temporarily. However, the RWA definition allows novels where the lovers don’t end up together to be counted as romances. For this project, we assume that a novel has to have a happily-ever-after or at least a ‘happy for now’ ending where the lovers end up together.

Short version: the main focus is the love story, and the lovers end up living happily ever after or at least ‘happy for now’.

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