Laurie E. Osborne has written a pair of interesting articles on Shakespeare and twentieth-century popular romance fiction, one on the use of Shakespearean plots and other allusions in the Regency romance ("Romancing the Bard") and another on the same subject in Harlequin novels and their competitors ("Harlequin Presents: That '70s Shakespeare and Beyond") . In both articles, Osborne links Shakespearean allusions to the romance's problematic status as a popular (and frequently derided) genre; however, the first article relies mostly on literary analysis and authorial testimony, whereas the second pays much more attention to the economics of the romance industry. Moreover, "Harlequin Presents" arrives at more historically nuanced conclusions than "Romancing the Bard," arguing that "even analyzing Shakespearean allusion in a narrowly defined section of mass media, the series romance, reveals that competitive challenges and generic changes, like the emergence and decline of subgenres, influence Shakespeare's function" (144). "Romancing the Bard," nevertheless, usefully charts how allusions to the plays shape the novels' plots, mediate relationships between characters, and even open the way to some narrative self-reflexivity.
Prof. Osborne's work came to my attention because I was thinking about a parallel phenomenon in the Anne Boleyn novels: the role of Thomas Wyatt's poetry in general and "Whoso list to hunt" in particular. Although there are some echoes of Shakespeare's Henry VIII in the Anne Boleyn novels--Cranmer's prophesy (scroll down), for example, probably inspires similar moments in novels like Francis Hackett's Anne Boleyn--Wyatt holds pride of place as a literary source, although Henry VIII's own lyrics also make frequent appearances. As it happens, though, Osborne's work identifies what does not happen in the Wyatt allusions. Part of the difficulty lies in Wyatt's comparative obscurity (up until the late 1980s, at least, "Whoso list to hunt" and "They flee from me, that sometime did me seek" were frequently taught in high schools, but little else); part lies in Wyatt's status as a coterie poet whose work remained in manuscript until after his death; and part lies in the form of the lyric itself. Most of the novels do not allude to Wyatt's work, aside from occasional references to Anne as "wild" or "like a deer"; instead, they simply drop the poems in wholesale. In Philippa Wiat's The Heir of Allington (1973), in which Wyatt is the protagonist, "Whoso list to hunt" is a direct gift from Wyatt to Anne, and one whose meaning is apparently self-evident: "There was no message but the poem and the handwriting spoke for themselves" . By contrast, when Wendy J. Dunn's Wyatt writes the same poem in Dear Heart, How Like You This? (2002), it "had suddenly materialised from deep inside of me, something deeply personal, something that I doubted I would enjoy sharing with one and all" . Here and elsewhere, the poems are usually left almost entirely unglossed; in a manner somewhat akin to the role of lyric poetry in the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century novel, these poems are meant to be somehow pure, unmediated, and spontaneous expressions of the poet's feelings. Wyatt-the-writer, in other words, is the same as "I"-the-speaker. The poems thus function as intensified romantic dialogue (a good lover always breaks into verse, after all...) while simultaneously taking on the role of historical evidence. For novelists who want to hypothesize a love affair between Wyatt and Anne, that is, the lyrics serve as transparent autobiographical testimony. Obviously, for a literary historian, this hypothesis has a number of flaws--not least among them the fact that "Whoso list to hunt" did not spring full-grown from Wyatt's head, but instead revised Petrarch's Sonnet 190.
 "Romancing the Bard," Shakespeare and Appropriation, ed. Christy Desmet and Robert Sawyer (London: Routledge, 1999), 47-64; "Harlequin Presents: That '70s Shakespeare and Beyond," Shakespeare After Mass Media, ed. Richard Burt (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 127-49. Osborne also has a website devoted to Shakespeare in contemporary romances, Romancing the Bard.
 Philippa Wiat, The Heir of Allington (1973; Leicester: Ulverscroft, 1996), 96.
 Wendy J. Dunn, Dear Heart, How Like You This? (USA: Metropolis Ink, 2002), 216.