I’m a reader of romance. I also love crime novels, and for a while I read every book I could find that had vampires in it, I even had a spreadsheet (if you want gritty killing machine vampires, I recommend the David Wellington series, 13 Bullets). But really, when I do have time to read these days, more often than not I’ll be picking up a romance. I’m a sucker for a love story with lots of sex and a happy ending.
I started reading Mills & Boon/Harlequin romances when I was 15, much to my mother’s despair (because ‘trashy’ romance novels are not ‘real’ books apparently). I never really stopped reading them, but over the years I have developed a taste for the raunchier ones, as one does (Desire series, anyone?). In the same way my taste for them has evolved, so have my views on gender roles and feminism. I remember starting a Mills & Boon book a couple of years ago that I could not keep reading, the emotionally abusive undercurrent in that book was too strong for me.
I’ve also grown tired of the usual tropes. Here are a couple that really get my goat:
- The powerful billionaire with tragic past falls for a woman with a menial job and makes her see that he is the one for her, no matter how many times she refuses him. He knows her better than she knows herself and usually coerces her into a relationship/sex/marriage under threat. I once read one where the guy, who’d just found the woman again, 6 years after walking out on her, and finding out she’d had twins, threatened to get full custody (fully expecting to get it too, because of who he was and his inflated bank account) if she didn’t marry him on the spot.
- The whole first time sex thing, especially the ones where the man can feel that the woman is a virgin, or he’s already half inside her when he feels a barrier that he has to push through… Basic human biology, people, the hymen is NOT halfway up the vaginal canal!!
The trend at the moment seems to be tattooed bikers who are in a motorcycle gang. Or cowboys. I have nothing against either, in fact, I just read 2 Mills & Boon Dare books by 2 different authors featuring a tattooed guy who’s in a MC and enjoyed both of them immensely. And I guess it’s a good idea to be writing to the market, because then you’ll get sales.
And as much as I love a good sexy romance with graphic sex scenes that make the reader all hot and bother, I can still enjoy a fun romance with no graphic sex (I aim to own (and read) every book Trisha Ashley has ever written, and I’m getting there).
I’ve been writing and I’ve been thinking about getting an actual book out so I went looking at the specs for submission for Mills & Boon/Harlequin Dare and this is what they’re after:
Sexy. Passionate. Bold.
Harlequin Dare stories push the boundaries of sexual explicitness while keeping the focus on the developing romantic relationship. Come meet the sexiest men alive!
- The heat level is explicit and graphic. The hero and heroine have a powerful sexual and emotional connection.
- We’re looking for authors who have a distinct, memorable voice and write stories with a high level of sexual tension as well as graphic sex.
- We want to read the ultimate alpha hero of all of your sexual fantasies! While billionaires, CEOs and other successful, affluent men are welcome, we are also open to grittier heroes and anti-heroes.
- Heroines are empowered, fun and fearless women who don’t necessarily need a man in their lives—having a man is her choice…and her pleasure! Bold heroines are a key hook for this series and their independence is as important as the character traits of the alpha heroes.
- Stories must be contemporary. Readers should be swept away by sexual fantasy, even as the characters deal with real world obstacles and challenges in the face of their love.
- The setting can either be metropolitan (Paris, London, New York, L.A., Sydney, Rome) or exotic (the Amalfi Coast, Hawaii, the Caribbean). The setting alone doesn’t make the story sexy but it certainly helps!
- We are open to 3rd person or 1st person point of view. There should be a balance of POV between the hero and heroine.
- A word count of 50,000 means stories must be fast-paced and plot-driven.
We are open to many different story types, though we are not currently considering law enforcement (police, FBI, etc.), western-themed, military, sports, small-town romances, paranormal or historicals.
These are sexy contemporary romances and we’re not accepting erotica or erotic romance. We are not interested in BDSM (light bondage is acceptable), ménage, age play, bestiality, incest or rape. Each manuscript will be evaluated on how the subject matter is handled.
I read it a few times and I don’t feel that anything I write fits their bill. Here’s the bit that comes after the story types bit. While I absolutely cannot get behind bestiality or incest or rape, I have written stuff with polyamorous characters and I understand that is a different, more specialised market.
However I’m still confused by the sexy contemporary romance vs erotica/erotic romance part. Where does one draw the line? How much hot monkey sex must the characters have to put you in the erotica category as opposed to the sexy romance one? I guess it’s one of those things I could just google. But you know what? I am pretty sure I already have and I read an article or two and left as confused as I was before I’d read them.
I’ll just keep writing what I write, if I ever get my mojo back (it’s been a stressful term with lots of school work and the next 2 weeks are going to be the worst).