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Can the new Indian-authored romances meet readers’ genre expectations?

Romance publishers, especially those based in the US, often seem to lag behind in recognizing how culturally diverse and international their readership is. Harlequin/Mills & Boon is neither US-based nor unaware of its global reach, but their book lists are still overwhelmingly tilted toward white characters, and the majority of their non-white heroes and heroines are either fantasy types like sheikhs and princes or located in separate lines like Kimani. But last year M&B put its money where its mouth was and released the first book in an Indian line, written by an Indian author, and this year they released a second. Unfortunately, the books are only available in print versions and through Indian vendors, which makes it much harder for the rest of us to read them. Then this November, Harlequin released an Indian-set book by an Indian author in its Harlequin Romance line: Monsoon Wedding Fever by Shoma Narayanan (if you missed it, Jayne’s terrific review is here).

I happened to be in India last year during the month that the first Indian M&B book, The Love Asana by Milan Vohra, was released, so I picked it up and read it immediately. This year I ordered the second book, His Monsoon Bride, by Aastha Atray, directly from M&B India and had it sent to a cousin in Mumbai. She passed it on to another cousin who was visiting her, and eventually it wound up in my hands. And of course I bought and read Narayanan’s book.

All three books suffer from the kinds of problems that frequently plague new authors. The characterizations rely a bit heavily on standard romance tropes, and the conflicts keeping the heroes and heroines apart are a bit formulaic as well. But these are the types of flaws that can be overcome, and I can easily imagine future books improving as authors figure out how to showcase their unique imaginations within the category framework.

On the plus side, the Indian-written HMBs have a much stronger sense of place. The character relationships, the family backgrounds, and the context reflect the India that Indians know, rather than depicting the exotic India that you tend to find in Indian-set novels written by non-Indians. In Narayanan’s book, the workplace, the wedding scenes, and the interactions among the older and younger family members felt spot on. In the Indian M&Bs, there were a number of scenes where I could visualize what was going on and where. It’s the kind of thoughtful, rich context I appreciate so much in many of my favorite romances set in the US or the UK, but which I almost never get in books set in India.

But there is a tension in these three books between genre expectations and demands and the Indian culture depicted here. One that stands out to me is the frequent tendency for romance heroines and/or heroes to be loners. In order to focus on the relationship, authors often write main characters who are orphaned, or estranged from their families, or in some other way separated from a supportive kin network. This can strain credulity in a western-set contemporary romance, but it seems even odder in an Indian one. In The Love Asana, the heroine has almost no family around her, and in His Monsoon Bride the heroine is an only child with a widowed father. Monsoon Wedding Fever‘s heroine is part of a happy and supportive family, but the hero has sworn off love because of his parents’ unhappy marriage.

I found the first scenario the most plausible. There are certainly some small families in India, especially today, and it is certainly possible that one’s parents were estranged or otherwise lost touch with their siblings, cousins, etc. The widowed (very wealthy) father worked less well for me, because while it’s possible, it’s not common. Men, especially wealthy professional men, need the institutions of marriage as much as women do (in terms of fulfilling their social and religious obligations). The scenario propelled the plot, but it momentarily took me out of the reading experience, because I was trying to come up with a substantive reason for him not to remarry.

The third scenario was the one I had the most trouble with. Marriages go bad, and children get hurt. But one of the positive aspects of Indian extended family life is that children see more than just their parents’ marriage; they see those of their grandparents, uncles and aunts, elder cousins, friends, and neighbors. Until very recently, nuclear family living arrangements were the exception, not the norm, even for middle- and upper-class urbanites. So you might, as a child, be scarred by something in your nuclear family, but there’s a good chance that you’ll gain support and a different perspective on an issue by watching how other adults you love approach it. In my own family, there were awful and wonderful parents, and awful and wonderful marriages, and they were all people I was related to and being raised by. My parents were the most important people in my life, but they weren’t the only very important people.

My cousin said something a long time ago, when a family member was having in-law issues, which really stuck with me: she said that in India, it’s not just two people marrying each other, but two families. You can’t think of it as something that’s just about you, for good and ill.

So the grounds for the hero’s rejection of marriage felt quite western to me. The author emphasized his time abroad, but it didn’t persuade me because his attitudes toward marriage were established well before that. He was willing to make an arranged marriage, but not a love marriage. This choice could have been explored in interesting ways, but instead we just had the standard “I’ll never fall in love” trope, which has mostly run its course in mainstream romance, thankfully.

I’d love to see a marriage of convenience plot set with a contemporary Indian twist. There are still plenty of men and women who voluntarily find spouses that way, and MOC is a popular trope among readers. Would you be willing to read a modern MOC using an arranged marriage scenario? Would it have to be transformed into grand passion, or could it be a quieter type of falling in love?

The final tension that seems obvious to me at the moment is the sexual one, or the lack thereof. These three books, as well as one Jayne and I reviewed jointly a few months ago, are fairly low on the heat meter. The HMB books have sex scenes, but they’re much less explicit than you find in many other category romances, including some of the “sweet” ones.

I’ve noticed that there are quite a few romance readers online who make it clear that don’t want to read “tame” books, or books that stop at the bedroom door. While I’m only talking about four books here, I wouldn’t be surprised if the HMB authors continue to write low-heat romances. There is absolutely a market for steamy fiction, but I don’t know how easy it is for Indian women writers to write that type of commercial fiction, or for Indian women readers to openly read it. So is the tradeoff worth it for non-Indian readers?

These books give me hope that as authors from other parts of the world get the opportunity to write and publish romance, we’ll have the greater variety and richness that we as readers are always seeking. This is how you get true diversity: when the people whose stories are being told are well represented among the ones who are doing the telling. And the more we acknowledge that our “exotic” settings are someone else’s normal, the more that every author who wants to will be able to write about a wider range of characters and settings. Love and romance are universal, but the context in which individuals can seek romance varies. The new authors at HMB and elsewhere help us to see that variety.

I believe, though, that we may have to make some adjustments about what we consider the “standard” romantic storylines. I think many of us would welcome more stories set in an extended family context (think of the series possibilities!), but at least for a while, reading other-culture romances means accepting some aspects of other cultures that aren’t part of our usual genre expectations.

My starter list of what I’d like to see: sympathetic treatments of arranged marriages. And unsympathetic ones, i.e., where the women are trying to avoid arranged marriages with people they don’t like and find the heroes on the way. Daughter-in-law stories, with conflict not between the hero and heroine but between the heroine and the family. Scientist and engineer and doctor women (there are plenty in India).

How about you? What’s on your wish list?

 

Sunita has been reading romances almost as long as she has been reading. Her favorite genres these days are contemporary, category, and novels with romantic elements. She also reads SFF, mysteries, historical fiction, literary fiction, and the backs of cereal boxes.

33 Comments

  1. Patricia Eimer
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 05:53:06

    These sound really good. It’s too bad that HMB isn’t releasing them in the US for everyone to enjoy.

  2. Suleikha Snyder
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 06:23:22

    …the more we acknowledge that our “exotic” settings are someone else’s normal, the more that every author who wants to will be able to write about a wider range of characters and settings..

    THIS. My favorite thing about these Indian-set romances is that while they’ve got their flaws and the heat is basically nonexistent, they are telling Indian stories through a lens that depicts all of it as normal and not the Exotic Other.

    Great post, Sunita!

    As for what’s on my wish list? I definitely want more cross-cultural contemp, because as someone who grew up in the States, I just love the idea of playing with South Asians from across the world falling in love with each other and blending those experiences. I always joke that I’m going to write the first desi inspie someday: where a more freewheeling American-born Hindu falls in love with a strict vegetarian, uber-religious Hindu from a strict family. And if I don’t, someone should! Because those stories can be told!

  3. Jayne
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 06:41:07

    Of any contemporary settings, I would think an Indian one could support a believable arranged marriage better than almost any other. I’d also love to see Indian x NRI.

    Personally, I don’t mind a low heat romance so this writing style is perfect for me.

  4. Ros
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 09:05:50

    I would LOVE to see more MOC and arranged marriage plots in this setting. It’s always a favourite trope of mine and this would be perfect.

    I would also love to see more plots (not just in India) where religion is part of the conflict. Would there be issues between a Hindu/Muslim couple or Hindu/Sikh, etc? I’d really like to see an author take that on.

  5. Las
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 09:23:46

    The low heat level is often a deal breaker for me, but more than anything I want culturally diverse romances written by women from those cultures. I’d love to read those books, and I hope they become available here in the U.S.

    @Suleikha Snyder: I want to read that. As teens my friends and I would always go on about how we’d never marry anyone who grew up in our parents’ native countries.

  6. Kris Bock
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 09:30:55

    I’m glad we’re starting to see these. I have much more interest in an authentic romance set in another country than one involving sheiks and foreign princes. Arranged marriages have plenty of interesting conflict potential, and could explore some good themes – that passion and romantic love are not enough–a successful marriage takes work and compromise; that we should consider practical aspects, like mutual goals, before marrying; and that sometimes your family members may know you better than you know yourself and be better at judging what’s good for you (though not always!). I don’t mind a low heat level, as too much focus on sex can distract from the relationship and plot, and even come across as unrealistic.

    Thanks for sharing your views!

  7. Kim T.
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 10:04:41

    Great post, Sunita! I have Narayanan’s Harlequin next on my pile of books to read. I agree with all of the posts above…I’d love to see more explorations of the modern arranged marriage in the Indian context. Also like the idea of more NRI meets “traditional” Indian and/or religious conflict story lines. I hesitate to always bring it back to Bollywood romance (that’s where my interest in Indian culture began), but so many of my favorite Hindi films have romantic plots that would translate well to the pages of a romance novel. Just imagine the romance novel equivalent of Hum Tum, Jab We Met, Mujhse Dosti Karoge, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, or Band Baaja Baarat. But I don’t think the constraints of the Harlequin lines will allow for those kinds of stories. I see more hope for them in the chick-lit genre.

    I’m ecstatic about the addition of Indian authors to the Harlequin family, but I’m also looking forward to reading more from American, English, etc. authors of South Asian descent in the Harlequin lines. I think they may be less restrained by conventions of all kinds as Sunita alludes to above: “There is absolutely a market for steamy fiction, but I don’t know how easy it is for Indian women writers to write that type of commercial fiction, or for Indian women readers to openly read it.”

  8. Suleikha Snyder
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 10:11:11

    @Las: My friends and I did the same, and the generation just ahead of ours is the one that has mostly married people from “back home,” which I find fascinating. My age group is more geared towards interracial relationships.

  9. Kelly
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 10:38:34

    I have a new (12/18) Harlequin Historical called Forbidden Jewel of India by Louise Allen waiting to be read – I’d love to know what you guys think of it.

    I’m leery of the stereotypically cheesy title and the damsel-in-distress tagline (“Keeping the princess from danger…) – not to mention the god-awful Richard Marx haircut on the cover soldier. The plot sounds geographically and culturally neutral – just pick up the characters and plop them elsewhere and the story just keeps going with different details. And I don’t know what to think about the Anglo-Indian “princess” heroine. Hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised – because there’s no way I’m not going to read it.

    My question: does the “exotic other” element have the same connonations in a historical romance – or is it the point of a historical romance?

    I think it’s fabulous that Harlequin is expanding the scope of their historicals, and I’m assuming they’re easing readers into unfamiliar territory (so to speak), but the tried-and-true formulaic packaging can really play up and perpertuate the “exotic other” – but I think that’s precisely what historical readers are looking for. I’m not necessarily looking for “exotic” – I just want DIFFERENT.

  10. Kelly
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 10:42:29

    @Suleikha Snyder:

    I’m going to write the first desi inspie someday: where a more freewheeling American-born Hindu falls in love with a strict vegetarian, uber-religious Hindu from a strict family…

    PLEASE WRITE THIS. Ignore all my other “you should write that” suggestions because I NEED to read this book.

  11. Kwana
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 11:01:09

    Great post Sunita. I would like to see more MOC plots and arranged marriage plots. I also agree with you on the isolation front. Real life does pull many more people into our lives than the usual romance seems to show.

  12. Suleikha Snyder
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 11:05:52

    @Kelly: I need to get all the smut out of my system before I tackle a chaste, cultural and moral debate-laden inspie. ;) Give me time.

    does the “exotic other” element have the same connonations in a historical romance – or is it the point of a historical romance?

    I ask myself that all the time. I’ve done a lot of soapboxing about biracial historical heroines and heroes being just exotic enough to tantalize a reader and give them a sense of another culture while still staying safely within the comfortable confines of a Regency or Victorian romance. And I always come back to the thought that, for most fiction, the generic Reader is, by default, white. So when you craft the half-desi duke or whatever, you are playing into the exotic factor — whether that’s intentional or not. And it does go both ways: I got a huge kick out of making Shaw, the lone white guy in Spice and Secrets, the Other. To the point where his love interest is basically like, “You are SO NOT INDIAN” and he’s like, “Yes, I know. GET OVER IT.”

    And, um, I’m going away now. I promise. :::hands the post back to the lovely women of DA:::

  13. SR
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 11:09:04

    “There is absolutely a market for steamy fiction, but I don’t know how easy it is for Indian women writers to write that type of commercial fiction, or for Indian women readers to openly read it.”

    I think it’ll probably take some time for Indian writers to write steamy fiction without wondering what Uncle, Aunty, Neighbour’s Cousin’s etc etc will think her if she writes about “that”. But you’re right – there is a market for steamy fiction as well as an openness to read it – we’ve got Fifty Shades to thank for that. I’ve seen women from all walks reading Fifty Shades on the Delhi Metro and happened to overhear a very interesting debate on it just this morning!

  14. Ridley
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 11:20:38

    Would you be willing to read a modern MOC using an arranged marriage scenario?

    Hell yes! *makes grabby hands*

    Would it have to be transformed into grand passion, or could it be a quieter type of falling in love?

    Whatever suits the couple. I read romance hoping to meet new people and hear their stories, after all.

    I believe, though, that we may have to make some adjustments about what we consider the “standard” romantic storylines.

    Not sure I agree. I think these Indian themes just expand the tent. I don’t see a need to appeal to people to broaden their horizons. Instead I see these books filling a previously empty niche and inviting new readers to the genre. For every person turned off by the network TV-level sex scenes there’s likely a person actively turned onto the focus on family and community. Also, lots of readers don’t care either way about “steam” level. I know I’ll read anything from chaste kisses only to scary non-con erotica. I just want a good story that suits the characters and their community.

  15. Sunita
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 11:52:48

    A couple of quick comments in between my classes and meetings (I’ll be back with more later):

    I think it’s important to keep the distinctions between 2nd-gen Indian diaspora authors and their characters and Indian-resident authors. I would love to read more romances by both groups, and the crossover novels (immigrants and residents) have so much potential too. But there is definitely a difference between the Indian-written ones and the romances I’ve read by Suleikha, Alisha Rai, and other Indian-American (and Oz and UK Indian) writers. All good, but different foci, different characterizations, and different contexts.

    In the Narayanan, the resident v. non-resident Indian conflict is present in the hero and heroine’s relationship. It didn’t quite work for me as written, but I was really glad to see it as part of the discussion.

    I have the Allen HH in my TBR. I am hoping to talk Jayne into doing a joint review of it with me. Let’s just say that what I’ve read so far is causing me to use my red pen on my Nook. And yet, it may work as a romance.

  16. Erin Satie
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 12:09:49

    I’d read an Indian-set marriage of convenience story, but I’d want it properly angsty.

    As a sidenote, I’m a vegetarian and have learned to avoid romances with vegetarian characters. It’s always played for laughs, or treated disrespectfully. It would be nice to read something different.

  17. Little Red
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 13:57:09

    I’d love to read an Indian-set MOC story. Arranged marriages are rife with dramatic/romantic potential.

    And Sunita, good point in the third scenario when talking about the loner hero/heroine. I grew up with a front-row seat to my parents’ disaster of an arranged marriage and it has scarred me for life. We lived here without close contact to family in India and few if any relatives here in the US so my parents are my role models on what arranged marriages are like. Intellectually, I know that it is not the case but my lizard brain doesn’t believe it.

  18. Sunny
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 14:16:37

    Chiming in that I would love more of these, and other novels that don’t fall prey to the “If it’s not white, it’s EXOTIC” trope. I badly want more books with insights and thought from a more real, less fantasized setting unless it actually is a fantasy. Plus that’s what the romance part can be, too!

    These all were on my “Buy, read, and if you don’t love it, keep buying to show your support” list, until there are more authors and more books in this sub-genre I can start picking out stuff I love. I want it to get to that point first!

  19. Sunita
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 15:54:36

    I think arranged marriage MOC plots are at the top of my list, because there are so many misconceptions about how arranged marriages work these days. Yes, there are coerced ones, absolutely. But a lot of them are not coerced, and more than people realize are requested by one or the other partner. Parents who fought NOT to have arranged marriages are now spending their time looking for good spouses for their kids! There is so much story potential there. In a way, I think the romance genre is the perfect venue for more nuanced explanations of arranged marriages, because we are already used to the MOC plot and are knowledgeable about how many different ways couples can arrive at a happy ending.

    As for religion, that is a hugely promising area as well. Also caste, of course, but also region; Narayanan refers to a mixed-region marriage and how that took work to convince the parents to approve. I think most non-Indians don’t realize that a Bengali-Gujarat marriage is considered a “mixed marriage” by older and more conservative Indians! And the Hindu-Muslim mixed marriage is a staple of films (and also triggers for collective violence, so lots of action potential there).

    I didn’t talk about the Bollywood effect because I already had too much going on in the post. While I enjoy Bollywood-set and -themed stories, like Suleikha Snyder’s Spice books, that’s absolutely a trope. Keep ‘em coming, but let’s have all the other stuff as well. India is not just Bollywood any more than it’s just Rajasthani princes and forts. Or the Taj Mahal. I know we all know that, but it bears repeating sometimes. ;)

  20. Nalini Singh
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 16:34:04

    I love MOC stories as well, so I’m right there with you all, but I wonder if such stories are too “real” for the India-based authors and/or readers. Part of what makes the Presents line in particular so popular, is the fantasy aspect of it – I mean how many of us actually know a billionaire or three?

    In contrast, arranged marriages are so much a part of the Indian culture that everyone of Indian descent has probably seen examples of both good and bad ones. So these stories become much more immediate – which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I wonder if they’d fit easily into either the Presents/Sexy or Romance lines in terms of giving people that fantasy experience they expect when picking up a Harlequin. Same with the family involvement. It’s more something you’d expect to see in a Super Romance (a line that I love to read), but I don’t think that’s a line as popular overseas as the Presents/Romance ones.

    Now I’m off to see if I can get hold of any of these books in NZ.

  21. Shelley
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 17:26:41

    I would definitely read Indian MOC storylines. I work at a medical school with the residents and many of our international medical graduates take trips in order to marry women to whom they’ve been engaged, sometimes for many years. It totally blows my mind! And there’s a little part of me that thinks it’s very romantic. *sigh*

  22. Sunita
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 17:40:44

    @Ridley: Great point about the expanding market possibilities.

    @Erin Satie: I’m not sure what you mean by a “properly angsty” arranged marriage story?

    Although that brings up another point that ties into @Nalini Singh:’s comment. I agree that arranged marriage plots with any semblance of reality wouldn’t work in Presents (although I’m also sure there’s an author who can prove me wrong). I do think they could work in the regular Romance line, though. Those frequently have more non-fantasy characters and plots. If you think about it, the Betty Neels widower scenario could just be updated to an arranged marriage on the 2nd round, and of course the hero falls in love with the heroine who has always loved him. It practically writes itself. ;)

  23. Erin Satie
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 17:58:51

    @Sunita: When I say properly angsty, I mean that if it was a book where the H/h go into the marriage as mature, sensible adults who are reasonably compatible and determined to make the best of things…I’d probably give it a gold star and a pass.

    I love marriage of convenience books, but I love them best when one or both parties has been yoked into the arrangement kicking and screaming. That might just be me though.

  24. Sunita
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 18:07:23

    @Erin Satie: Ah, I see. That would definitely be a fantasy setup. Which would make a great Presents, when you think about it.

    For an Indian-set non-fantasy romance I would have trouble with that scenario because the “kicking and screaming” is too close to what happens in coerced arranged marriages (which are still occurring today), and they almost never have HEAs. So my personal and professional knowledge would make that difficult to swallow. Maybe there’s a middle ground, though, in which one or both parties behave badly and/or immaturely but eventually wise up and get their HEA.

  25. SonomaLass
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 20:39:06

    Arranged marriages and marriages of convenience are among my favorite devices in historical romance; they are harder to do in contemporary Western settings (see Mira Lynn Kelly’s book for the new KISS line, one of those “I’ll never fall in love” set-ups). I think those would be wonderful to explore in Indian romances. I’m also a huge fan of family in romance — big extended families with lots of different relationships in different generations, not necessarily “one book per sibling” series (although some of those are okay). The potential here for more books I like is terrific, not to mention the obvious, that I want more diversity in my romance, just like I do in the rest of my entertainment.

    Thanks for this post, Sunita — keep us posted when there are more books like these!

  26. Kaetrin
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 21:27:56

    While I’m usually one who likes a fair bit of steam in her reading, I enjoy more chaste books when they’re packed full of romance and intimate connection (which doesn’t have to be about sex). I’d love to read an Indian MOC story. I guess it *may* be too close for Indians, it would seem pretty exotic to me. Plus, I’m a sucker for an MOC story. Add to that an opportunity to learn more about another culture (in an authentic manner) and that’s a winner for me.

  27. pooks
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 06:54:25

    I haven’t been particularly interested in this setting, but now you’ve intrigued me. I hope they start showing up as ebooks available here in the US.

  28. Suleikha Snyder
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 07:10:41

    Chiming in with Sunita, MOC is definitely do-able, but arranged marriage is just so laden with baggage, for both writers who are actually in India and ones who grew up in the diaspora, like I have.

    Most of my extended family has had arranged marriages, my parents’ generation is all arranged marriages, and that trope-y, sigh-inducing “they fall in love as they go along” outcome is a rare bird. (Though, of course, that’s still the general rationale for modern arranged marriage: You’ll grow to love each other! It’s a different kind of love! You’re uniting your families!) It’s a whole different value system and a whole different head-space than even the arranged marriage stories we find in historical romance.

    It’s a very thin line to walk between it being fun to write/read about and it being a whole bucket of “Oh, Hell, no.”

  29. Janine
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 10:55:21

    Thought provoking article. I think that many of the possible plots mentioned could appeal to me, depending on the quality of the writing. I would love to read a rich, complex MOC story complete with a large extended family butting in. And I think if the arranged marriages are as problematic as some of you say, then they would create a great source of conflict if one character was expected to make such a marriage when they met the other, who was not the one they were expected to marry.

    At the same time, it seems to me that there is always a chorus of “I want to read that” when various diversity topics come up (and I don’t mean just diversity in the multicultural sense), but if publishers are slow to publish those books here in the US, it must mean that some readers don’t put their money where their mouth is. In thinking about that, I’ve come to the conclusion that genres work by having familiar as well as fresh/new elements, and one of the tricks for a writer is to figure out where both the familiar and the new/unfamiliar come into the crafting of their book.

    So I wonder if the reason you found the books you tried to rely heavily on genre tropes and use conflicts that were a bit formulaic has to do with that. That is, maybe if Harlequin is trying to put together books with new elements (setting and background of characters), at this point the other aspects of these book are sticking firmly to the tried-and-true because the authors and editors want to produce something that will still be familiar enough to readers that they will embrace it as part of the genre. Perhaps it will take growing the audience to see the books take more risks with the tropes and conflicts.

    Putting that aside, I think there is another reason as well that it might be trickier to craft a book with cross over appeal to both Indian and western audiences than a book intended mainly for one audience. A writer has to keep in mind what the audience knows and understands about the cultural context and what they don’t know.

    Unless deftly handled, a book that might clarify that to western readers could come across as explaining the obvious to Indian readers, and a book that relied on readers to understand the context might cause some western readers befuddlement. I’m thinking of the time you and I reviewed Suleikha Snyder’s first book and encountered some of that. This could be something that authors and their editors will master over time.

    What all of this thinking says to me is that as a reader I need to be more patient while supporting these books when with my dollars if I want to see more unusual settings and multicultural characters. Okay, so I already knew that, but knowing doesn’t always translate into action. I’m off to purchase Monsoon Wedding Fever now.

  30. Sunita
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 18:37:38

    Reading your comments and thinking about it more, I think it *is* possible to do a romantic arranged-marriage story, but if it’s going to avoid cliches, I think it would require someone with a pretty deep and wide knowledge of the variety of arranged marriages (and how people think about arranged v. love marriages). Although hey, it’s fiction, so maybe it just requires the proper imagination and skill. ;) But Suleikha is right, it’s a fine line to straddle.

    Janine, you bring up a really good point about the extent to which background information is necessary or important. I think that it’s a bit like writing a historical in a lesser-known period. The author has to convey the important stuff without info-dumping or minimizing the romance too much.

    I think the lower initial readerships are something publishers and authors have to expect when they venture into less well-trodden areas. They are going to lose readers who don’t want to follow them there, and the new readers that Ridley talks about will take a while to show up. So there’s definitely a learning curve all the way around.

  31. Shelley
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 18:55:41

    @Sunita: As I know hardly anything about the steps taken in these situations, I would love to have stories as close to the “real” thing as possible meaning, for me, the author probably wouldn’t have to really “jump any sharks” in order to pull me in to that aspect of the story. The more authentic, the better as far as that goes. That’s still so long as there is an HEA. And passion. And friendship. And maybe a little comedy. I loved “Bend It Like Beckham” and would love to see the family aspect.

  32. Sandhya
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 22:27:19

    Hi Sunita,

    Do take a look at Indian romance novels published by us.

    http://www.pageturnpublisher.com

    Best,
    Sandhya

  33. Adite Banerjie
    Sep 15, 2013 @ 00:09:03

    Great discussion here… A lot of the commenters here have suggested titles that give them a feel of real-life romance situations set in India. However, Harlequin titles are typically escapist, and tropes such as billionaires, secret babies, etc. are hugely popular. Some of these are being addressed by Indian authors with the introduction of Bollywood superstars and Indian tycoons..well, if there can be sheikhs and Greek tycoons, why not Bollywood superstars or Indian tycoons. Shoma Narayanan’s titles are more realistic romances among those that have been released under the Indian Author Collection by Harlequin India.

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