We’ve talked here before about no-go stories in romance–narratives that readers just aren’t having. Many readers can’t abhor infidelity, others can’t stand violent heroes/heroines, etc…
Today I’m curious what stories would you like to see more of in romance? Personally, I’d like to see more stories that deal with the impact technology is having on relationships. I’d like to see heroines who realistically manage family and careers. I’d like to see alpha heroes who work in fields considered traditionally female. I’d like to see stories where lovers who disagree profoundly about politics find true love together. I’d like to see more stories set in the 1900s. I could go on and on!
How about you? What tales would you like to see more of or told more often?
Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.
I don’t know if it’s already been mentioned, but I would love to read more books about people.with disabilities. Hard of hearing, brain injury, blindness, loss of limb not due to injury during war etc. The few I’ve read have been very eye opening with conflicts that you don’t find often.
We definitely have a tag for that!
This is a broad tag that includes physical disabilities, mental illness, and chronic illness. I’m starting to add some specific tags (ie blind, PTSD) but it is in progress.
What Lieselotte is looking for is often referred to as ‘Seasoned Romance.’ The leads are both over 40 (or some say 35 is ‘seasoned’) and the focus is on the romance, not the later in life coming of age or awakening that you are more likely to see in. Women’s Fiction. This a a slowly growing ‘subgenre’ that many authors are embracing and many readers are calling for, I write this sort of romance, with a real emphasis on a heroine with life baggage.–and I pair her with an age similar hero. Like the men, the women are silver foxes, not stereotypes of age–no cougars, no crazy old cat ladies, no knitting grannies, no old crones or comic relief. I write contemporary romantic comedy, contemporary rom com-mystery, and romantic suspense with a cosy spy thriller mystery blend featuring a middle aged Irish female butler and the British spy who loves her.
I did a guest post On AAR about Seasoned romance and it gave suggestions for authors, books and books lists for Seasoned Romance.
There is a Facebook group dedicated to seasoned romance
There are several lists on Goodreads as well, this one’s a good place to start
Books like these are close to my heart –I did a doctorate on the viability older women as romantic leads and examined the ageist sexism that has, for too long, prevented women over 40 for being portrayed as experienced, strong, capable, intelligent, sensual, sexual whole human beings –who just happen to be older–not dottery, dreary, demented, dead below the waist, or at death’s door.
Yes! I love you for your books.
I forgot to mention you in my post.
You do it so well.
You’re people are real, in being the age they are, not old in a young body or the other way round. I may or may not love their shenanigans, but I really like them and their attitude. Your race car driver heroine, oh, her cool competence, yes yes yes, more!!!
Your suggestions in your guest post were good, too.
Thank you for all of it!
I wish you all success in building and expanding, you hit so many sweet spots of mine!
Thank you Liesolette!
I’m going to keep on writing them and championing other authors who write them too! I am always so chuffed when I see a reader who is looking for older characters–publishers need to change their thinking and get over the ageist stereotypes and the ideas they cling to about romance being a younger woman’s tale.
“publishers need to change their thinking and get over the ageist stereotypes and the ideas they cling to about romance being a younger woman’s tale.” This isn’t the precise reason why I self-publish, but the sentiment is the same. I don’t want my stories and characters shoved into industry standard boxes. (There’s a lot of other reasons why I self-publish too, but I don’t want to go off on too much of a tangent here.) I imagine that you, like me, found unmet needs in the literary marketplace and decided to fill them yourself.
Good luck on all your writing endeavors, and I hope you do an updated guest post on AAR. At the risk of sounding like too much of a self-promoter, Ms. Grinnan invited me to do one too: https://allaboutromance.com/erotica-vs-erotic-romance-by-nan-de-plume/.
We’d love an updated piece!
Love to give an update on what has and hasn’t changed in the last year. Shall I contact you directly, Dabney?
Yes! That would be fabulous.
I would absolutely love to read your Irish butler/spy books,but they are not on audio at this time. I have limited vision and reading novels is no longer an option for me. Any plans to make these happen in audio format? I know there are thousands of other romance fans who would love adding these to their audio libraries!
I am looking into doing audio versions, KesterGayle. Thanks for asking. I am being encouraged to do so and there is much to consider. Since you asked, would you listen to an author read with own book?
BTW, I saw that you joined the Seasoned Romance Facebook group! YAY!
Sandra, it would depend on the author’s voice acting skills. I don’t want to be simply read to, I want the story acted out. For me, the narrator needs to be able to do male and female voices across a variety of ages, as well as accents. Perhaps you have such training, and I know that there are plenty of places to get that kind of training if you don’t. Reach out to some professional narrators to see what suggestions and advice they might have for you in this regard.
I am very pleased to hear that you are looking into this! I know it’s an expensive undertaking, but if you get the narration done well, we romance audio listeners are very supportive. I suggest you take a look at Aural Fixation Faceebook page for an indication of how strong this community is. Listeners, authors, and narrators all participate there, and I often see authors pose questions to listeners about what they look for in narration, or narrators and authors will discuss ways to accomplish orally what the writer has on the page and in her head about her books. There are now 9000 members, and folks there are very positive and often have great feedback. ( FYI: There is a lot of fangirling going on, it’s not a review site or a book club site. It is strictly folks talking about the books, authors, and narrators that they love.)
AudioGals is a great professional review site, and if you read through some of the reviews you will see the kinds of things listeners look for and have come to expect in audio narration.
I was very happy to see your mention of the Seasoned Romance FB page, it’s a category I seek out all the time. I have not found many audios about 40+ romance, so I’m hoping that at least some of the books I discover there will be on Audible. It looks like a very fun site. I’m looking forward to exploring it, and I thank you for taking the time to answer my question.
I listen to and review a LOT of Audiobooks (at AudioGals and here occasionally) and I’d echo what KesterGayle says – there are some authors who read their own fiction and do it well, but they are few and far between. Romance narrating is one of the more demanding types because rather like romance readers, romance listeners consume a lot of books and expect a lot from the performers. For many of us, the name of the narrator is just as important as the name of the author (there are narrators I won’t touch with a bargepole, no matter who the author is!) and in the past I’ve helped authors to find the right one for them. If you ever want to chat about it, feel free to email me!
Caz, I was hoping you’d volunteer as tribute! And I’m also hoping to see these novels in audio someday. They sound delightful.
KesterGayle and @Caz
Thanks for the suggestion of Aural Fiction. I, um, have done live/recorded readings of one of my books on my Facebook page–complete with voices and accents–as an experiment. I was quite shocked by how many tuned in, watched later, and encouraged me to do more. I do plan on doing it again, even if I am not a fan of appearing on camera.
Audio is an expensive endeavour. I am saving up for it. I’ll be honest, if money weren’t an issue, I’d pick Toby Stephens as a narrator because he’s done many audiobooks, is rather good at it, had a sensational voice, he’s THE Mr Rochester, and one can dream.
I’d love to chat with you Caz to find out who you’d steer clear of and who you’d suggest would be a potential voice.
Agree completely about Toby Stephens! (It’s a shame the rest of that adaptation was a bit rubbish!)
And you can email me any time – I can hold forth about audiobooks until the cows come home!
I’d like more friendship within the romantic relationship. I’m not talking about Friends-to-Lovers; As a couple falls in love, it would be nice to see why they LIKE each other in addition to loving and lusting after each other. I’m not articulating this well, but I see a lot of books where the couple act as each other’s therapist or absolver or sex machine or whatever, but you don’t get the sense that these people have enjoyable, but boring moments together. Give me the couple that has inside jokes, game night, or the same taste in books.
This is so Fitz and Millie in Ravishing the Heiress, which has been mentioned. It’s sort of friends to lovers in that theirs is a marriage of convenience at a very young age, and they agree not to have a sexual relationship until much later. They end up building a business and a life together, so there’s a lot that they share. Where it does diverge from what you’re looking for is that Fitz doesn’t realize until the end that he’s fallen for Millie.
I think Sarina Bowen is an author who’s good at writing relationships in which characters have something in common beyond sex.
I love the way that book make Fitz’s friendship love for Millie the reason he falls for her romantically. It’s so kind.
I know this is a very beloved story for many people but I couldn’t get past the inequality in that book. It felt like Millie doing everything for him and him finally doing her the great honor of falling for her. She was sitting home every night when of course he should go off and have all kinds of affairs while still fancying himself in love with his old girlfriend. While using Millie’s money and business to put his family affairs in order the whole time. There was zero expectation that Millie should have the same rights. I know you can argue it was more in line with the times which were all about the men, but it just left a sour taste in my mouth. Everything was for him and about him. It felt very old skool to me where the heroine should be endlessly patient and kind while the hero should never be expected to be celibate! Men must be men!
I guess I think Millie signed up for that and she kept telling him it was what she wanted. I hear you but I still love that book best out of the three!
I also love the relationship that builds between the two over time and bawled my eyes out at the end. It’s well written and the characters are drawn well.
It just will never make my keeper list because of my issues listed above. I’m not sorry at all I read it, I just will likely never pull it out for a re-read.
I don’t hanker after different types of characters or settings in particular, but I do want characters to talk to each other more so that I can see them falling in love with each other’s minds as well as their bodies. Genuine slow burn romances in which physical attraction comes after they know and like each other well. Even romances in which the characters may have known each other for ages but not considered each other in a romantic light until they have a chance to spend more time together or one or the other of them starts to see the other in a different light. But this does not mean I want to slog through 400 pages of the minutiae of daily life. just want romances in which there is less sex and more conversations about things that reveal the characters’ personalities.
Responding to points in several different posts:
The first sex scene in _Mistress_ by Amanda Quick is a good example of an extremely awkward start.
Unless I’m mis-remembering, there was a Carla Kelly Regency short many years ago with a not-so-tall somewhat pudgy hero who sacrificed his toupee to save the heroine from some embarrassment at a dance.
The recent Milla Vane book has a VERY different setting (capturing the feel of the sword & sorcery genre quite well), and the language doesn’t follow standard contemporary American style. In fact, the word order made me think of Yoda. Unfortunately, the hero, who is supposed to be a great leader, acted as dumb as a brick with his assumptions about the heroine.
Since I already read almost all sub-genres of romance, and find the humor I prefer in a reasonable subset of them (a couple thousand with enough humor to recommend since I started reading the genre in the 1990s), I don’t have a big wish list. My tbr list is already so big it would take me several years of reading full-time just to catch up on the highest priority subset.
More stories where people get over things that actually happen in romantic relationships. He cheats–they figure out how to get over it. She overspends on makeup and massages–they figure out how to get over it. Those true crises that real relationships get wrecked by but they don’t.
I wonder if there are any romances where a partner cheats and yet the couple eventually still gets an HEA. I’m not talking about ménage/poly romances where there are multiple partners and everything is consensual and done with all the involved partners’ full knowledge, and I’m not talking about when a couple mutually decides to go “on a break,” I’m talking about a romance where one partner straight-up cheats on his/her partner with another person. I’m also referring to capital-R-Romance novels, not women’s fiction or chick-lit. I’m not sure I would be interested in reading it, but I’m just curious if anyone is aware of romances where there is cheating AND an HEA.
Doesn’t Mary Jo Putney’s The Spiral Path have a hero who cheated? I haven’t read it myself.
The other one that comes to mind is – apologies if this is a spoiler but it’s been years since it was published and if anyone is looking to see this sort of conflict, it’s a great choice – is Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas. Fitz isn’t faithful to Millie in Ravishing the Heiress, either, though as Chrisreader noted they have an agreement about that.
So yes, not something you see much in romance, and not really equivalent to buying too much stuff.
I wrote a romance like that, which I pitched to agents as “a husband and wife struggle to rebuild their marriage after an Indecent Proposal in Victorian England”. The general consensus was that most readers don’t want adultery in their romances, even if that adultery happened off-page and before the story began, so I’ll probably end up self-publishing the manuscript.
“…so I’ll probably end up self-publishing the manuscript.” Go for it!
On the subject of infidelity, I think you’re right about romance readers not wanting it in their stories. Obviously there are exceptions, but it’s a hard no for a lot of people. Interestingly, I’ve found that the tolerance for infidelity in erotica is a mixed bag. Some people really get off on it, probably because of the “naughtiness” of the situation, but there are some erotica books that specifically state in the product description “no cheating HEA” for readers who don’t like that sort of thing. The big turn off to a lot of erotica readers, at least according to Amazon reviews, is pejorative language- i.e. characters being called racial or ethnic slurs, even if called so by the villain of the piece. That’s not something I’d write anyway, but that really surprised me for some reason, especially when you consider all the other shocking acts a number of erotica readers are open to.
“Obviously there are exceptions, but it’s a hard no for a lot of people.”
There are historical romances where the hero or heroine are married to other people, but have sex with each other (“The Secret Pearl” and “Waking Up With The Duke” came to mind right away). This kind of adultery may be more acceptable to readers, though, because it’s the hero and heroine having sex with each other.
I wanted to subvert this trope by having the heroine married to the right man, the hero, but to save him from ruin she accepts an offer from another man. It’s a single incident, it’s part of the backstory, and it’s clear that this was never an emotional affair – it was a business transaction for her. But the fact that she had sex with another man at all was probably the dealbreaker.
Oh, I definitely think your infidelity plot could work- especially because the heroine had altruistic reasons rather than “la dee dah, I’m bored so I think I’ll screw around.” Unfortunately, as I know you’ve found, a lot of publishers aren’t willing to make exceptions on their no infidelity rule.
The Way Home by Jean Brashear has the heroine leaving the hero because of his infidelity, but it does end with a HEA/HFN. (As far as I remember it’s more of a HFN, but that’s mainly because they have already been married for years, so the usual HEA epilogue is not included.)
Cheating: This is a very US hard no. Just no.
I get it as one of those things that are a cultural taboo.
Like the French and disrespecting cheese, or offending anyone’s Royals.
Austria has a thing about nuclear power (against).
And it makes no sense to others, you just need to accept it. And move on.
I would love to read that.
How to get over cheating.
Or flexibility on “confused while falling in love and making out with the other guy”.
Or having revenge sex while still married and still getting a HEA.
So many ways to get sex wrong, and be a deeply decent person.
So many ways to be a horrible person without cheating in sex..
But US romance redeems violent thieves, murderers, drunkards, and so on, but having sex with another – no.
This is a mystery to me, but I would not try to get that one published, because there seem to be people out there who will not read your books anymore If you “condone adultery”.
I would read it willingly, and we might get a small group together if I read others right, but we will not be enough to make it viable. Maybe: publish under a special pseudonym just for that, to avoid burning all other projects?
There was a contemporary romance series in the 1980s or 1990s that dealt with married couples putting their relationships back together. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the series name, but I think it was discontinued in less than two years. It might have come from the same publisher as the Second Chance at Love series. I used to have a bunch of those books, and I think either real infidelity or suspected infidelity might have been a plot point in some of those titles. The fact that the line is defunct may say something about reader preferences right there.
I think emotional affairs and suspected infidelity may be more generally acceptable, but I myself don’t like actual infidelity on the part of the central characters.
Coincidentally, I just read a blurb on Amazon for Ainsley Booth’s SHAME. It’s not scheduled for release until November of this year, but the blurb seems to imply that the hero has cheated on the heroine. Booth (either writing under that name or under her alternate name, Zoe York) is one of my favorite writers and it will be interesting to see if she is indeed going to “go there” in a romance novel.
(On the other hand, I could have completely misread the blurb. Only time will tell.)
I don’t see the cheating angle really taking off in romances (IMHO). I think that certainly happens in other fiction, even fiction that has a romantic element but not in romance specifically because people read it to avoid those situations. Romance is written for people who want a happy ending or a hfn ending and a certain type of escape from too much reality. There are books where there is technical infidelity but it’s agreed upon like in Sherry Thomas’s “Ravishing The Heiress” but it still makes me not like the hero.
Lots of couples survive infidelity and get an HEA in real life. It’s still a story I’d like to see.
These are some important additions I’ll look for to tag. I don’t know if any of these deals with adultery specifically, but our Troubled Relationships/Troubled Marriage tag is for characters in an established relationship working through an issue other than courtship.
Until a few days ago, I didn’t know that a four-female assassins story was something I needed, but now that Deanna Raybourn is writing it, I do.
Diversity would be top of my list of the kind of story I would want to see more of, and I think romances are moving in the right direction. Kate Clayborn’s first book in her Chance of a Lifetime featured people of color, an elderly romance, a disabled person in a secondary romance, and a STEM heroine. It felt like such a breath of fresh air and it felt realistic.
Older characters as the featured couple in a romance! Age discrimination has prevailed in romances, but maybe the tide is turning.
Grumpy heroines! I love grumpy heroes, but grumpy heroines struggle to be sympathetic and appealing. just as edgy women struggle to be viewed positively in real life. In the past year I’ve read a few romances with deliberately grumpy heroines and men in the upbeat and nurturing position and the books were really good.
I agree with others above that books outside of the UK and the US sure would be nice. Sandra Antonelli’s upcoming third book in her In Service series is set in Amsterdam, and as a fan of the city, I”m excited to read it.
I got to know Amsterdam and many places in Holland very well indeed thanks to Betty Neels!!
Historical accuracy is my number one wish. If there’s no history in it, or if it’s so inaccurate you can’t tell what era it is, then don’t call it history.
And the Americanisation of British history. All those heroines who want to be “independent,” the dukes who work as spies instead of doing their real jobs, dukes addressed as “my lord,” and let’s face it, all those dukes! it honestly sounds as if Regency Britain has been colonised.
But most important, please get it right. How can we expect historical romance to be respected and taken seriously if we don’t respect it?
No need to apologise for telling it how it is!
I’m with you on the Americanisation of British history. As a non-American person, those books don’t even refer to Britain in my mind. They’re like a parallel, fantasy world for me, because I just can’t reconcile them with my experience of England and my English relatives. So in a way, unless some really egregiously American phrasing pisses me off, I don’t always mind because these books are so clearly not in England for me, I’m not even trying to make them coexist with historical accuracy. But if the author was really aiming for historical England and not just historical Romancelandia… Yeah a lot of them fail at that very badly.
I do have some pet peeves though. The “I”ll ruin myself on purpose just because I want to avoid marriage” trope is so absurd when you have even basic knowledge of the ideas and attitudes of the time. It goes against every value these women would have been taught since birth… It’s offensively stupid and annoys me.
I would love it if more American authors were able to try to immerse themselves more in other mindsets and language patterns when they are writing about other places. At least avoid the very obvious American phrasings.
Yes, it is a parallel universe, not historical UK – that works, up to a point…
Yes but then there is the conundrum with what to do with “real” attitudes of that time period about so many controversial topics. Look at politicians now trying to justify positions they held as little as ten years ago.
The truth is there is always going to be a cut off between what is accurate and what people of today want to read about. Even if your hero and heroine are 19th century abolitionists they are unlikely to hold progressive ideas about everything. If Downton Abbey was done realistically the family would expect servants to not even look them in the eye. Daisy certainly wouldn’t be having heart to hearts with the Dowager Countess while refilling the fireplaces.
Mills & Boon published plenty of romances from around the 1930s onward. So, there is a huge backlist from between the wars and the Cold War era. And… I am guessing readers now mostly don’t actually want to read books from that era — they want revisionist historicals instead.
I’d like to see more of the getting to really know you and meeting of the minds that result in a kind of intimacy that has nothing to do with sexusual attraction. I love it when characters engage in intimate conversations.
More humour. Aspects of my sense of humour are as common as dirt. Friends, BBT, B99, Superstore, The Good Place are all prominent on my rewatch list. The lack of humour I found in romance books that people consider hilarious, began as stunning, and became infuriating to me. The average Tessa Dare, my favourite romance author, isn’t hilarious, as will become crystal clear if you read one back to back with The Wallflower Wager, which is. Ditto Julia Quinn and What Happens in London or Ten Things I Love About You.
If some publisher made an imprint that guaranteed every book had as much humour as the 5 of Lucy Parker’s 6 books that try for humour, I would read the hell out of it.
Heroines who I could happily put my life in their hands. This will be a relatively unique preference due to be being a male reader, so I am basically pissing into the wind with this one, something else male readers are relatively uniquely qualified to do. ;-) I would dearly love more members of my pantheon of heroines alongside Annique Villiers, Cordelia Naismith, Elise deVries and Freya Lange.
(Different sides) enemies-to-lovers books. AFAIAC it is the ultimate impediment to love, and not only is it rarely written, the functionally illiterate horde of haters-to-lovers aficionados have made it impossible to search for. ;-)
Heroes and heroines who adore each other’s talents and character as much as body parts.
What does AFAIAC mean?
As far as I’m concerned.
Thanks! I could not work that one out…
I have the Urban Dictionary app on my phone for just this kind of stuff. ;-)
“Heroes and heroines who adore each other’s talents and character as much as body parts.” Perfectly stated!
Keep up the great suggestions, everyone. It’s amazing to read all the different things we’re looking for in romance!
We have a “funny” tag. It’s always a matter of taste, but it might be a place to start.
Normal people with normal jobs. Someone always seems to be rich or a former athlete or in some kind of high powered job in most contemporaries. In historicals, men or women are always nobles who occasionally fall for normal people instead of each other. I’d like to see a romance between a housemaid and a coal miner. A coal miner and a coal miner. That kind of thing. It’s not glamorous but it could be riveting if done well.
Rose Lerner’s Listen to the Moon has a heroine who starts the book as a maid of all work and a hero who is an unemployed valet. There’s nothing remotely glamorous about their lives, and it’s a wonderful romance.
Re contemporaries, I’ve already mentioned Cara McKenna and Jill Sorenson, both of whom are a good choice if you’re looking for people who aren’t necessarily in high-powered careers.
Dani Collins has a few contempt ( not her harlequin series, her contributions to long running Love in Montana books series) with realistic financial topics, that matter. Her two books series Not in her Wildest dreams & only in his sweetest dreams also sticks in my mind for that.
Yes, I’d love to see more of that too!
I mentioned these above – try our tags for working class historicals and working class contemps!
More ordinary, working class people falling for one another!
I’d like to see more romance novels set in the 20th century, 1940s-1970s in particular. Most of what I come across leans a lot more towards women’s fiction or inspirational romance novels, and I’m not that keen on either.
I’d also like to see more variety in the jobs held by the main characters. Nothing against teachers, journalists, athletes, waitresses, cops, musicians, bakers, marines, librarians, cowboys, etc, but I like it when I come across professions that aren’t used as often in novels. Cab drivers, chemists, fishermen, magicians, postal workers, etc.
Totes agree about the 20th century!
Woo hoo! Thanks for the link. I just wish Harlequin would create a category romance line for Modern Historicals. I suspect they’re afraid of alienating older customers as in, “You are calling a story set in 1965 *historical?* How dare you!”
I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that one publisher – is it Harlequin? -is looking for 20th century/modern historicals… or did I dream it?
The blog post I read on So You Think You Can Write (Harlequin’s official blog) said they are soon going to allow HR submissions into the Cold War Era, but that’s about as modern as I’ve heard from them. To me, it sounded like they meant the early years of the Cold War just after WW2, not say, when the Berlin Wall fell.
Just call it something else, not Historical ;-)
I am not coming up with a good one
The Baby Boomers Grow Up?
From 60-ies to Naughts?
Anything that is lovely, not “your life belongs in a historical and you too”- offputting…
Just a thought….
I have heard the term “Retro Romances” bandied about for 20th century fiction. Maybe HR could have a certain cutoff date that goes up by one year each January 1st, kind of like how public domain works open up one year at a time. And everything after that date stays a Retro Romance. Anyone else agree?
I had my first love stories in the 80-ies
Do I feel retro?
If I am still the demographic they market to, they must make me feel great.
Retro does not.
And they should market to my age group, or at least not put us off, we should be the plumpest pockets – would be true in continental Europe, at least.
Who likes to be retro?
I don’t know if these labels are already in use, but I would suggest either “Modern Romance” or “Recent Romance” for sub-genre labels for romances that are not “Contemporary Romance” (which I assume is supposed to mean set in the present time of the writing) but days to decades earlier.
Gee, I never thought of “retro” having a negative connotation like “historical.” I always thought of it more in the sense of “retro chic.”
As someone trying to sell a romance novel set in the ’80s, agreed!
Cool! Good luck with your project. Have you tried Carina Press? Their HR line could use some expanding, and I haven’t read any era restrictions in their submission guidelines.
In the meantime, you might want to check out Timeworn Literary Journal. They are a fairly new literary magazine that publishes historical fiction short stories that take place before 1996. HR is welcome too! Here’s the website in case anyone here’s interested: https://www.timewornlit.com/. Sometimes writing a standalone short story in the same universe can be fun and good advertising. Plus, they’re a paying market.
I’ve got two in pitch with Carina right now, but not this one!
Good luck! I didn’t think they allowed more than one pitch at a time. Maybe that rule only applies to freelancers without agents?
And if all else fails, there’s always KDP. But let’s hope for the best. Carina Press is probably my favorite romance publisher out there. Out of all the romance companies willing to take chances and mash genres, I’d say they’re number one.
I’ld like to read it, have fond memories of love in the 80-ies ;-)
Maybe after the new Wonder Woman 84 movie comes out the 80’s will be “in fashion” and there will be a call for a lot of feel good 80’s romances.
I actually enjoy pulling out old copies of “contemporary” romances from that time like old Stephanie James aka Jayne Ann Krentz category romances. As someone who remembers the 80’s fondly it’s fun to revisit the “olden days”.
I know that the original Loveswept line tried to do this–they remarked once on having heroines in nontraditional jobs, one was a truck driver. And I said to myself (not to them) you want unusual? How about an unlimited hydroplane driver heroine? And a year or so later they published that book.
I’m pretty open to all genres of romance, particularly if they are well written -and I am pleased to say I have seen a lot more books with different types of stories, heroes and heroines lately. I have to say though, this seems to be in every genre BUT historical romances. Maybe this is just my view of things but that seems to be the genre with the least amount of traction in terms of change.
This is a common refrain but I would love to see historical romance titles that don’t reference a Duke (or even an Earl or viscount). Mix it up a bit.
Also if I have to suffer through one more boring first chapter where the Regency hero has an exposition filled chat with his best friend on the way to or from the club or the Regency heroine is out walking briskly while mentally recapping her life under her sensible bonnet I will scream.
Wow, this is a good topic and has made me have a good long think. @June suggested romances set outside of the USA and UK. I often wonder if there are any romance writers in, say, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Japan, Argentina. China, Ghana, etc. If so, where are they? Are they ever translated or is there some sort of worldwide assumption that you have to be able to read English to enjoy this genre? I know that Lieselotte’s first language is not English and there have been others here in the past who were also not reading in their native language. Some years ago I worked for a major international firm in Kiev and the women in the office often asked me to bring back M&B romances for them to read when I returned from home visits as they found them helpful in learning colloquial English and they loved the stories. Shoulders were shrugged when I asked if no one in Ukraine was writing RF.
There are an infinite variety of sub-genres in RF and we all have our favourites but I do try to dip into some that are not my preference. This has led me to new interests and has also confirmed that some sub-genres are definitely not for me but you only find this out by sampling widely and reading the reviews here at AAR.
I love damaged heroes who have overcome difficulties of any sort. I would love to see more older couples as the main H/h. I like beta heroes like those that Carla Kelly does so well. I enjoy military stories set within any time frame. Loved the Sharpe books, for example, and my husband has just found a new series from Michael Arnold set during the English Civil War with a military hero – I will be reading them after him. So, more, please, in any era.
I thought I had exhausted medical romance by reading every one of the Betty Neels output but more please, set in faraway places. And plain old domestic drama with every day characters we can identify with like those Judith Duncan created in her often Canadian set romances. Loved them.
Finally, I agree with Estelle Ruby – I’d like sex scenes that are realistic – fireworks the first and every time? Naw, don’t think so!
Elaine, here your post is! Replied just above, on part of it.
Thanks, Lieselotte for another great contribution. I was aware that M&B publish translated titles in Europe – you see them everywhere (and there are some reviews written and posted in European languages on Amazon) and I even tried to read a M&B once in desperation in French in an airport when my flight was delayed in Lyon. Your thesis about the US having “hamburgerised” the genre is interesting especially as the earliest romances were often English: Austen, the Brontes, the gothic writers, George Eliot (or even Scott or Byron), E M Hull and then the great Georgette Heyer who kicked off the Regency genre that remains so popular. Maybe the US marketing skills are what triumphed in the end along with the development of cinema – e.g. The Sheikh, written by E M Hull, etc.
I read a very interesting book not so long ago you might enjoy by Carol Dyhouse called “Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire” (OUP 2017) that talks about, amongst other things, how romance has been packaged and presented to women through various media; she portrays men through the eyes of women. Very interesting and a fun read.
It’s easier to say what I’d like to see less of :D
I’m not looking to see myself represented in the genre; that would be a long wait, and I read to experience things that are different from my own life, not to find echoes of it. What I’d like to see more of:
– Contemporary romances set outside the US/UK that recognize that the setting is neither a fairytale landscape nor the US in another language.
– Romantic suspense in which regular people find themselves in challenging situations, like Pamela Clare’s earlier I-Team books or some of Jill Sorenson’s border-set novels. I’ve has enough of the special forces guys and the naked chests that represent them.
– Historicals in which the political and social context means something, like A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles.
Jill Sorenson, like Cara McKenna mentioned above, is another writer I’m sorry has decided to stop publishing. I enjoyed everything of hers that I read and several of her books (especially RIDING DIRTY and SET THE DARK ON FIRE) are favorite re-reads.
Jill Sorenson is publishing under a different name, but I don’t think she’s publicly linked her current pen name with her previous writing (which I liked better). I really appreciate the diversity of her characters and settings, her ability to write with compassion about serious issues, and with respect about women who often don’t receive it (teen mothers, sex workers).
Maybe I should do a reread of her backlist.
What’s her other pen name?
I’d really like to read romances where faith plays a greater role in the characters’ lives than it does in most I read today. I know there are Inspirational romances, but—although I’ve read some—I’m not too fond of them because of the emphasis on virginity/no-sex-before-marriage/closed-door. I’m not looking for markers that say, “these people are religious,” I’m looking for romances with people who live (like all of us) busy, complicated, sometimes messy lives—including having sexual relationships—but also have an active faith presence in their lives. I just read FACE THE MUSIC by BJ Salsbury, and—although it wasn’t perfect—I did like the story of a widowed pastor who grows close to a woman who does volunteer work at his church. I also love Sierra Simone’s PRIEST & SINNER—both very erotic, but with a strong spiritual side.
(For the record, I’m a regular churchgoer and consider myself a Christian—but most definitely NOT of the Tr*mp-supporting Evangelical variety.)
I’m always a little befuddled by how faith is portrayed in books. If someone is religious (outside of books that are strictly marketed as Christian or religious) in a romance novel chances are they are some hateful nut there to oppress everybody.
I know people of almost all faiths who believe and pray in their own style, give generously to charities and try to be good people. None of them are celibate, woman hating or out to oppress anyone.
I was raised Catholic and every Catholic I know is a “buffet” Catholic (as I call it) picking and choosing what parts they are going to adhere to and what they are going to skip. I can assure you I could name zero of them who follows all the church’s teachings. My Jewish friends are always ready to do a mitzvah, but they certainly aren’t keeping kosher all the time.
One thing I think people really don’t know about the Catholic Church is that Nuns are the least conservative groups there are. They are the ones (at least all the ones I know) that are the most liberal. They are often in clashes with the church, in conflict with Popes and are out protesting for the most “liberal” causes. Ones in their 60’s with tattoos. I think a lot of people would be really surprised to know that.
Those are all great points about religion in romance, Chrisreader. And when religious people aren’t portrayed as nuts/villains, they are the insufferable heroes. As one person said, she likes Harlequin Love Inspired stories and Love Inspired Suspense for the lack of overt violence and sexual content but just has to push past some of the “random praying.”
Thanks for putting in a good word for Catholics. I’m a non-believer myself with a Catholic background, and it’s sometimes annoying to see the almost constant vilification of Catholicism in mainstream novels and television. No, I am not condoning some of the horrible scandals and crimes that have occurred over the years. I don’t know any Catholics or former Catholics who are. But the constant media attention on those crimes versus crimes that happen in other religions or secular contexts is a serious problem often related to cultural bias. Catholics were, and sometimes still are, a hated minority- one that is still acceptable to publicly mock. Much of this is tied into culture as well. Catholics historically, and today, tended to come from Ireland and Southern Europe- also despised groups in history.
“One thing I think people really don’t know about the Catholic Church is that Nuns are the least conservative groups there are.” I would definitely add Jesuit priests to that list as well. There’s definitely an air of, “Should Jesuits even be allowed to call themselves Catholic? They’re so radical!”
So perhaps an addition to the wish list, like you said, would be more nuanced portrayals of religion in romance, particularly Catholicism. I would, if possible, like to see these types of stories written by people who grew up in the culture and understand things like, “No, Catholics do not worship statues.” (For the umpteenth time!) But I’m not going to rant and holler and do #ownvoices checks if anyone outside the culture writes those stories. I’m always on the side of, “Well, if I don’t like that portrayal, I’m off to write a story of my own.”
I also find when authors do write Catholics (Penny Reid springs to mind) it’s usually the mothers of male characters, they are SUPER Catholic and are always praying about everything yet are somehow overjoyed to have their son marry a non-Catholic in either a secular wedding or a religious but non-Catholic wedding. This is in my experience not true to life. They want the characters to be very devout, yet absolutely delighted their grandchildren will be raised in some other religion, or no religion at all. In the Catholic Church marriage is a sacrament and marriages outside the church are not considered “full” marriages the way Catholic ones are. In the sense that you can be married in a Protestant church, divorced and then be married in the Catholic Church, whereas if you were married in a Catholic ceremony before you can certainly divorce, but you cannot remarry in the Catholic Church without an annulment.
It’s the same with my Jewish friends. Their son married a girl who is nominally Christian, doesn’t really practice any religion and they had a joint faith ceremony. They are wonderful people and treat her (IMHO) better than her own parents but after having close relatives die in the Holocaust and suffer persecution over many centuries for their religion in their family (and in their own lives) would they have preferred to have their grandkids raised as practicing Jews? Yes sure. Does it make them bad people? I don’t think so.
“They want the characters to be very devout, yet absolutely delighted their grandchildren will be raised in some other religion, or no religion at all.” Bingo. I think a lot of authors are afraid of backlash if they give their characters complicated, nuanced positions. And the whole thing about super Catholic characters who are suddenly okay with their kids marrying non-Catholics feels almost like a caricature at times.
For a story done right in this regard, I highly recommend the Canadian movie “Mambo Italiano” (2003- not to be confused with the Dean Martin film). It’s an m/m comedy, and when the son comes out, his parents have a fit! They go so far as to attempt to break up the relationship not out of hatred or meanness, but out of genuine concern in alignment with their cultural and religious beliefs. If you haven’t seen it already, it’s a hoot and has what I’d consider an HFN. Paul Sorvino is a riot as the dad.
That sounds like an interesting movie, I’ll have to look for it. It does sound like more of the extreme I’m talking about. In real life people might have reservations about their kid marrying outside their religion but they will rarely do Lucy and Ethel level crazy things to break them up (thank goodness) lol.
I would be interested in seeing a real conversation in a romance where the parents and child discuss what is happening all over the U.S. where each generation is becoming less connected to religions and religious organizations. How do you handle it when it is considered part of your ethnicity and history as well? I think it is applicable across many religions and ethnicities. Along with becoming more “American” each generation becomes a little more homogenized in many ways. Be it language, religion, culture etc.
Oh, it’s lot of fun. I never thought about your Lucy and Ethel comparison, but that’s totally on the mark. You just have to go into watching “Mambo Italiano” with the mindset that it’s an over the top goofy comedy with some heart.
I like your idea of realistic conversations about intergenerational faith and ethnicity in romance.
I bet there won’t ever be a right wing Trump supporting H/h either for similar reasons.
@Elaine: who would read it?
Yes, I meant Hero/heroine. @DiscoDollyDeb: As to who would read it? Well, why not? We read in HR about all sorts of political and religious POVs, some of which we disagree with profoundly and some of which we applaud. It does not mean that the story cannot be interesting and attention-holding reading with, perhaps, a message we find useful, interesting or even objectionable. For example, we read Gone With the Wind which was a seminal book yet we loathe slavery – today. When it was published – well perhaps different ideas which we don’t now like or accept we but have to understand they were commonly held in the not so distant past. I read a wonderful romance novel some years ago called Unfinished Business by Karyn Langhorne. The hero is a White disabled war veteran who is now a “conservative” senator in a southern state who crosses swords with a Black activist heroine. It was a very good example of love crossing all sorts of lines including the political and a great read. I feel very strongly that politics these days, in the USA where I lived until I was 29, the UK where I now live and in many other parts of the world, have become so polarised, hateful, divisive and nasty that too often people just sing out their prejudices and dislikes without ever considering the opposite POV. History tells us that it is compromise that allows progress.
Gone with the Wind won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and four other Oscars. It won the Pulitzer Prize and is always in Americans’ top ten favorite books of all time. I bet it’s still read lots and liked even with all its issues.
Some of the millions of people who voted for Trump? Some of the thousands that show up at the rallies? One thing I have noticed across the board is that there is a disconnect between what people think should be, and what is.
I see it on Facebook daily and online on almost every platform. Whatever you (and your group of friends or or relatives or whatever)personally think of a politician, if they are in the public arena in a big way, there are millions of people who voted for them and like them. Whether you don’t like Trump, Sanders, Pelosi, Bush, Clinton…or fill in the blanks there are lots of people who do.
I think if the last election (and all the polls) taught us anything it’s that you can’t predict everything based on twitter posts, online comments or even polls.
I just went to a meeting where Democrats and Republicans sat down and were supposed to try and reach across the aisle (Better Angels). My bet is that there a tons of romance readers who would love a MAGA hero and tons who wouldn’t.
I am so happy to hear that people are still trying! I’m old enough to remember the days when people thought it was a great thing when politicians like Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill could reach across the aisle to work together and accomplish things. Now Biden is being blasted for doing that in his career and any politician that doesn’t tow the party line exclusively is considered a traitor.
And yes, I agree about the MAGA hero in particular. There’s no way all those Linda Howard heroes and Lisa Marie Rice Heroes aren’t voting Republican. I know real life couples who vote for different candidates (and not all the men are the Republican voters). There are millions of people voting for both of the parties I can’t be the only person who knows people on all parts of the political spectrum.
What do you mean here? What does H/h mean in this context?
I assumed hero & heroine.
None of the romance writers who I read have put forth a Trump-supporting character. It would go against the values they support. Recently though I witnessed a sharp exchange on GRs over Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare because the heroine in it mocked Trump in an internal monologue early in the book, and Trump defenders no longer wanted to read it
I think it’s interesting how some authors try to hedge their bets in their books. Lisa Marie Rice writes about these very “alpha” right wing heroes and says explicitly that they are conservative voters (and obviously readers love them because all those “Midnight” ones have a million sequels). Then in one she has the heroine mention this to the heroine of a previous book who just laughs and says her vote cancels his out anyway and not to worry about it. So is it that the heroines are “right” or is it just a way to keep things equalish so both sides of the fence can feel OK reading the books?
How about other religions? Protestant Christianity isn’t all there is out there. Faith-based romances could be Hindu, Muslim, Jewish – that would be great to see.
I agree, particularly if the author is knowledgeable about the religion and it isn’t just used for “window dressing” or to make the character seem more unusual or interesting without it being an integral part of them.
Also handing relationships where the protagonists are different faiths. I know of so many cross faith relationships in real life and I never see it in books where it isn’t either treated as 1.) no big deal or 2.) The biggest deal in the world. In real life it usually falls between the two extremes and most of the time it works out successfully.
Yes, this would be interesting, Lynne, and would expand a reader’s knowledge and understanding. As I mentioned in an earlier post, are there writers of RF in places of different, non-western cultures? Would a woman in, say, Suadi Arabia, Bengal, Indonesia or Uzbekistan have a choice of RF in her own language and that is culture specific? Do women there read ANY romantic fiction? Might it be utterly taboo, forbidden by one’s religious faith, punishable by law? I am very curious about this and would be interested if anyone knows about this or of specific research into the situation.
I am in India and there are a lot of romances written in local language. These are culturally sensitive and have varied topics being explored. The sex scenes (of those I have read) are more subtle though but they are not hidden or off the pages. One of the latest books that I read had a young heroine who has been filmed using a spy camera and how she (with the trust of the hero) brings the villains to book. There are very ordinary ones that feel like a reproduction of old mills and book romances too.
Thank you so much, Gayathri, for telling us about what RF you have available in your country and in local language. I wonder if you prefer RF from abroad, e.g. “western” writers or from your own domestic authors. I hope there are others in the AAR community out there who can tell us more.
I wish we had a way to get these into our review pool.
I do not find the original post, though I read it. I can offer a bit of insight, strictly based on personal observation, so I will say why I think so first: I am multilingual (only in European languages though) and search for fun books to keep the languages alive all the time. I love books, search out bookshops wherever I go, browse websites and try out books. I travel a lot globally. Now, none of below is criticism, to the contrary, it is praise. But I will just write what I have thought about for a long time, and apologize in advance – yes, I am a foreigner, I live in Europe, and see US (and UK) through a continental lens, from a distance. My hypothesis is: The US has perfected the romance. Reliable (also sometimes narrow, or boring) standards of what is a romance, a couple front and center, a HEA, surmountable difficulties to finding same, sub genres that also are reliable. Authors who know you want entertainment, and write accordingly, no one is trying to high brow you suddenly to educate or preach or trap you into a horrible drama with dying whales and serious politics and and … that are all meant to make you feel bad because you should learn, or be changed, or or… And US has managed to make a mass production out of it. You can (I do) get dozens of romances each month and still have hundreds you did not touch. And they are mostly ok, so, like a burger, you are fed ok. Some are outstanding, many good, and few are totally inacceptably horrible and make you sick. Nobody else can do that,. (Cannot speak to Japan, or South Korea, and some of you do great interesting research on Filipino romances, and such, that I like to try). Or no one can market it to the world to that degree. And there are many women, in most places I go to, that seem to enjoy just that product. The reliable ease of it. A feel good thing. Harlequin makes sure they translate – yes, me too- I learned / improved first my English, then my Italian, then my Spanish on harlequins, they use colloquial language, they are short, you know what they are and they are everywhere. Before kindle, that was important! And where harlequin went, the big bestseller author/ publishers like Avon… followed. Germany has some romance, but a lot of the “ light” stuff would be chick lit, and that is lovely, but nor quite romance. Or just fiction, as you would call it. Italy had big juicy authors with multiple adultery, difficult secret kids,etc. more Woman of Substance meets Dynasty, again, can be fun, but not romance. Poland and Russia take themselves seriously, so the women had issues, the men are/were traumatized, and in all, you get people building lives, and living them, all interesting, but romance is just a few chapters, not front and center. Same in Spain. Colleen McCullough would count in all these countries, and be displayed as romance. Or romantic fiction. All good stuff, but a tad heavier, a bit less HEA. You might get an occasional author who becomes a super star of lovely romances, or writes a standout romance, but romance as an industry, where you get your cravings met in mass production like McDonald’s, with a high degree of basic good ingredients in good standardized quality? No. Even UK ( but here, others in this forum know better) does not have such a specialized romance output. I find it weird that most of those stories set in England are written by American ladies, or British ladies writing for the US market, according to US expectations and standards Which is why the stuff gets translated. Everywhere. You get shelves and shelves of your favorite authors in Russian, polish, Italian, Spanish, German, and so on. Harlequins are at every tobacconists, in every little stand in an airport anywhere- they are easy to recognize even in scripts I do not know, the brand is clearly recognizable. In sum, US is a wonderful producer and exporter of a feel good product that is beloved around the globe. I cannot say much about Arabic countries, I have been traveling through a few of them lately, and the major airports (even!) seem not to carry romance shelves in the airport bookshops, and the few booksellers I found had no English offerings of specific romance. There may… Read more »
Lisolette, thank you for sharing your experience! This is so interesting.
Lisolette, thank you for your comprehensive analysis. I have heard similar explanations before as to why US and UK romances dominate the world market in the genre, but it is nice to see it from your perspective.
What you said about formulaic romances being like a mass produced hamburger is exactly what the author Ellen Finnegan said. She self-published her memoir “The Me Years” because US publishers could not shove it into a strictly defined category. She essentially said all American book genres, before self-publishing, followed strict formulas making them little more than “ideological cheeseburgers.”
Continuing with American genres, the late economist Murray Rothbard argued that two genres of cinema were strictly American: Westerns and gangster movies. Sure, he conceded that other countries produced them too, but the genres as the world understands them comes from American-defined formulas.
In summary, it’s not just American produced romance that is formulaic, but pretty much all genres. There are certain defined expectations and tropes, whether in movies or books, for each type of story. When it comes to these types of “ideological hamburgers” as Ellen Finnegan put it, no country does it better. For this reason, I have heard many people- whether American or not- decry American cinema in favor of foreign films. And also vice versa. There are a lot of people who can’t stand foreign films for being too outside the box according to the genre norms they are used to. I imagine this is probably true of literature as well. Interesting stuff to think about…
It is just flipping the coin, on all the justified criticism.
Exactly this negative part of standardizing & narrowing brings a huge reliable Feel Good product = Romance to millions of people, all over the world.
We may rejoice.
And being human, worry about the negative, and invent improvements, too.
But occasionally, just be happy and proud!!
Cheers to US genre romances!
Congratulations to all US persons here, I appreciate your Feel Good contribution, it has improved my life and the world for many decades!
And it makes money, feeds many, Too!
And it is super democratic, all incomes and all education levels enjoy it and can afford some.
Just for a little moment, be proud and joyful about it.
You really deserve that.
A totally absurd little side note, Nan, as you follow publishing manners and trends:
I Just saw on amazon.de:
The new book by SEP comes out June 9th, and costs a rounded €20 for kindle. The German translation comes out June 1st, and costs rounded €9 on kindle.
As a slightly disenchanted SEP fan, I will not spend €20 for a kindle book without a neutral reviews. pricing is really painful, for kindle, by now. Should I read it in German? I ponder…
Weird choices of publishers!!!
Who is SEP?
Anyway, that is an interesting aside about e-book prices in various countries. I know on KDP, the author can push a button to automatically set prices for other countries based on the list price of the home country. My guess is that certain factors like varying value added taxes contribute to wildlydifferent prices. As for a translation costing less than the original source material in the same country? That makes no sense to me, and I don’t have an answer for that.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
The key here is expectations. Our reactions to almost everything in life are shaped by our expectations. We don’t react to things in themselves, but to how well things match our expectations. Knowledge of this principle is not new—Buddhism has taught for over two millennia that suffering comes from desire, which is sometimes rephrased as disappointment comes from unmet expectations. Genre fiction is popular with many readers because fiction that follows a recipe the reader knows about in advance is more likely to satisfy reader expectations and less likely to include unpleasant surprises. I wrote a long essay about genres and expectations some time ago (http://www.ccrsdodona.org/markmuse/reading/genrelabels.html).
Mark, I think you hit the nail on the head regarding expectations. I am for sure one of those people who would be disappointed to buy a romance and have it end horribly or have the protagonists not end up together or something that breaks the romance “rules”. Even if it ended up being a great book in and of itself, it would tank.
I think that was a huge problem with the movie “Last Christmas”. I haven’t seen it yet but it was widely advertised as a funny holiday rom-com but in reality it had a much darker plotline. People felt like it was false advertising.
That was a great summation and your descriptions were fantastic ! Thank you for sharing your perspective- I really enjoyed it. I bought one of my favorite Joanna Bourne novels translated into French recently hoping that it will help me refresh what little skills in that language I may have had and lost.
First, we DO, yes, have TAGS!
Muslim – https://allaboutromance.com/review-tag/Muslim/
Jewish – https://allaboutromance.com/review-tag/Jewish/
Note that not all of these are romances (Jewish characters in particular are in Historical Fiction a lot) but this does mean a protagonist, not a secondary or a villain.
Second, if you’re interested in other countries, try the Tropical Romance Book Club (which I’ve been stalled on for a while but I hope to do more of soon). I interviewed authors from around the world about their experiences reading and writing romance: https://allaboutromance.com/tag/tropical-romance-book-club/
I’m sure I have lots but of course I can’t think of them right now. I totally agree with some of the suggestions that have been made here though! I’d love to see more contemporaries that incorporate technology in a realistic way. I find it fascinating to see how the characters communicate through technology, it always reveals a different side of them. When a significant number of messages are included it gives an epistolary touch and I love epistolary romances. I am also really interested in different historical settings. Don’t get me wrong I like the Regency and Victorian time periods, but I’d love some variety too! Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome, a revival of medieval romances, even WWII. And of course, historical romances set elsewhere in the world. I don’t know much about world history and would love to learn through well researched romances, that would be so cool. Think about the possibilities! A corollary of that would also be, more historical romances about different kinds of people, not just privileged aristocrats. People who have to work for their living (not the cliched “I own a gambling den” kind of work…) There must be so many interesting occupations and social circles to explore. (I love stories set on ships too!) I’d love to see a greater diversity of heroes. Don’t get me wrong, I do like reading about alphas and tall, buff guys sometimes. But I think we’ll always have plenty of those to go around ;) and I get bored when that’s all there is. We are seeing a bit more beta heroes and I am thrilled, I hope we get to see more of all kinds of personality types, not just the hypermasculine ones. And that applies to body types too. I’d like to see shorter heroes, overweight heroes or lanky heroes, bald heroes, whatever… What really works for me is when the author can make me feel that the hero is attractive to the heroine, whatever his characteristics. I don’t have to personally find them attractive, as long as the heroine does and it comes through in the writing. I am so tired of hearing about chiselled jaws, it’s lazy. Ditto more diverse heroines, although I feel like romance is doing better at that than with the heroes. And I know not everyone will agree with me here, but I’d like to see more real heroines. More women who have their period, who have body hair, who really need to pee at an awkward time because they drank too much beer while on that date with that handsome stranger, who have interests beyond the stereotypical feminine ones… Less of the always perfectly shaved beauties who love shopping and shoes. I know some people like the escapism of glossing over those things, but without overdoing it or using a sniggering potty humour tone, I find that adding that dose of reality makes me connect so much more to the story because I can relate more deeply. More realistic sex. The first time you have sex with someone you can’t expect to have the best sex of your life. You have to learn each other and your likes and dislikes. Maybe you fumble around a bit, and you can laugh about it. Maybe sometimes, penetration is painful, or you can only have an orgasm a certain way, or you need lube (seriously, not enough lube in romance) and you have to find ways to make it work. Sometimes all the perfect sex in romance can feel alienating and unhelpful. Portraying all the diversity of human sexual experience can be really sexy, because it will resonate emotionally. If the author can make the connection between these characters and the way they enjoy each other clear through a more lifelike scene, I would find it far hotter than always reading the same flowery fireworks type of earth-shattering sex. There was a scene in The Austen Playbook where the heroine told the hero at certain times in her cycle penetration is painful for her, and they found other ways of getting off. I was floored, I thought it was such great representation (even though this is not an issue I actually have myself). I want more of this kind of thing. In general I guess, I hope authors feel comfortable to try new and different things. It’s always a thrill to find a well constructed romance with a situation or setting that feels new to me. I want diversity that isn’t just… Read more »
Ha. I always want a scene where the heroine is peeing as she talks–through the door or not–to the hero. It feels like the only time bodily functions–outside of sex are discussed–are when people are in pain. I’d like more everyday physical intimacy!
@Dabney: In Anne Calhoun’s THE LIST, the heroine is taking a pregnancy test. She makes the hero stand outside the bathroom door. Then she turns on the faucets so he can’t hear her pee!
Laurann Dohner is the only author I can think of whom I have read recently that covered this topic in a book, lol.
You might find a book you’re interested in under our “tech romances” tag – https://allaboutromance.com/review-tag/tech-romance/
This is for romances where tech plays a large role. That CAN be tech careers or science fiction tech like AI characters, but it also includes romances where dating apps and tech play a large role in bringing the protagonists together.
All excellent points, Estelle Ruby.
“In general, I guess, I hope authors feel comfortable to try new and different things.” I think a lot of authors would love to do this, but traditional publishers/editors tend to shove them into industry standard boxes. Marian Perera, for example, was told to make her hero titled or the heir to a large fortune in order to have her story published. Sadly, this is not an isolated case. That’s why I believe you will find far more variety in small presses and self-published titles than the mainstream traditional publishers.
As for fumbling in sex scenes, I am totally with you. They can actually be a lot more fun to write than the more “fireworks and life is all perfect” variety. Especially when working in the erotica market, you have to be more creative than some of the old standards, if only to keep from becoming bored or boring the readers. Shameless plug alert: I can assure you that in my Joey & Johnny Forever series, my two heroes have had more than their fair share of awkward moments as in accidentally bumping a head against the headboard (ouch!), foot falling asleep, dressing in haste to avoid getting caught, stupid roleplay ideas and fantasies they can laugh about later, frightening flashbacks, performance problems, etc. Besides providing variety and opportunities for character development, these little flubs and setbacks makes the extra hot “OMG this is so perfect” sex moments even better.
DAMNIT! I was all set to recommend Lucy Parker to you for a dose of realistic sex. :-D
Lucy Parker is wonderful, and there were a couple of unique representations of awkward sex in The Austen Playbook that caught my attention. Sex in the shower – doesn’t always work well.
@Dabney Grinnan: Totally agree on building more everyday physical intimacy. I’d love to see that.
@Caroline AAR: Thank you for all these links to tags you are posting! I don’t always remember to go and check those out, but they’re so useful :)
@NandePlume: You are right I was mostly thinking from a reader’s point of view… But it must be very limiting to be trying to sell a book to a traditional publisher. The system is so flawed. What you describe in your books sounds like exactly what I’d like, I’m glad there are some books like that out there!
@seantheaussie: Haha yes absolutely!
Blackjack: Yes, I love what she does, there are so many good things about her books.
@Estelle Ruby- “The system is so flawed.” I agree but also see the benefits of traditional publishing as well, particularly for authors who otherwise couldn’t afford editors, cover designers, and so forth. One of the reasons I got into erotica is because readers are generally a lot more forgiving of self-editing and generic covers than readers of other genres. I always joke that I just have to be careful not to accidentally have the hero whip out his “duck.” :)
“What you describe in your books sounds like exactly what I’d like, I’m glad there are some books like that out there!” Aw, thank you! For me, a lot of writing is filling unmet needs or, to use the colloquial expression, “I write the books I want to read.”
But I do have some good news on this front. You are definitely not alone in your preference for diverse sex scenes. In fact, there is an erotica anthology being created right now that is specifically calling for inclusive, body positive flash fiction stories. “Erato” from The New Smut Project is accepting submissions of 50-2,000 words through May 1st, if you want to try your hand at a story. Reading through their posts, I noticed they are already rejecting pieces on the grounds of being too heteronormative or unoriginal. So we’ve got some kindred spirits out there! The anthology is supposed to be published this October. Submission guidelines are here: https://newsmutproject.tumblr.com/submission_guidelines.
I hope some of the writers here at AAR will take advantage of this opportunity. I think it’s a great way to get out these unique and realistic sex scenes a lot of us are clamoring for. And you better believe I already have my maximum 3 flash fic pieces under submission.
Hospital/medical romances where the MCs are not doctors (which is a bit like wishing for a historical where the hero isn’t a duke?). I do behind-the-scenes work in a hospital lab, so a romance in that setting would be very appealing. Actually, a romance in a research lab would be great too.
Realistic romances set on sailing ships, thanks to the film “Master and Commander”.
Any romance where the characters are trying to make ends meet. The deeper the financial pit and the harder they struggle, the more hooked I am, especially if it’s a historical and the story mentions the costs of things back then. Weird, I guess, but it fascinates me.
Looking forward to hearing everyone else’s wish lists!
In case you haven’t read it – After Hours by Cara McKenna is set in a psychiatric hospital, the heroine is an LPN and the hero is an orderly. No lab, though.
That still sounds different from the usual. Thanks for the recommendation!
It’s a fantastic book…one of my all-time favorites and and a reliable comfort re-read. I’m selfishly sad that Cara McKenna decided to stop writing.
She did?! I didn’t know that! I’m very disappointed, maybe she will take a break and pick it up again as Mejean Brook did. I think she’s an immensely talented author.
I second this recommendation, it’s just a fantastic book! The setting and characters are just so out of the ordinary for a romance, the writing is fantastic and author is very knowledgeable about the subject and setting. A++
Wow thanks for the reminder. I just went into the cloud and brought it back up for a re read. I bought it in 2013 which at my age is long enough for it to be like new.
Tags for books about ordinary people with financial struggles:
Working class historicals: https://allaboutromance.com/review-tag/working-class-historical/
Working class contemps: https://allaboutromance.com/review-tag/working-class-contemp/
Oh, and shipboard romances: https://allaboutromance.com/review-tag/shipboard-romance/
Personally, I strongly recommend Elizabeth Essex for this. There are 2 books she wrote which match this – Almost a Scandal and A Scandal To Remember.
Wow! What a fantastic question. Allow me to make a little list:
1) I would definitely love to see more HR in time periods and places not usually explored in the genre. I am happy to report Greta Gilbert has another Ancient Egypt HR coming out through Harlequin next month, but I think that Ancient Egypt could use far more love than it’s currently getting. Other time periods of interest for me would include Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome (there are a few romances set there, but not terribly many), and Tang Dynasty China. Pretty much anything outside of Regency England, Vikings, and the other usual HR standbys is likely to get my attention.
2) There definitely needs to be an industry category for retro romances that take place too far in the past to be considered contemporary but too recent to be classified as historical. Harlequin made an announcement on their blog the other day they are going to start expanding HR into the Cold War Era soon, but I’d like to see some stories set between the end of World War II and up to ten or twenty years ago. Our world is changing so fast now, I would honestly consider a story written today that takes place in the year 2000 to be historical. As someone so aptly put it, “If it happened yesterday, it’s history.” At least Timeworn Literary Journal, a new historical fiction online magazine, considers stories that take place up through 1996. So kudos to them.
3) At the risk of sounding too crude for this forum, I would like to see more varied and creative sex scenes that don’t fall into the trap of acting like penetration is the ultimate form of lovemaking. This idea of penetration being the “big moment” or “real sex” can be especially tiresome in queer romances, particularly m/m. I read an interesting article the other day from 2013 from a gay man who expressed the same exasperation with m/m romance and erotica that I am (vaguely) describing. Without getting too graphic, not all homosexual couples engage in anal, and yet it is often expected in m/m- sometimes in order for writers to get published. A little more variety and nuance in portrayals of queer sexual activity- or even heterosexual activity, for that matter- would be nice.
4) As an addendum to #3, I would like to see more HEA/HFN options that fall outside of the traditional marriage followed by babies epilogue. I would especially like to see less heteronormative HEA/HFNs for queer characters. Even though gay marriage is legal, that doesn’t mean a contemporary gay couple in romance *has* to choose that option for their HEA. In fact, some real life gay couples are quite resistant to the idea of traditional marriage on the grounds that it attempts to shoehorn gay relationships into traditional straight models! That could be an interesting conflict to explore in a CR (maybe one hero wants to be married, the other one doesn’t?) I’m not knocking the narratives currently out there, but there are so many other possibilities.
5) More ordinary looking heroes in HR. I got into a discussion somewhere on AAR that I don’t think the hero always has to be six feet tall or the tallest man in the room or have the biggest washboard abs or be a millionaire/billionaire to be hero material. Some of us like a diminutive intellectual or a gentle soul with surprising passion or some other combination of characteristics. Let’s hear it for variety!
Agree to all!!!
In particular, 3, 4 and 5
I am very tired of the seeming requirement of – hero must prepare heroine in certain way (oral) and then penetration first sex scene. it seems to be industry standard, currently.
for that: it takes a while to be comfortable with all the possibilities, if you are truly not experienced, or just have some body shyness.
And some gradual familiarization with each other sex scenes would be nice as well. Where have makeup sessions gone? or heavy petting?
In addition, women aren’t the only humans who have issues. The “staying power” of too many guys in today’s romances is a nice fantasy (heroines who orgasm 2-3 times before the hero “gives in”??? like guys are always in such control?) but PLEASE can we be a little more realistic? One of the most memorable sex scenes of all time IMHO is in SEP’s Natural Born Charmer, just for this very reason. Dean gets a little too into it, before he gets into I, as it were. JR Ward used realism to good effect in Lover Revealed (between Butch and Marissa) as well. Those scenes stand out from all the others because they are so different.
I ask for more realism for two reasons: first, variety is just way more interesting to read. Second, while sex ed (at least here in the US) is making progress in some areas, romances can/could/do go a long way toward helping people (of any age) learn about what it means to be intimate. Not every scene in every book needs to be a sexual primer. But it’d be nice if there were a handful of scenes over a variety of books that show satisfying (and light-hearted) sexy/romantic times that are less than what is proscribed as “perfect” but are, in fact, perfect for the characters – and maybe a few readers.
“hums the theme from Speed Racer”
Exactly!! Like I said, memorable. :-)
“Not every scene in every book needs to be a sexual primer. But it’d be nice if there were a handful of scenes over a variety of books that show satisfying (and light-hearted) sexy/romantic times that are less than what is proscribed as “perfect” but are, in fact, perfect for the characters – and maybe a few readers.”
Totally agree! Also, scenes where sex doesn’t go so well. I don’t mean things going horribly wrong like somebody gets seriously hurt, but maybe getting accidentally elbowed during the proceedings, the man finishing a little too fast, the woman giving herself some satisfaction afterwards- things like that.
Incidentally, I read some interesting comments on an erotica forum (which I can’t find now- grr!) asking readers why they like the genre. And a lot of responders, including men, said they liked how written sex scenes were more creative and explored emotions better than pornography. Then they went on a tangent about preferring amateur pornography than studio produced stuff because the amateurs have more body diversity (weight, height, stretch marks, etc.), tend to engage in more loving acts (what is all this spitting and slapping business in mainstream porn, many asked), and talk or make more realistic sounds of pleasure. So I’m starting to think of mainstream romance annoyances like these erotica commenters’ annoyances with mainstream porn. There is simply more variety in some of the self-published content, so to speak, because the creators are able to break free from standards the wider industry clings to. And the more variety we have, the better!
“I am very tired of the seeming requirement of – hero must prepare heroine in certain way (oral) and then penetration first sex scene. it seems to be industry standard, currently.” Isn’t it interesting how something that may once have been considered radical is now getting to be a cliché? I’m sure a few years ago, a preparatory oral scene in romance would have raised lots of eyebrows and perhaps gotten praise for originality. Now it’s become the new, somewhat tired standard.
I think of oral sex as more intimate than traditional intercourse, so I’d like a slow-down on some of those scenes as well. If you’ve dated for quite a while before sex happens, at least a few months, it’s less jarring. But to just go there during a one night stand between people who hardly know each other is not appealing to me.
“…I don’t think the hero always has to be six feet tall or the tallest man in the room or have the biggest washboard abs”.
Haha, this reminds me of a Harry Potter romantic fanfic where Snape is the hero, so the writer gave him hard abs, muscular arms, and a chest broad as a gorilla’s. And I’m reading this wondering, “Did he lift weights while waiting for a potion to come to the boil?”
LOL! Snape with a bulging six pack? Heaven help us!
Dabney created a tags page for us where I think you will find some of what you’re looking for, especially in time periods. The main tags index is here: https://allaboutromance.com/using-tags-to-find-books-you-love/
The term I use for books written nowadays but set in the post-WWII era is “modern historical.” You can find those at this tag: https://allaboutromance.com/review-tag/modern-historical/ We also did a blog post about them: https://allaboutromance.com/aar-loves-modern-historicals/
Some other interests you mentioned that haven’t been added to the main page yet:
Vikings – https://allaboutromance.com/review-tag/viking/
Tang Dynasty – https://allaboutromance.com/review-tag/tang-dynasty/
Qing Dynasty – https://allaboutromance.com/review-tag/qing-dynasty/
And I’ve been working on it to make it easier to find tags. It’s a work in progress, so keep checking back!
For creative sex scenes in male-male romance check out Cole McCade if you haven’t already. While they often culminate in one body part entering another, they’re rich with details about the touching and kissing and talking and noise-making that happens both in the lead-up to those body parts connecting and during the connection.
Re historical romance: I’d love to see mor romances set in the everyday places that didn’t make it into the history books – the farmland of Ireland, the coal mines of Wales, Eastern Europe prior to WWI.
A fully egoistical wish:
I notice that many of us are getting older, and I feel less and less represented in romance.
At least, I am, at near 55 – I have a full and exciting career, friends, family around, a good home – I am unfortunately widowed (for a while now, cancer) and I feel that I do not exist, much, in romance.
Also, some of the troubles of my age (lost youth, menopause, friends retiring, parents dying … ) – I would like to see those, and not solved by Deus ex Machina miracle cures where we discover exercise and look 30.
Adults, older people – whatever you call them – people who have a settled life, and have a career or a lifestyle, who find love. And need to integrate it into their lives, which are full with, well, life. And I want a romance, not a mostly suspense, or a mostly something else. I do not want to be the secondary couple with the small page count.
I really want a life that basically works well, into which love comes, at a more advanced age.
I have no age limit, but the tropes that are common and I do NOT mean::
– woman of any age needing to come of age because her fairly traditional marriage has broken down and she needs to stand on her own feet. That is delayed NA for me
– people who have a totally extraordinary lifestyle with an expiry date – adventurers, sports stars, soldiers, ballerinas, models settling down – again, for me, this is delayed NA.
– old life breaks down (sickness, job loss, divorce, …) and people go to their hometown or to some completely new to them place and start again from scratch in another career.
I read those books, I like many of them – do not misunderstand me, I just see enough of them already.
I wish for:
People beyond 30 or 35, who reshuffle their life that basically works, to accommodate that another person comes into it, who also has to reshuffle a life that basically works, and both already have opinions, and routines, and a personality. That is what I want. And the older the better, as long as they are still coming across as middle aged, not as old and kind of “winding down”. I do not mind if it is about a couple that grew apart while together, and has to rekindle the relation.
perfect Examples – though often secondary couples or novellas:
Mary Balogh’s Notorious Rake
Edith Layton’s older couples in “Love for all Seasons”
LaVyrle Spencer has a couple of books like that
Lois McMaster Bujold Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (a great favorite)
Dorothy Sayers’ romance between Harriet Vane and Lord Wimsey
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden has some secondary couples like that
Dani Collins Bue Spruce Lodge series (people are youngish for what I mean, though);
Mary Jo Putney’s Rake (heroine’s life falls apart to be rebuilt);
I am sure I could think of more, it is not completely inexistent.
I just want more of that, for it to become “normal”, too
Oh, I am happy to take any and all suggestions!
Please accept my condolences for your being widowed. Hang in there!
The only Harlequin HR with a 35+ heroine and hero I can think of off the bat is “Lilian and the Irresistible Duke,” which AAR reviewed. The heroine is an English widow with grown children who rekindles a romance with an Italian widower duke while on vacation abroad. I haven’t read it yet, but I have it on my never ending TBR list. It has been praised for its nice portrayal of a mature couple in a second romance for both of them. They bond over a shared interest in Renaissance art, I believe.
I don’t know if this is of interest to you, but a family friend (now in her 60s) was widowed many years ago and found a kindly bachelor last year when visiting family abroad. They are going to be married in September, and we are so happy for her. So please be assured that real life romances can and do happen later in life, even if romance novels have yet to catch up with the happier aspects of reality.
Also for the Rec.
Life is good in so many ways, I am not sure that I am not too picky, or simply too footloose, for romance.
But I would like to read about it!!
I have had a theory that part of the popularity of some of Kristen Ashley’s books (apart from the crazysauce) is that she is one of the few authors that has heroines that are as “old” as in their 40’s with a majority in their 30’s. And she writes that they are still “hot” and pursued by more than one guy. I think that is one reason why, even though some of them are definitely “silly” I keep going back to them.
I do think the majority of readers must be looking for that young heroine even though when I see a heroine in her late teens it pretty much makes me squeamish. I do make an exception for authors I really enjoy like Joanna Bourne and Carla Kelly but it’s always in the back of my mind.
We have tags for that!!!!!
“Older Couple” = both protagonists are 40+ (I think there may be a few where it’s like 43 and 39 or something, but it’s meant to be for older than standard) https://allaboutromance.com/review-tag/older-couple/
“Older Heroine” – the heroine is over 40 but her partner, male or female, is younger.
We also have a tag for widowed heroines. These heroines are not always older, however. https://allaboutromance.com/review-tag/widow
Thank you for the tag reminder!, Caroline!
Found a few new to me books to try!
To Lieselotte – a truly great post, beautifully expressed and very moving with your personal experiences. Thank you so very much! xx
What you are looking for is often referred to as ‘Seasoned Romance.’ The leads are both over 40 (35 for some) and the focus is on the romance, not the later in life coming of age or awakening that you are more likely to see in. Women’s Fiction. This a a slowly growing ‘subgenre’ that many authors are embracing and many readers are calling for, I write this sort of romance, with a real emphasis on a heroine with life baggage.–and I pair her with an age similar hero. Like the men, the women are silver foxes, not stereotypes of age–no cougars, no crazy old cat ladies, no knitting grannies, no old crones or comic relief. I write contemporary romantic comedy, contemporary rom com-mystery and romantic suspense that is a blend of cosy spy thriller mystery featuring a middle aged female butler and the spy who loves her.
I did a guest post On AAR about Seasoned romance and it gave suggestions for authors, books and books lists for Seasoned Romance.
There is a Facebook group dedicated to seasoned romance
There are several lists on Goodreads as well, this one’s a good place to start
Books like these are close to my heart –I did a doctorate on the viability older women as romantic leads and examined the ageist sexism that has, for too long, prevented women over 40 for being portrayed as experienced, strong, capable, intelligent, sensual, sexual whole human beings –who just happen to be older.–not dottery, dreary, demented, dead below the waist, or at death’s door..