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This article studies the relative success of the mass-market romance industry. It argues that, in conditions of general economic downturn, supports for the cultivation of literary reading have declined, while inducements to romance reading have strengthened. It considers the centrality of self-publishing to romance reading, and the styles of work available to romance writers, most of whom are women and are usually poorly remunerated. It considers, finally, the contemporary romance heroine, treating her as a figure of fantastical symbolic reconciliation: between a liberal ideal of independent empowerment and the reality of persistent compulsion toward coupledom and subservience.