It’s no secret that I love romance novels. Many people may see the romance novel as repetitive drivel, but I know that it takes a level of skill to craft this sort of novel that would surprise some of its detractors. When it comes to the romance genre, it’s all about the journey. We already know how the story will end: two people will fall in love. What romance readers are interested in is how they get to the happily ever after.
What I look for in a romance is simple:
- Main characters I care about. They can’t be a saint or the devil incarnate. I want a character that resembles a real person with complex motivations and often contradictory feelings. I don’t want all the characters to be supermodel gorgeous with genius IQs and billions or dollars. Characters can have money or be ruthless, but they have to be rounded out somehow, or they fall into archetypal drivel that annoys me.
- A believable impediment to them being together. I have to believe there is something standing in their way that has to be overcome that will take more than fifty pages to resolve. There’s nothing more annoying than reading a story where you spend most of the time going, “Oh, come on! How is this even a problem?” This is where we get into the tropes of the genre: socioeconomic differences; someoyne is already in a relationship; they are already friends and have some trepidation about crossing over into something more; they used to be a couple and now they need each other for some reason, and etc. It can be hard to make these seem fresh and exciting, but if the character quality is there, it makes it much easier to follow them down a familiar road.
- unique ways of throwing the main characters together. I’m not saying get all soap opera-esque and throw someone down a well or hit them on the head hard enough to erase their memory, but they should have some unique circumstance bringing them together. A wedding, a funeral, a casual meeting on the street, a will, a car breaking down, a trip to the hospital–something needs to bring them together, particularly if they are sworn enemies or exes. How they keep ending up in the same places at the same times matters to me.
- A sweet reveal of their true feelings for one another. I hate when it get Velveeta at this point. I know they have to reveal their feelings for each other, but sometimes it gets a little too sticky sweet for my tastes. I like a grand romantic gesture or a well thought out speech as long as it’s in line with who the character is as a person. I don’t like for this to feel rushed and tacked on; I want it to seem as natural as possible.
- Make me feel as if I haven’t missed out on the best part of the journey. I hate when a book deprives me of the payoff, whether I want to see their wedding or the outcome of their business merger. I don’t need everything wrapped up in an “I do” bow, but I want to feel like I’ve seen all the best parts of the story. Don’t leave me with a “we’ll work it out somehow together” when I haven’t see these people work anything out so far. I don’t want to feel like when I close the book their relationship is going to fall apart.
In other words, I’m not interested in a dog and pony show where characters are put through their paces, but in a real story that touches my heart (touching my funny bone is a plus). I stay away from some of the large sagas full of soap opera goodness written by authors like Danielle Steele because of many of the foregoing reasons. My main source of romance novels has always been Harlequin and its various imprints. Once self-publishing took off, initially flooding the marketing with subpar books with a few good ones mixed in, I was even more afraid to venture out from an established brand like Harlequin.
It’s no wonder, then, that when I signed up for Net Galley– an online site created for publishers to get their books in the hands of influential readers, namely bloggers and librarians–I immediately looked for Harlequin romances to review (I also picked several other genres, but in terms of romance novels, I focused on Harlequin). However, a big publisher like Harlequin are only interested in sites that have hundreds of followers across several platforms with hundreds of reviews under their belt, something my fledgling blog that had few reviews on it couldn’t offer. The declined requests came pouring in. I felt so dejected by this. My dream of reviewing Harlequins ground to a halt. I would have to look elsewhere for a book to review.
Thanks to Net Galley, I have been able to find a new romance novel publisher that I can go to for a great read: Entangled Publishing. I had read one book published by Entangled publishing before seeing them on Net Galley. It is a title from their Bliss imprint that I bought with an Amazon gift card. The cover was professional and the book description was interesting, so I decided to give it a try. From the beginning, I noticed that the writing was of a high quality and I liked the main characters right away. They had real obstacles standing in the way of them being together. I was so happy with the way he revealed he was in love with her. I felt like I got to see the best part of the story. Holy crap! I had found a romance novel that meet all of my criteria that wasn’t a Harlequin!
From a blogger’s standpoint, I love Entangled because they gave me a chance. As much as I love blogging and love my readership, this is hardly a thriving blog visited by hundreds of people a day; I’m just starting to see a dedicated readership. When the rejections began to pour in, I felt dejected. But seeing an approval from Entangled Publishing for one of their titles, it gave me a little bit of my “swagger” back. When I looked in my requests and found that Entangled publishing had approved my request, I felt honored. Here is my opportunity to do a little bit of what I’ve always wanted to do since the first time I wrote a book report: review a book in a professional capacity. I wasn’t just going to be spouting my opinion on a book I paid full price for to my readership, but providing feedback to the company that produced the book. I can only guess that they read my profile and saw what I’m looking for in a book and thought they would be a great match.
Entangled publishing also promotes many of their digital titles through blog book tours and blogger reviews. They have built a great relationship with the readers and book bloggers who support their genre. By choosing me, I have to conclude that they aren’t just looking for size, but for content of the reviews and growing a fan base for their authors. It seems that the stories are the primary focus, and I like that. A good story can sell itself once you get people talking about it and taking a chance on it. This is not only a smart business strategy, but much appreciated by at least one “little guy.”
As a writer, I like the business model/concept behind Entangled publishing. Entangled publishing seeks to be a bridge between traditional publishing and indie publishing. It seeks to offer the author the best of both worlds: the greater input and royalties of an indie author with the professional editing and marketing of a traditional publisher. The way they accomplish this delicate balance is by forgoing salaries for a percentage of royalties from each book they work on. In other words, they make money when their author’s make money. They also accepted non-agented submissions. This is much more in line with what I would be looking for in a publisher.
Reviewing books and finding publishers that I would be interested in publishing with are small steps on the road towards blogging and world domination, but meaningful ones. I hope you all will join me on this journey towards my lifelong dream, Dear Readers. I know that I will be a published author and respected reviewer someday; the interesting part is how I’ll get there.
Finally on the right path?
P.S. Linked reviews are of the book I will be reviewing. I haven’t read them for obvious reasons. My review will be posted tonight.
- KISSING THE MAID OF HONOR by Robin Bielman (mybookaddictionreviews.com)
- Book Review: Robin Bielman’s Kissing the Maid of Honor (literaryetc.com)
- Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: The Reader’s Perspective (jackwoe.wordpress.com)