I recently listened to an old episode of the DBSA Romance Fiction Podcast in which the hosts discussed whether there was a canon of books you should read in order to understand the romance genre and be able to discuss it in an informed way. By their definition, to be considered part of the canon a book needs to be not just popular, but influential. Writers they mentioned included Jude Devreaux (specifically A Knight in Shining Armour), Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, Georgette Heyer and many, many others.
Which books would you consider to be part of the romance canon (assuming there is one)? They don't have to be the best written, or your personal favourites, just the most influential to the genre. They could be older books or more recent ones. There might be separate canons for contemporary romance, historical and paranormal, or for other subgenres. Please share the books you think have helped shape romance as we know it today.
I'm only a relatively recent convert to the genre (before I read mostly fantasy, science fiction, crime fiction and literary fiction, but there's some crossover with romance anyway) so I'm interested to see which books people reckon are important. Probably the only suggestions I could make would be for paranormal romance, which would be the same as the women of the the DBSA Romance Fiction Podcast suggested: J.R. Ward (the Dark Lover series), Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles (not romance, but they set up some of the tropes that show up in vampire romances), Twilight (ugh!) early Laurel K. Hamilton (before the books started to be nothing but sex), and Bitten by Kelley Armstrong (and the rest of the Women of the Otherworld series. I would also add Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause, because I think it's had an influence on other romances involving werewolves (though at present I can't think of the titles). These are all pretty recent so there are probably older paranormal books that should be included.