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Confess Yourself: Are you a closet category romance reader?

sidebar1.jpgI received a press release from Harlequin a couple of weeks ago about the online version of the Romance Report that I made fun of last year. The theme was confessions. This year, though, I figured it would be just too easy and I would just be repeating the myself. But my recent reading of category books got me thinking. How many romance readers view category romance reading a dirty secret? But how many read the sheiks and billionaires need to come clean and make a confession?

Let’s face it. Of all the names in romance, the one that gets hit the biggest is Harlequin. Harlequin writers take blows to the face from all corners, including its own genre. Some romance writers have been known to say something akin to “not all books are Harlequins” in defense of the romance genre as if to be a Harlequin writer is worse than, well, self publishing.

I remember as a young teen reader that I devoured those Harlequin Presents but as I got older my tastes matured and I turned away from the category book. They weren’t representative of the genre and mostly dealt with secretaries falling for their insufferable bosses. Having had an insufferable boss more than one time, I simply could not relate. Truth is, though, I had been reading categories all the time but kept thinking that the ones I chose were the “exception” rather than the rule.

I read categories by authors like Judith Duncan, Ruth Wind, and Kathleen Gilles Seidel. I have books on my shelf with numbers on their spine and names on the front like Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, and Linda Howard. I’ve read any number of big name authors in their category form and sometimes, I have preferred their categories to their single titles. While Welcome to Temptation is probably my favorite Crusie novel, I’ve read and re-read Getting Rid Of Bradley, What The Lady Wants, and Manhunting so many times, it is a good thing I now have them in “e format” lest the pages wear down to little balls of pulp from the constant handling. Linda Howard’s Kell Sabin series have ranked right up there in favorite books of all time. Seidel wrote about progressive women and their relationship problems at the cusp of the women’s power suit emergence.

Of course, the question is whether Duncan, Wind, Seidel, Howard, Crusie and Roberts are the exception or the norm? Or another way to say it is whether good writing with the category genre is the exception or the norm? Because if good writing is the norm within the category genre, then Harlequin being the ugly reheaded baseborn stepchild is simply wrong.

There are any number of reasons that those books sold at the grocery store and discount retailers are viewed with great disdain. I can point to the titles: The Sheik and the Virgin Secretary, The Billionaire’s Bidding, Millionaire’s Calculated Baby Bid, Willingly Bedded, Forcibly Wedded. How can you not mock books with those titles? The packaging tends to invite speculation that the books are interchangeable or factory assembled.

Many arguments about Harlequin center around the restrictive guidelines for the lines. To write a book within those restrictions, I would argue, takes a great deal of talent, not less talent. So the category romance sub genre is full of good writers. Is anyone really willing to state otherwise? Sure, there are bad apples among the bunch. Given that there are 104 books released each month, there is no possible way that all books are going to be of the same quality.

What I have found is that there are surprisingly level headed, strong willed heroines in these books. That while the Black Dagger Brotherhood and its progeny is all about the boys, many of these category novels are all about the girls. The Sheik and The Virgin Secretary is really the story about Kylie. Beyond Breathless is a story about Jamie. Billionaire Next Door is about Lizzie Bond.

As for reflecting a more modern sensibility, of all the category books, I’ve read, I would say that less than 50% of them end in a marriage proposal. In fact, in the Million Dollar Secrets series, I just finished reading Tall, Dark and Filthy Rich* and neither of the two mentioned previous couples are married. One couple is living together and one couple is dating. In the “Red Choo Diaries”, there is no marriage proposal at the end of Beyond Breathless for Jamie and Andrew. In fact, the proposal takes place in book 2 of the “Red Choo Diaries” and I think the marriage takes place in book 3. There is a also a surprising lack of fecundity in these books. I do admit to picking books that DO NOT feature a baby on the cover so some self selection might be taking place.

I guess what I am trying to say is let’s talk about the pre conceived notion that readers may have about categories and see if they ring true. It might be that the books are too sappy or that there is something about them that will always turn you off. I admit that I haven’t read a book from the Harlequin Superromance line because of the number of babies appearing on the covers and that I’ve stopped reading Nocturne after five disappointing books in a row. But I am ready to step up with my confession.

Hello, my name is Jane and I read category romance . . .

*The title is kind of misleading because the hero is not really filthy rich.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

134 Comments

  1. Laura Vivanco
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 05:06:37

    I’m a category romance reader, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in the closet about it. In the UK, where single-title romances are hard to find and there tend not to be romance sections in bookshops, it’s Mills & Boons (Harlequins) which are the most readily available.

    Like you, when I have read some of the “big name authors”, I too “have preferred their categories to their single titles.”

    if good writing is the norm within the category genre, then Harlequin being the ugly reheaded baseborn stepchild is simply wrong.

    It is wrong that they’re thought of as inferior, though there’s nothing wrong with being a red-head, illegitimate, part of a “blended family” or ugly. :-)

    I wouldn’t argue that all Harlequin M&Bs are great, but I think (with a few lines that are a bit wobblier) the ones I’ve come across have been relatively well edited for typos etc. As I said in the other thread, “I think that ‘emotional punch [...] in so few pages’ may be a hallmark of category. They do tend to be intense because they're short and there generally aren't secondary plots (or time to have a ‘sagging middle’)”. When they’re good, they’re very, very good. And they have so many different lines that even if one particular line isn’t to your taste, there’s probably another one that is. I’m not sure why the focus is so often on the Presents/Modern line. I suppose it’s because they sell the best, but as is clear from the recent interview here with Isabel Swift, there is a lot of diversity in what Harlequin has on offer. The M&B historical line, for example, is one which regularly includes Westerns and recently had a few Roman-era set romances, and they quite often have medievals as well as the more frequent Regency-set romances. The Medical line is informative (if you like medical detail) and because the heroines are medical professionals (often doctors), they’re portrayed as strong, intelligent women who deserve and get respect from their heroes and their colleagues. The Romance line is one in which the hero and heroine are often depicted as friends and partners as well as lovers. Quite a few of the Romance line’s authors are now also writing for the Modern Extra/Modern Heat line, which has about as much sex as the Modern/Presents, but with a younger, more urban professional feel (as opposed to the super-rich heroes of the Modern/Presents line). They’ve got a new blog which gives more information about them.

    I could bore on for ages about categories, I fear, so I’ll stop there.

  2. Charlene Teglia
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 05:57:52

    I think it’s incredibly hard to write category. I’m reading so many good category books these days, mainly Blaze and Presents but also SE. I’ve also read several HQN titles this year that I really enjoyed. I’ve actually been disappointed more with single title books than category in the last couple of years. No idea where the bad rep comes from, but I’d say Harlequin doesn’t deserve it.

  3. Nora Roberts
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 06:11:14

    ~To write a book within those restrictions, I would argue, takes a great deal of talent, not less talent. ~

    Agree. One of my writer pals once described it like this:

    Writing a single title is like producing Swan Lake–the big stage, all the lights, the choreography, the cast, the costumes, the music. Category is producing Swan Lake in a phone booth. It takes a lot of skill to pull it off.

  4. Marisa
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 06:36:41

    All I can say is, Hi, I’m Marisa and I read category romance.

  5. Angela James
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 06:46:10

    Ha. Not really closet. Last night I added something like 15 category books to my sidebar. That’s all I’ve read over the past week. Category romances are some of my favorite reading material when I’m extra busy and need something to read for short periods of time (have I mentioned how happy I am Harlequin is releasing in ebooks?). And one great thing about them is that they’re a guaranteed HEA, warm fuzzies kind of ending. I don’t see Harlequin messing with that formula ;) and sometimes that’s just what I’m looking for!

  6. Tumperkin
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 06:53:46

    How appropriate! I’ve just popped over to Dear Author after posting a review (no, not a review, a celebration) of one of my favourite category romances and so I have literally just been thinking about why some writers seem to do them so well.

    I think perhaps the restrictive length of these book is such that it is a real challenge for authors to deliver a satisfying story arc and sufficient character development and in my view this where some category romances fall down. But done well, they can be great. I don’t mind admitting to having about 20-odd categories on my keeper shelf (although I must also admit that these represent only three authors).

    I do not read many categories these days although that is more to do with the fact that my time is restricted and I always seem to have a huge TBR pile. But I will always have a fondness for them and occasionally – no matter how big the TBR pile gets – I just have to throw one into my shopping basket. And Lynne Graham will always be an autobuy for me.

  7. Sarah McCarty
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 06:56:20

    I’m not a huge category reader only because they are so short. They only provide me with a half hour of entertainment and that’s not enough time for me to relax into the read, but I probably buy one or two a month.

    And personally, I’ve always considered them the hardest genre for an author to write. There’s just so much that has to go on in such a short amount of time. I’m always in awe of writers that do it well. Swan Lake in a phone booth pretty much does sum it up. *G*

  8. Jayne
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 07:05:55

    Kathleen Eagle’s category books are among her best, IMO. Anyone who hasn’t tried them (and they’re cheap online) is doing themselves a disservice.

  9. Donna
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 07:18:22

    I haven't read category in a few years, although I do peruse the titles occasionally. One of the reasons I read romance is because of category. I tried them in the early 70's and hated them, all those virgin 18 year old girls married Greek tycoons. Then, I don't remember the year… when I tried an author who now goes by Jayne Ann Krentz, I fell in love with the category romance genre. She could really pack a whole lot in 189 pages! Her woman weren't wimps even though the men were alpha's, they had a life before the hero, had careers, were older than 18, and (drum roll please) weren't virgins.

    I will always buy her books because she opened a brand new world for me. Thank You Jayne!

  10. ilona andrews
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 07:36:28

    Hello, I’m Ilona Andrews. I apparently also liked a couple of category romances I’ve read. Not sure that would make me a regular, but yes, I’ve read them and liked them, somewhat to my surprise.

  11. Jayne
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 07:40:02

    Laura, I agree with you about the M&B books. I’ve had the privilege of reading several of the historical books in the past year and I’d say all have been good to excellent. The main problem for most of us US readers is just getting our hands on them. A few authors have kindly sent me copies for review but other than that, we have to pay the exorbitant exchange rate then shipping on top of that. I can see what you international ladies complain about when discussing the price of books!

  12. Jenyfer Matthews
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 07:52:39

    “I think perhaps the restrictive length of these book is such that it is a real challenge for authors to deliver a satisfying story arc and sufficient character development and in my view this where some category romances fall down. But done well, they can be great.”

    Tumperkin already beat me to the point – there have been category romances that I’ve read and enjoyed but for the most part I stick to the longer single titles because I really enjoy more character development and story arc. And I too prefer a book that will last me just a little bit longer…

  13. Gina
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 07:53:50

    Reading was like pulling teeth for me, the dread in the pit of your stomach that makes you naseaus. Then my aunt gave me a Harlequin Romance Novel when I was 13. My mother told her it was “trashy crap” but my Aunt was adamant that she was going to show me the bright side of the written word.

    Needless to say, at the age of 37, I can read two full length novels in a day and still crave more. The very foundation of my library are the HQN books I bought in stacks durning my teens years (and I do reread them), and while my tastes have matured, and I find myself sinking into mysteries, paranormals, series books (can I just admit, while we’re confessing, that I’m trying to convince my husband that we should be Eve and Roarke for Halloween?) and erotica – I often add at least one category romance to my book purchases.

    So I’ll stand up with you all and come out of the closet….

  14. Heather Holland
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 08:01:43

    I’m a Silhouette Desire junkie. Love the things…love the short format, since it only takes me most of one day to read rather than all day, all night, and most of the next day to read like the longer books. Yes, I’m a super slow reader. Thank goodness I can type a whole lot faster. :) Silhouettes are so different from what I write, but I don’t care. I still enjoy reading them. Though don’t get me wrong, I do like the bigger books as well, they just take a lot longer for slow poke me to read.

    Naturally, I’ve come across real stinkers that I couldn’t go more than a few pages into, and there are some that have been over way too soon because I was so into it. But that’s true of any book from any genre, sub-genre, and publishing house. Several years ago, I started out writing “category”…wrote one. They liked but not enough, and my next was paranormal and hot. I haven’t written a contemporary since. Yes, they are harder to write, but it’s not the length that I find so daunting since that’s my average word count anyhow. I honeslty don’t think I could write one now if I wanted to. I went hot and can’t go back. :P

  15. Christine Merrill
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 08:20:31

    “Laura, I agree with you about the M&B books. I've had the privilege of reading several of the historical books in the past year and I'd say all have been good to excellent. The main problem for most of us US readers is just getting our hands on them.”

    Putting in a plug for M & B/Harlequin Historicals. To the best of my knowledge, the US gets all the UK historical books, but with different covers and not always in the same month. And although the distribution is a bit more limited than some of the other lines, we are definitely still in stores, and at Amazon as well. And eHarlequin, of course.

    But with the Medical line, and I think with Modern Extra, we are kind of out of luck. I’ve found Amazon.co.uk to have really prompt shipping, but lately the exchange rate stinks.

    Modern Extra is the current name of the old “Harlequin Temptation” line, that I was reading when I got hooked on category.

  16. Chantal
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 08:24:24

    Just liked I said in the other post, I do read them but I am not in the closet about it.

  17. Kristie(J)
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 08:36:26

    I read categories and I’m not afraid to admit it. I love many in the Harlequin Historical line and I’ve read some good Blaze titles. I have some Nocturnes but they’re still TBR. And I loved the Temptation line and mourn it’s demise. So the other lines I don’t read much, Superromance or Presents. And the Desire line word count is too small for me since they reduced it.
    But there’s no question I have keepers from Harlequin.

  18. Shannon Stacey
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 08:36:50

    I’ve always been a category fan, and the only time I was ever in the closet about it was when I was too young to read them and was quite literally in the closet with a ravaging Alpha Sheik and a flashlight.

    I absolutely detest comments like Some romance writers have been known to say something akin to “not all books are Harlequins” because to me Harlequins (and Silhouettes) are romance novels in purest form. The backbone of the genre. While the possibilities in romance are endless, category is the core—one couple overcoming obstacles to live happily ever after.

    I stumbled a little bit in my category-fandom when they started with lines like Bombshell, Nocturne, etc. Doesn’t have to have an HEA? Excuse me? What about that promise y’all have been making to me my entire romance-reading life?

    Lately I’ve been loving SSE/HAR/Supers in a big way again. It’s easy to get burnt out on fangs/serial killers/every weeping and dripping detail of a sexual encounter, and the hearth & home categories make for a much needed calm in the storm.

  19. Jaci Burton
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 08:42:35

    Angie has been singing the praises of Presents for months now, though my category tastes have typically run to the Desire and Blaze lines. I actually stopped and browsed the Presents books at the grocery store the other day. My reading time is painfully limited these days because I’m slammed with deadlines. But those Presents are tempting me.

    Damn you Angie. ;-)

    And yes, I love category books. Always have. Wanted to write for a few of those lines when I first started writing. Still do, actually. Maybe someday.

  20. Laura Vivanco
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 08:44:10

    But with the Medical line, and I think with Modern Extra, we are kind of out of luck. I've found Amazon.co.uk to have really prompt shipping, but lately the exchange rate stinks.

    The Medicals are available as print books from the Harlequin website. Some of the Mod Extras have also been released in the US, but sometimes with the titles changed. Apparently “from January 08 Modern Extra will become Modern Heat in the UK, and will be released monthly as Harlequin Presents in the US.” (from Nicola Marsh’s blog).

    There are a lot of Harlequin lines which aren’t available in the UK, and all the lines I’ve mentioned are edited in London.

  21. vanessa jaye
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 08:50:43

    Like Thumperkin, I enjoy the character development and story arc of single title books far more. But a category (or novella) done right, truly takes a lot of skill that I tip my hat to. I read/buy maybe 6 categories per year, and nope, not in the closet, pretty sure a those books have ended up in my blog’s sidebar a time or two.

  22. Patrice Michelle
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 08:57:14

    I read tons of Blazes and Temptations in the past. And YES, it’s much more challenging to write in a shorter format, but it DOES teach you to write very tight and make every word count.

    My first Silhouette Nocturne Scions: Resurrection was written in a mainstream format with a strong heroine and an alpha hero. It has lots of action scenes and of course a steamy romance ;o) It definitely has an HEA.

  23. Jane
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 09:00:29

    I actually like the shorter length of the category books because they are so easily consumable. If I have a busy day and only have an hour to read at night, I can whip through a category book and have an immediate pay off. Proportionally, I probably read more single title books but I often find the secondary romances/characters take over the main protagonists in alot of series single titles and I find that much more off putting.

    Like Shannon Stacey said, I think categories are possibly the most pure form of romances and I love the idea that these will end one way.

  24. Ann Bruce
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 09:15:20

    My first romance was Harlequin novel that was accidentally shelved in the YA section and I haven’t stopped reading ‘em since.

    Yes, writing category is difficult as all get out. I pulled my internet connection yesterday because, well, I keep getting requests for fulls from Harlequin, yet I never deliver because halfway through the manuscript I feel like banging my head against a wall. So, I decided drastic measures had to be taken and removed all distractions (no phone, no internet, no DVDs, no video games, no comic books).

    It was P A I N F U L to meet the length and requirements and the whole tone-down-the-violence thing.

    As someone who prefers to watch Die Hard over Pride and Prejudice, I have a hard time writing upbeat.

    So, to all those category writers, I salute y’all.

  25. Ann Aguirre
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 09:21:19

    I don’t read many of them, but I do pick up the ones that come highly recommended. And I’m left awed by authors maximize the word count to tell an intense, heartfelt story.

  26. Jan
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 09:41:03

    When I was a teenager I spent many Sunday afternoons with my aunt and cousins reading category romances. They lived on a ranch and when we got all the chores done that was our reward (unless we were out riding horses!) I don’t read as many Harlequin romances today, but still read a few and have many favorite authors and books–especially among the older titles. Harlequins are often a comfort read for me and sometimes it is nice to have a book I can read quickly.

    Where can I find Kathleen Eagle’s category romances in ebook format? I just finished Ride a Painted Pony and enjoyed that so I would like to try some of her older stuff.

  27. Julie Leto
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 09:42:56

    Just wanted to pop in and say thanks to all the readers who read category!

    Of course, I’m a Blaze girl. Cut my teeth on Temptations…my first one ever was THE IVORY KEY by Rita Clay Estrada. I remember reading Jayne Anne Krentz in Temptation, as well as Jenny Crusie. God, I miss that line! I also read Nora way back when in Intimate Moments and have several books on my keeper shelf. Linda Howard, too. I always wonder which of the new writers I’m reading now are going to become the stars of the future.

    I can’t think of a line I haven’t read and enjoyed. I will never understand the stigma of category. As someone who now writes both single title and category, I can say that the process is very much the same. One isn’t easier or harder for me…that depends entirely on the story…but I like the streamlined focus of category. No tangents for me when I’m writing. I always know that when I’m in doubt, focus on the romance.

  28. ilona andrews
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 10:00:18

    Ann Bruce,

    It is painful for most NY publishers. :( Frex, I have to meet a length of 90-95K. (For my first, which was at 128K, I was simply asked to cut 33K somewhere. A quarter of the manuscript – gone.) Also, they edit most of my swearing out and occasionally I’m told that this or that scene simply has to be excised as it is too violent or too gory. (Definitely a good thing. My gory seems to be a few notches above what most people consider gory.)
    Someone else I know has been simply told, “Add more sex. No, we don’t really care where, just stick it in there someplace. But please remain within this specific word count.” Well, for sex to go in, something has to come out, otherwise how would you meet the word count? And sex scenes are loooooong.

    That said, Harlequin does seem to be very specific, more specific than most. And good romance is too hard. I salute you for persisting! I’m chicken and I won’t even try.

  29. Jayne
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 10:04:32

    “Putting in a plug for M & B/Harlequin Historicals. To the best of my knowledge, the US gets all the UK historical books, but with different covers and not always in the same month. And although the distribution is a bit more limited than some of the other lines, we are definitely still in stores, and at Amazon as well. And eHarlequin, of course.”

    Well, we might eventually get them but it can take months to a year before that happens. I just bought an ebook version of one I know was out last Winter in the UK. I had thought about buying a copy from Amazon.co.uk but the total price was just too much to justify it for a “new to me author.”

  30. DS
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 10:05:06

    It must have been bad luck then that my last two I tried to read– one an older book by Judith Duncan (Driver to Distraction) and the other a newer Nocturne were both disasters.

    The Duncan book had some really good stuff going for it until the characters started acting all crazy. If I had a life-threatening bout of the flu, I think I would prefer my daughter to call an ambulance rather than the hot young mechanic next door. I stopped that one when the heroine in order to prolong the plot then started acting all ungrateful and neurotic after the flu was over.

    The Nocturne just had some bad writing, but I really tossed it when the author managed to mess up her science.

  31. Jorrie Spencer
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 10:10:26

    I haven’t read category romances lately, but I went through a phase where that was all I read for a while and really enjoyed it. I just wish they hadn’t cut the Silhouette Intimate Moments :(

    Yes, I know there’s a suspense line now, but it’s not the same. One of the most moving romances I ever read was SIM’s Mad Dog and Annie by Virginia Kantra.

  32. LorelieLong
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 10:15:36

    Personally, they’re crap. When I was living in Italy, we had an english language “bookstore” that was really just a small section of the Quickie Mart. So I’d run out of single titles I hadn’t yet read, but the categories were always well stocked. I figured I’d give ‘em a try and actually went in with a pretty excited attitude, as I figured they wouldn’t be much different from the novellas I love. I read about 10 over a two month period, testing out the different lines the store carried.

    I dunno, maybe I just managed to pick the crap title of the month from each line? At any rate, they’re so not my bag.

  33. Jane
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 10:23:45

    LorelieLong – Are you saying that the entire genre is crap? If so, how can you say that they are all are crap unless you’ve read them all. It seems such extreme hyperbole. It would be akin to me saying that all Ellora’s Cave books are all crap because I’ve read ten of them (true) and that those ten are all crap (also true). But I know that there are good books even at Ellora’s Cave where they have titles of books called Between a Rock and a Hard On and give warnings about books that have plots.

  34. Elizabeth K. Mahon
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 10:36:07

    I cut my teeth reading Harlequin Presents back when Janet Daily was writing her books set in all 50 States. Some of my favorite authors were Anne Mather and Charlotte Lamb. I then moved onto Silhouette and Dell Candlelight Ecstasy. I discovered authors like Heather Graham, Barbara Delinksy and Jayne Anne Krentz in category, not to mention Julie Leto, Suzanne Brockmann, Caridad Pineiro, Stephanie Feagan, Evelyn Vaughn, Anna DePalo and Linda Howard. Yes, there are some clunkers every month but that’s a lot of books to fill. Category is a great way to start a career, for characterization and to learn to write tight. I wish I had the skill to write category, but I don’t.

  35. Wendy
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 10:36:51

    You hit on one of my biggest pet peeves Jane. Romance readers who justify their choice of reading material by saying something like, “It’s not like I read Harlequins!” One step forward, three steps back.

    I adore categories because sometimes I just want a “pure” romance. No sub plots or secondary characters mucking up the works – just boy and girl and romance. That’s it. And you can find that in category.

    These days I read a lot of HSR, although I’ll admit the line is heavy with child(ren) these days. I used to love SD but they seem to have morphed into HP Part II – and HP just ain’t my thing. Also I think by now my love of the Harlequin Historical line is the stuff of legend. By far my favorite Harlequin authors publish within the HH line.

  36. Sara Dennis
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 10:40:54

    I read category romance. I actually surprised myself by realizing how *much* category I read. I’ve mentioned in many places before that I used to be one of those that thought “Harlequin? Oh no, not ever.” That was based off of books published in the 80s. You know, the ones we passed around during lunch in jr. high school so we could giggle and roll our eyes over while we looked for sex scenes.

    But when I started writing romance, I read a few contemporary books, and I was impressed. I haven’t stopped reading them since. I have even written books that I hoped would become category novels and, like others have said, boy is that *hard*.

    So, yes I read category and I’m not ashamed.

  37. Angela James
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 10:50:21

    I used to love SD but they seem to have morphed into HP Part II – and HP just ain't my thing.

    I just discovered SD, usually I just read HP. But last month I started buying SD as well. I put all of the books on my ebookwise and just read in alphabetical order, lol. But I don’t include the covers and I can never tell whether I’m reading an SD or a HP. I’m not sure I know what the difference in the lines is, but I don’t care. I like them both ;)

    Though I must admit, in my last reading binge, there were 2 books that I didn’t finish and were total wallbangers for me. One because the heroine was TOO innocent and naive (and utterly stupid)–and yes, I know they’re often naive and innocent in these books but not to the point of totally idiocy–and the other because, really, when you get attacked by your ex–physically assaulted by him in your parking garage–you call the police. You don’t just hope he’ll go away! But since I read something like 15 or so in the past week, I don’t think a DNF for 2 is a bad percentage. And I still don’t know which line either of those books came from other than it was either HP or SD.

    I’ll say it again, I just enjoy reading a love story where I know I’ll get a true HEA no matter what the conflict. He loves her, she loves him and nothing else matters. Sometimes, that’s what I need at the end of a stressful day!

  38. Meljean
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 10:51:04

    I love categories (I usually pick up Presents and Desires) and I guess I’ve never been in the closet about it. They’re a quick read, usually have an emotional punch (that’s manipulative, sure, but I read them mostly for that). And although the last one I read was horrible, for the most part they’re at least competently written and satisfying. And, I dunno, part of the fun is rolling my eyes at the excesses (the billionaire princes, the mistresses) even as I’m being drawn into the story.

  39. jmc
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 11:09:18

    When I first started reading romance (other than the initial bodice ripper read in chunks while visiting my grandma), it was always Harlequin Presents. Why? Because for some reason, my high school library stocked them. (WTH? I can’t imagine that happening today. Someone must’ve donated them.) And the newsstand next to work sold all the Hqn lines. On a slow winter day after all the work was done, I’d pop next door and buy one and keep myself from going crazy while waiting for customers to come in.

    I read fewer of them today for a variety of reasons: not interested in secret babies or sheikhs; the boss-secretary thing doesn’t work for me so much; the contrived mistress situations drive me crazy. I still buy at least one new category a month though. I buy older categories much more frequently at the UBS. Why? Because I’m trying to find a couple of books that I read back in the day. Maybe it is just nostalgia on my part, but the current releases seem very uniform in comparison to the categories I remember.

  40. Jane
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 11:15:01

    I would be interested in hearing some suggestions for HP books or SD books. I’m going to give Nocturne another try with Patrice Michelle’s book.

    Maybe we could do a petition for the re-release of some kathleen eagle books in “e” format.

  41. Jill Myles
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 11:15:27

    I confess I read the occasional category, though I mostly pick up for storyline (sheiks and princes totally have my number) or authors. I really like the Historicals line and have been picking those up lately because they’re not afraid to try out new areas like ancient rome (Styles) and Ireland (Michelle Willingham).

    I also confess they’re not my FIRST novel to pick up because most of them are short, and for the money I want to feel like I’m getting a bigger chunk of reading for my money. Shallow, I know. And lately my reading budget is limited, so I’ve only been picking up books I’ve been waiting to come out forever (Kleypas, Cole, etc).

  42. Jaci Burton
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 11:19:57

    Jane – have you read any of Nalini’s Desires? They’re wonderful. She writes beautiful, fun and emotional stories for that line.

  43. TeddyPig
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 11:20:02

    Yep, I have read my share of Harlequin in the past but the cliche and uniformity bothered me. A good writer can overcome the Harlequin cookie cutter approach but I would much rather read them in a Single. So now it’s all about the eBooks.

    Oh, and I tried the Nocturne line recently. Totally agree Blech! Back to eBooks…

  44. Meljean
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 11:36:40

    Jane — Susan Napier usually delivers a solid story for Presents (and not usually of the rolly-eyes variety).

  45. Lisa
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 11:39:01

    There are some new things coming out with Nocturne I hope everyone will try. They brought in some EC writers and they let us write hotter than I think previous books have been. I know they didn’t sensor my language and stuff in mine either. I think this line is ever changing as it tests the waterI know! I’m partial since my first Nocturne hits shelves in two weeks. But I really do believe the books are going to be diverse and offer a variety of choices to readers on heat levels and complexity. For one thing, I think they said sensual in promotions but there wasn’t much sensuality. I know I write for Blaze and Nocturne and they didn’t hold me to any formula for my Nocturne at all. They let me run pretty darn freely.

  46. bookworm
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 11:49:26

    I grew up on M&B, and still pick up a category when I’m in the mood for a short, intense read. I don’t find too many keepers though (Nalini Singh excepted), and there’s some damn awful clunkers in there. I don’t seem to find any good reviews, either, to help me sort the great from the good from the awful.

    And I really hate those HP titles, even though I’ve found some really good stories beyond the Greeks, Sheikhs and Secrets. The titles remind me of that bit in Spinal Tap where the guy plays a beautiful snippet of classical music, and then says it’s called “Lick My Love Pump.” HP kinda sets itself up for a lot of hits based on the sheer tackiness of the titles. Or am I mistaken. Is it HP or the writers who choose the title?

    I’ve never been in the closet, either as a reader of category, or as someone who can enjoy a darned good gripe about them.

    A question – Is Harl/Sil/MB the only publisher of category romance?

  47. Leslie Kelly
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 12:14:18

    I just wanted to pipe in as another Hq author who has never been told to write to any formula. As long as I keep within the word count and the boundaries of the individual line (in my case, Temptation and Blaze) absolutely anything goes. Including some stuff in Blaze that people just don’t imagine Harlequin “does.”

    My Blaze editor has long said she wanted Blaze to be the “single title” of category lines.

  48. Sara Dennis
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 12:14:25

    Jane, as far as Nocturnes go, I’d suggest Pamela Palmer’s The Dark Gate, as well. To me, that was a Nocturne as initially promised by the premise of the line.

  49. Leslie Kelly
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 12:15:45

    Ack! Sorry for the double post, computer locked up!

  50. Lisa
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 12:18:29

    I quite enjoyed The Dark Gate! I second Sara’s recommend!

  51. sula
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 12:34:09

    I have to admit that I don’t read category, but that’s really only because I have no idea of where to start! I try to limit my new book purchases (we’re on a budget) and get most of my reading material from the library. I know they have HPs scattered throughout the paperback section alphabetical by author, but I don’t know which authors to look for. If anyone is up to making a list, I will definitely take notes. Having a short and satisfying book that I can read in one sitting is a definitely a good thing. :)

  52. LorelieLong
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 12:36:22

    “Are you saying that the entire genre is crap? If so, how can you say that they are all are crap unless you've read them all. ”

    Excuse me, I guess I phrased that wrong. I should have said “For my taste, they’re crap.” And I’m sure there are probably good books in there, and no I haven’t tried ‘em all. But let’s put it this way: If you were in an ice cream store that had 100 flavors, tried 10 of them and didn’t like any would you use your calorie allotment there? Or would you go across the street to the cookie place you already know you love?

  53. Christine Merrill
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 12:57:37

    Jayne on Historicals:

    “Well, we might eventually get them but it can take months to a year before that happens.”

    So far, I’ve been lucky with the US releases being the same or near the UK ones.

    But checking the next book… not so sure. It’ll probably prove your point. I know it’s January in the UK, and will be out in the US, God only knows. Of course, I’ve got one in a HH anthology coming out here for next Halloween that might not go to the UK. And a Christmas book which will be there first.

    Really hoping that the ebooks break down the international borders.

    And as far as Harlequin formulas or cookie cutters? I haven’t seen them at all. They’ve let me do pretty much whatever I want and edits have been about making the story stronger and not conforming to standards.

    Although I did get a lovely (and very British) revision on the first book that was something like ‘Although we appreciate a level of sensuality, the experience should be mutually pleasurable…’

    So I added an orgasm.

  54. Meljean
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 13:06:02

    HP kinda sets itself up for a lot of hits based on the sheer tackiness of the titles. Or am I mistaken. Is it HP or the writers who choose the title?

    I think the titles are a huge problem, and I don’t remember Presents’ titles always being so formulaic (or like shorthand back cover copy). Just looking at some of my old titles, there’s not a “billionaire” or “pregnant virgin” phrase among them, but they reflected, rather, a story element: The Devil’s Pawn, Waking Up, The One That Got Away, The Wrong Mirror, Only Lover, Time of the Temptress, Facade …

    I can see why they went the way of the Billionaire — it does make it easier to sell the storyline and so the reader immediately knows what type of story it is — but at the same time, the mix-and-match titles take away … the artistry? Seem factory produced? I don’t know, exactly, but the book loses any kind of individuality, any sense that it’s a standalone work, and instead becomes a cog of the great HP sheiks-and-babies machine. In all ways but Marketing, I think, the titles do a huge disservice to the books, because the titles are disposable and interchangeable (and give the impression the books are, too).

    And the thing is about the formula titles — even the ones I’ve liked — I can’t remember, or I can’t be sure that I got the title exactly right unless I look at the book. But the others I listed above? I remember the title and can match it to the storyline quite easily.

  55. Patrice Michelle
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 13:12:48

    To Lisa’s point (re: sensuality level in Nocturnes), I do think the line is changing and evolving, and readers will find a variety of sensuality. My Nocturne was written with the same heat level I use in all my books. Yey! :)

    I pretty much wrote Resurrection as if I was selling it to a mainstream publisher. The only difference was the length had to be a bit shorter. Therefore a couple of my fight scenes were shortened. LOL! I can’t help it, I like writing action. *g*

  56. Meljean
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 13:19:34

    Ah! sorry to go on and on about this, but I just realized the reason why the titles strike me the wrong way — they aren’t so much titles as paparazzi headlines (if you just add an exclamation point) Right next to me, I’ve got:

    BOUGHT BY THE BILLIONAIRE PRINCE!
    THE BILLIONAIRE’S MARRIAGE BARGAIN!
    BEDDED AT HIS CONVENIENCE!

    as opposed to, say,

    THE HONEY IS BITTER!

  57. Lisa
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 13:28:02

    At Nocturne my titles have stayed my titles. Some of the lines though seem to have editor driven titles. I didn’t pick Hard and Fast as my title but its certainly not a title people forget lol!

    I don’t know if they do indeed have a formula for that in some of the lines or not. I do know often the author doesn’t pick the title though. Presents does have interesting titles but that line sells like hotcakes. I remember presents offering one of the first romances I ever read and loving it. I remember the storyline but not the title and wish I could!

    Books don’t normally make me cry but I remember a Linda Lael Miller book that was a category that made me laugh, cry, and smile a million times over. I think the writer can really impact the read. So regardless of title, line, how the book is placed in the store, certain writers have a way of seducing the readers with great books. Certain writers can take any genre, any line, and make the book great.

  58. Jane
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 13:46:05

    I read on some author’s blog (and I’ve forgotten which one) that the author was resistant to the formulaic billionaire title but her book got one and it sold like hotcakes so now she loves those titles.

    Isn’t Billinionaire, Sheik, Greek shorthand for the same think that DUKE stands for? Rich, overbearing alpha male?

  59. Shannon Stacey
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 14:03:10

    It doesn’t take long, watching the Waldens series list, before it becomes obvious the cheezier and more hook-heavy the title, the better it sells. While they all dabble in the hooks to a point, the two lines that seem to top the lists consistently are Presents and Desire, and they’re the master of the eye-rolling titles. Like Jane said, those titles are pretty much shorthand for “hot, rich Alpha male inside” and that obviously still works for millions of women.

    I know if I see “Greek” on the cover, I’ll pick up the book and read the back, and if it says “Greek” and “Billionaire”, it’s in my cart, back cover copy unread.

  60. Anji
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 14:05:13

    Growing up, some of the first romance novels I read were Harlequin, Silhouette and Loveswept titles. I used to read a wide variety (although more of the Loveswept ones), but after some time started to discover favorite authors, and usually stuck to those titles (e.g. Nora Roberts, Linda Howard etc). I followed those authors into their single title releases and stuck with single titles as a really enjoyed the depth of the story.

    I recently started reading Harlequin and Silhouette titles again – that started when I read Linda Howard’s Raintree book, and when Jane let us know that Harlequin released the book one month early in ebook format (although unfortunately I hated the book). I’ve also been coming across some really positive recommendations of category titles. Plus, I’ve been ‘paranormaled out’ and have enjoyed reading some ‘straight’ romances, and I can read the entire book even when I have less reading time available.

    I’ve been sticking to the SD and Blaze titles for the most part, plus ebook bundles of releases by some authors. I love that Harlequin puts out the books in ebook format! I’ve also been borrowing titles from the library to explore new-to-me authors and lines. I also miss the Silhouette Intimate Moments line. I have to say though, that I’ve come across a few titles where the title and/or description aren’t really fitting the story. I’ve been both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised. I agree, it takes skill to pull of a good story in such a short format, and not everybody pulls it off.

  61. Bev(BB)
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 14:08:13

    Hello, my name is Beverly and I used to read category romance but now I read ebooks to fulfill that need.

    And before everyone starts squawking that it’s about the similarities in quality, it isn’t. For me it’s about the similarities in book length but the difference in book content. What I couldn’t, or rather can’t get in category or even single titles for that matter, I can get in the diversity of ebook offerings out there.

    Only recently has that included erotic romance. Before that it was stuff such as science fiction fantasy romances that really are half and half romance and science fiction – where I first discovered an author like Linnea Sinclair. There are also several romantic suspense type writers that remind me strongly of the category authors I used to read back in the seventies only with more modern sensibilities, if you get my drift.

    But I digress. The interesting thing to me is that originally, I left off reading Harlequin romances all those years ago wasn’t just because of the cheesy titles but quite frankly a lack of interest in the plots and more importantly settings themselves. I was quite frankly very happy to see the advent of the Silhouette lines set in more middle American venues. You think readers sometimes do want to see historicals placed in settings other than jolly old England? That’s nothing to getting tired of all the Harlequins set in either England or the Continent decades ago, let me tell you. The only thing many of those books had going for them was their “travelogue” aspect. And that did not always save the day.

  62. Robin
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 14:17:39

    I would be interested in hearing some suggestions for HP books or SD books.

    I admit that the Presents line still scares me, a bit. But that’s partially the related blog, I think. One of the authors posted that she didn’t understand why readers would like assertive heroines . . . so . . . I’ve yet to pick up a HP.

    My first category was Jo Leigh’s Arm Candy, which I loved, loved, loved. And I’ve yet to find a Linda Howard hero more compellingly drawn than Kell Sabin.

    I have to say that when I hear folks complain about the “limitations” of the single title Romances, I think of the brilliant categories I’ve read and get a little frustrated. How many of these so-called limitations result from genre constraints and how many from the author not testing the limits of her imagination and talent? Formalistic consistency does NOT, IMO, require substantive replication.

    Maybe the bottom line is that not everyone is able to write so well within such word limits and genre boundaries (whether they be more narrow category guidelines or less structured single title parameters), but genre writing is explicitly about writing within certain formalistic boundaries (and really, are they THAT strict?). Not everyone can write a great sonnet, either, but is that the fault of those formalistic constraints or is it just that some poets are better suited to epic while others excel in haiku?

  63. TeddyPig
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 14:20:24

    The titles remind me of that bit in Spinal Tap where the guy plays a beautiful snippet of classical music, and then says it's called “Lick My Love Pump.”

    Oh god now I have to go watch that movie AGAIN!
    I love how the drummers keep disappearing.

  64. Tumperkin
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 14:23:07

    What I want to know is when did millionaires become so *meh*? These days a hero’s got to be a BILLIONaire? Me, I’d be happy with a mere millionaire, but then I’m easy to please like that.

  65. Robin
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 14:31:13

    I should have said “For my taste, they're crap.” And I'm sure there are probably good books in there, and no I haven't tried ‘em all. But let's put it this way: If you were in an ice cream store that had 100 flavors, tried 10 of them and didn't like any would you use your calorie allotment there? Or would you go across the street to the cookie place you already know you love?

    But isn’t this the same type of comment we hear all the time as a general disparagement of genre Romance? I’m not suggesting that anyone should read books that aren’t to their taste, but I think proportionately there’s probably a great deal of consistency on the crap to quality continuum across genres. But when you’ve got SO MUCH Romance, there are simply more books to disparage relative to the well-crafted ones. And even within those that are the cream of the crop (i.e. the ones that generally make the rounds on all the review sites and blogs), we can argue endlessly about craft and taste and quality.

    To some degree, it seems like Harlequin is like the hickish country cousin to more ‘hip’ single title Romance, but really, I’ve read crappy single title and masterful categories (and vice versa), so I think the distinction is artificial at best.

    Heck, if a mere half the single titles I read were anywhere near the old Tom and Sharon Curtis (Laura London) category Regencies in terms of quality of prose, cultural literacy, deft characterization, sharp dialogue, and sheer entertainment value, I’d be a very happy camper.

  66. Laura Florand
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 14:33:17

    I always liked Susan Napier, Meljean. :)

  67. Janine
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 15:36:55

    Well, I have to admit I don’t read many categories. It’s not because I haven’t enjoyed them in the past — in fact I’ve liked categories from both sides of the Atlantic, and I first discovered such well-known authors as Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Diana Palmer, Jayne Anne Krentz, Elizabeth Lowell, Sandra Brown (writing as Erin St. Clair) and several others though categories which were, interestingly, the only kind of romances my college library stocked.

    It’s just that as the years I’ve been reading romances have gone by, I’ve become more difficult to satisfy, and I have to rely a lot on recommendations to find the books that suit my tastes. And unfortunately both reviewers and my romance reading friends don’t read many categories, so I don’t get many recommendations for them and it is difficult to know where to begin sorting the best from the rest.

    I know, I know, as a reviewer I should probably contribute more in the way of such recommendations myself, but what can I say, I’m spoiled and trying to just pick up books at random without recommendations and start reading doesn’t seem like the best way to find the good ones. I would have the exact same problem with single titles, I’m sure, if my friends weren’t reading them and review sites weren’t reviewing them. To be fair to the review sites though, we hardly ever get ARCs for categories.

  68. Sandra Schwab
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 16:06:50

    Funny that you should blog about this now, Jane: just last week I did a TT13 with my favourite Mills&Boon novels. So yes, I read category romance, but not in the closet (I mean, gosh, fitting all my 300+ Mills&Boon novels in there would be a real nightmare — what would I do with my clothes for one thing? ;-) ). I have read a few Silhouette titles as well (Nora’s MacGregors, Judith Arnold’s Birthright, Kathleen O’Brien’s A Self-Made Man — which has just been published in Germany! — and a few others), but all in all I prefer M&B Modern Romance and Tender Romance aka Harlequin Presents and Harlequin Romance.

    In fact, some of my all-time favourite romances are category novels, e.g. Susan Fox’s The Prodigal Wife, Janelle Denison’s Bride Included, Kate Walker’s The Temptation Game, Margaret Morre’s The Wastrel, and Mary Brendan’s The Silver Squire.

    One of the most unusual category romance I’ve ever read is Charlotte Lamb’s Vampire Lover, her 100th romance for M&B, published in 1994. — Hey, wait a minute! A paranormal category romance published in 1994??? Actually, it’s not a paranormal; the heroine just regards the hero as an “emotional vampire”. But that was not what made my jaw drop. The jaw-dropping stuff happened during the sex scene: heroine cufflinks hero to bed — against his will! — and proceeds to have sex with him, even though he makes it clear he doesn’t want it to happen this way. And after her orgasm, she wriggles away, even though the poor guy hasn’t yet … er … finished. Off she goes and leaves him bound to the bed for the whole night.

    ~*~

    *waving to Meljean* The Honey is Bitter is the only Violet Winspear novel I own. I found it in the darkest, dirtiest corner of the English bookshop in Mainz together with several other old Harlequin novels — leftovers of the presence of the US army in our part of Germany. :)

  69. Sandra Schwab
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 16:08:22

    Handcuffs!!! Not cufflinks! Argh! *head desk*

  70. Jane
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 16:10:16

    Sandy – I am soooo getting that book. Ohhhhh. How I wish everything were immediately available.

  71. Tracy
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 16:42:32

    Nope, not in the closet. I read them just as much as single titles. If a story premise sounds good to me, I don’t really care if it’s category or not. :)

  72. Angela
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 16:52:28

    No. I only read books that interest me and if a book looks interesting I’ll read it. Though I’ve only recently been reading the Kimani Press and a few Harlequin Intrigue releases, in the past I read some Blazes and was a huge fan of Silhouette Bombshell.

  73. Robin
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 17:06:15

    Sandy – I am soooo getting that book. Ohhhhh. How I wish everything were immediately available.

    LOL, I just ordered it from Amazon (.01 + 3.99 shipping = bargain).

  74. Gennita Low
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 18:49:56

    I grew up reading Mills and Boons. Now I still pick up Harlequin Presents by the same authors I read almost 30 years ago! Yoikes ;-P.

    All my keeper authors come from categorical romances–Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Anne Stuart, Suzanne Brockmann, Kay Hooper, and so many others. I still love rereading their categoricals when I’m in the mood.

    I find great categoricals perfect when it comes to giving an emotional punch–good story, goes straight into the relationship, then Pow! great conflict, and very satisfying ending. Can’t find that anywhere else. There is also a variety of scenarios to choose from–billionaires in Presents; spies and special forces in what was the Silhouette Intimate Moments line (the best line evah!); supernatural/paranormal in Luna; contemporary sweet in (Harlequin romance); contemporary not-so-sweet(Next); contemporary Very Hot (Blaze). Every line serves my need at that moment.

  75. Ann Aguirre
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 19:06:35

    Holy crap, that Charlotte Lamb book sounds AWESOME.

    I was a huge Violet Winspear fan. Her titles were just the penultimate in evocative to me back then. I always imagined she was immensely glamorous and she lived a Joan Collins jet-setter lifestyle in between penning these lovely novels for me to savor, usually about an awkward 17 year old girl who is pounced upon by a 30-something tycoon who cannot resist her carnal innocence. I was totally breathless when he would grab her and give her a “hard ruthless kiss that made her blood sing in her veins.”

    Those were the days…

  76. Miki
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 19:25:57

    I started reading romance in the HP line back in the early to mid 70s. I loved the exotic-to-me locales. I stopped reading them when I was in college and missed a lot of the greates that were published in the 80s (like Nora Roberts) until they came back in reprint.

    I have lots of Temptations and Blazes, but funny thing, as I get a little older, I find myself migrating more to the Silhouette Special Editions and the Harlequin SuperRomances. Yep, they’re family heavy. But like one of your other posters said, they’re a nice “pallette cleanser” after the darker urban fantasies and romantic suspense. And the h/h are closer to my age range.

    I never warmed to the “Next” line, though, probably because the first couple I read had no HEA, and I still want that from my romance, even if the story isn’t only about the romance.

    So, I’m not in the closet. But I will admit, I read almost all my romance in “plain-brown-wrappers” (or colored cloth book covers :wink:) Those (and my ebook reader) became especially necessary when I began experimenting with romantic erotica! Eep, some of those covers!

  77. Janine
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 20:44:44

    “Sandy – I am soooo getting that book. Ohhhhh. How I wish everything were immediately available.”

    “LOL, I just ordered it from Amazon (.01 + 3.99 shipping = bargain).”

    Hee, I just ordered it too. I guess we all think alike! :)

  78. Ann Bruce
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 20:47:49

    Now I still pick up Harlequin Presents by the same authors I read almost 30 years ago! Yoikes ;-P

    30 years ago?! Holy cripes, Gennita! I’m looking at the author photo in Sleeping with the Agent and you don’t look nearly old enough.

    If someone wants to start reading HP, I very highly recommend Susan Napier.

  79. Meljean
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 21:32:03

    I remember that Charlotte Lamb one! And buying it because of “vampire” in the title, because I was so desperate for a paranormal. But, alas.

    Hmmm….must go look through a few boxes now.

  80. Julie Leto
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 21:38:41

    Gennita started reading Harlequins in the womb!

  81. Patrice Michelle
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 22:04:45

    I think I remember RWA having a statistic up on their website a few years back about the age ranges when readers/authors started reading romances. The highest percentage were in their early teens *raises hand*.

  82. Isabel Swift
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 22:09:20

    Great comments–and very nice to hear so many romance readers totally comfortable with their reading choice. As indeed they should be–how many men do you know that apologize or feel guilty about watching 4-6 hours of sports on TV daily? Please!

    I love category romance. Interestingly, most fans who read category are good readers–statistically they read twice as many books as an average reader, and for every category book they read a month, likely they’ll have read another book as well. Many reader’s lives are very demanding, so the shorter format of a category is appealing and fits into a busy lifestyle in a number of key ways: sweeps reader up, doesn’t take long to get into, can be read in segments if needed (carpools, waiting, commute, 10 minute downtime), can be finished, delivers resolution, makes them feel good. That packs a powerful punch.

    Most readers understand the demands of a short format mean that there are elements of the story that can be more metaphoric than accurate or explained. Ultimately, it’s about the “willing suspension of disbelief.” And additionally for romances, the emotional impact and connection the reader feels. If disbelief isn’t suspended, the story isn’t going to work for you.

    And just add to my lengthy toot (sorry!), wanted to endorse the point that Shannon Stacy made on how titles may be selected for their salability. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one element of an editor’s job is to try to ensure that her author’s work is successful and does well in the marketplace. To that end, she is constantly looking at what readers are buying/not buying within publishing and other venues, factoring that in with future trends as well as past history and incorporating an individual author’s strengths, vulnerabilities, opportunities and liabilities into the mix. Editors don’t always get it right, just like authors don’t always get it right. It is not a “formula” just as genre fiction isn’t a “formula.” Nothing that is creative can be reduced to A+B=C. Luckily, category can be quite forgiving, and if it didn’t work the first time, we can try again!

  83. Gennita Low
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 23:02:54

    Ann, Heh heh, thanks. That photo is, I think, three or four years old. I’m much more wrinkled now. Sigh. And yes, I couldn’t believe it too, when I did the math, and realize some of the books I talk about are ones I read nearly 30 years ago. Wahhhhhh.

    Julie, Okay, that will be my story from now on! I started reading categoricals in my mommy’s womb! The doctor was shocked when I first emerged with that little flashlight strapped around my head, desperately trying to finish the last page before they got to me….

    :-)

    *****

    Actually, I was just blogging about a related topic recently, about how the tycoons of power/virginal (weaker) secretaries have morphed into the ancient vampires/demons/werewolf of power/virginal (weaker) human mate.

    And yesterday, while I was doing a signing here in NYC, and talking about reading and books to readers,
    the subject sort of came up again when a reader admitted to liking vampires and werewolf stories because the males act like the heroes in her favorite genre, historical romance–all lord-like, all-powerful, and all-slutty. Interesting, huh?

  84. Robin
    Oct 09, 2007 @ 23:12:30

    If someone wants to start reading HP, I very highly recommend Susan Napier

    Thanks, Ann; I just bought Mistress for a Weekend from Fictionwise.

  85. Rebecca Goings
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 01:31:16

    I’ve always loved Harlequin books. My favorite line is the Silhouette Desire and *my* secret desire is to write for them someday.

    You know, I’ve looked at other authors’ works and cried into my cornflakes wondering why I could never write like them. Big sweeping tomes that take you away to another time and place. Until I realized, quite recently, that I write category length with category plots. I’m not sure if I COULD write a single title book, and that’s not necessarily bad, as many of you have pointed out.

    There is indeed a place for authors who write shorter novels (Swan Lake in a phone booth — LOVE that!) and now I don’t feel quite so “inferior” as an author. I’d often look around at the single titles and bemoan my own ineptitude to write as long and flowery as say…Lisa Kleypas. :) But I am now comfortable in knowing that a category author is what I was cut out to be. There’s absolutely nothing “wrong” with that.

    Perhaps one of these days you’ll find my name on a Harlequin book after all. :)

    ~~Becka

  86. Lori
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 01:49:33

    I do still read categoty as well. Shannon said it very well above:
    “Lately I've been loving SSE/HAR/Supers in a big way again. It's easy to get burnt out on fangs/serial killers/every weeping and dripping detail of a sexual encounter, and the hearth & home categories make for a much needed calm in the storm.”

    Not that I don’t love all those, too, but it’s nice to relax with a quick easy read. I cut my teeth on Janet Dailey’s HPs – she wrote one for each state. I loved them, and not a billionaire in the title among them…

  87. Karen Scott
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 02:42:28

    I used to be a huge category reader/fan, but that fact was never really a secret (well at least once I got to the grand age of sixteen). These days I avoid Mills and Boons like the plague, especially the Tender romances. The ones that I read recently, made me want to upchuck in the worst way.

    I used to also gobble lots of Blaze romances, but I’m more selective about the titles I read these days. I got rid of my monthly subscription a while ago.

    Somebody mentioned Jo Leigh’s Arm Candy, I loved that book!

  88. Keziah Hill
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 03:26:11

    Kelly Hunter’s latest release Sleeping Partners, which is a Mod Ex (called Sexy Sensation in Australia) is the best category I’ve read in a long time. It’s not available yet in the US but her Wife for a Week which is also good is on the eHarl site. Sleeping Partners is set in a crumbling hotel in Penag, has fantastic chemistry between the hero and heroine and wonderful dialogue. It’s a great example of the skill a category writer needs to get a satisfying story into a small word length. I’m also a great fan of Ruth Wind.

  89. Keziah Hill
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 03:27:08

    Wish I could spell. That’s Penang.

  90. Tumperkin
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 04:20:54

    Oh man – I am such a Charlotte Lamb fangirl. I’m going to have to blog about her soon. Loved Vampire Lover but for me, her best work was done in the late 70s, early 80s. Apparently one year, she published one book a month for M&B! That’s, what, 700,000 words in year? Puts most single-title authors to shame. One of them, The Long Surrender, she wrote in a WEEKEND. And it’s a seriously good read.

    As for current M&B authors, I like Julia James. Very angsty. Her novels are a bit like a short roller coaster ride. I particularly liked For Pleasure or Marriage. Michelle Reid is pretty good too.

  91. Michelle Styles
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 06:21:35

    Just to say that Mills and Boon are also going to be offering all their books as ebooks sometime next year. I forget the exact date but it was announced to the authors at the recent Association of Mills and Boon Authors lunch. This does include the M&B Historical line.

    And it can take up to a year or so for M&B Historicals to come out in the US. It depends on the availability of publishing slots and the Unusual Historical slot is particularly tight. The UH is where the Roman set historicals are published for example. Georgian/Regency/Victorian is much less tight because there are more publishing slots available.
    The same is true in reverse for the Western slot in the UK.

    There can also be other considerations. For example, my Viking series is being pubished as and when I deliver them in the UK, but they will be published one right after the other in the US. This will enable US readers to more easily follow the series. Again the same is true of HH trilogiy/quartets. There are pros and cons to the method. It does mean that it is easier on the author as the deadlines can then be less strict.

    One saving grace is that Amazon.co.uk does carry HH. And I have just found out the Amazon.ca does carry the M&B Historical line. So that is a way for NA readers to get some of the M&B Historical books earlier.

    And I am quite happy to put my hand up and say I am Michelle Styles and I read category because there are times when nothing else will do.

    FWIW
    Michelle

  92. sybil
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 06:57:42

    YAY! What a great post. LOVE categories, although I am not good about making it a secret. LOL

    Totally crashed last night so I can’t wait to get to work and read through this. heee… I am in the process of putting together about uh… 150 or so harlequins. Oh fine closer to 200. Anyhoo I will be putting up titles to get recs or see if anyone wants (after I finish my first round go through).

    I KNOW there was someone – could be up there too many comments to read right now – that collected old HP. And some of these are pretty old. In my defense they are from two library sales. So it isn’t like I bought that many… more like a donation ;).

    And I saw someone say we always get M/B. For the Historicals sometimes it is like a year or more later. A recent new author to me is Mary Brenner? uh I think that is wrong… sorry… anyhoo she has about five or six out in the US now and we seem to be working backward on her M/B list. We have been very lucky with some authors releases close here and uk but not always. Even Nicola Cornick who has a great big backlist with HH doesn’t know if her upcoming HH (not the nov antho the next one) will be released in the USA or when. Oh and UK Harlequin Authors should soo be encouraged to GET WEBSITES. Just saying.

    And I want to say the old temptation line which never left uk is going to start releasing some titles here but as a off shoot of HP. Something I so totally didn’t understand when I read it and haven’t looked into more. So that could be completely pulled out of someones ass.

    ok I shut up now and go to work…

  93. sybil
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 07:02:16

    ACK Robin! I don’t think that was a good one… I could be wrong. If anyone is looking for a ‘good’ HP (I love some of them) I know in Rosario’s index of reads she has a ton of Napier titles. NO idea how many you can get in ebook though.

  94. Michelle Styles
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 07:20:33

    And I want to say the old temptation line which never left uk is going to start releasing some titles here but as a off shoot of HP. Something I so totally didn't understand when I read it and haven't looked into more. So that could be completely pulled out of someones ass.

    The old temptation line became the 2 book per month Modern Extra line. The line is being remaned as Modern Heat in the UK. They started going back into the US as Promotional Presents earlier this year.
    It was announced at the AMBA lunch, that they are expanding Promotional Presents to 4 books per month. These will include the now renamed Modern Heat offerings. So all of the Modern Heats will be going into the US market.
    Presents will be the 8 books, plus 2 weeks later the 4 books of Promotional Presents. The other Promotional Presents will include special projects like the very popular Royal House of Niroli continuity series or some of the Medicals.

    FWIW

  95. The Good, The Bad and The Unread » Stuff and then some
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 07:37:42

    [...] of off the wall things looks like Dear Author had a fab post yesterday on Harlequin Categories. That isn’t the odd thing but I am waiting for a few answers on emails and I will get into [...]

  96. Jane
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 08:41:29

    There was only one Napier book in ebook format. I am really excited to hear that the Mills & Boon books will be ebooks soon. Sometimes I enjoy that international flavor – some of the best chick lit books were from British authors.

    Anyone have any other recommendations? I’ll throw out a few: Lisa Renee Jones’ Hard and Fast, Barbara Dunlop’s Billionaire’s Bidding; Jessica Bird’s Billionaire Next Door; Jill Shalvis’ ShadowHawk; Kathleen O’Reilly’s Beyond Breathless.

    These are all ebooks.

  97. Jackie L.
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 09:11:04

    Robin, my favorite Susan Napier is The Sister Swap from (gasp) 1996? Time flies when you’re reading category. It’s a secret baby, but the secret is, the baby isn’t hers. It was a charming twist way back then. Plus the heroine cusses like a Russian sailor, in Russian.

    Ms. Swift, as a closet category reader, would you please get somebody to work on your website. Shopping for books should be the easiest, not the hardest thing to do at eharlequin. Plus upcoming by author, not month, would be fab.

    I can’t be the only technologically impaired category reader.

  98. Malle Vallik
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 10:26:25

    Fabulous comments, all! And Jane I love that you keep highlighting titles that are eBooks.

    My name is Malle and not only do I work at Harlequin, but I read Harlequins! Read them before I started working here and, if I ever leave, will continue to read them. In fact, free books arrive a couple of times a month and there is generally shouts of excitement in my team as someone reads her email saying that books have arrived and we grab our plastic grocery bags to go make our selections – truly one of the major advantages of working for a publisher!

    I know the titles can sometimes sound a little…obvious, but I lead a busy life and time is precious and if a title can be the shorthand as to whether this book has a theme I find compelling and entertaining, I’m all for it. In fact, after Book Expo last spring I was in a bookstore on the Sunday (that’s why I’m in publishing, even after a book show I have to go to a bookstore) I was looking to buy a historical romance. I wanted to read about a smart plain Jane who makes the duke fall in love with her. I searched high and low and thoguht to myself, if only others titled their books like we do. I didn’t find that book (if you have any titles suggestions bring them on) but did find several excellent romances to read.

    Sometimes, when I’m in the mood I read longer romancers other times I adore the quick escape of a category.

  99. Angela James
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 10:31:37

    I will put myself out there and say that I like the titles. I love knowing I’m getting a Greek Italian Brazilian. The heroine’s a virgin? Yes! He’s a rich prince/playboy/trillionaire? Wish fulfillment. She’s pregnant? Works for me as long as its not a secret baby. Seriously, I don’t mind knowing what I’m getting and I really do shop by the titles. It’s the one type of book where I pay absolutely no attention to cover art and focus totally on the title.

  100. Ann Aguirre
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 11:04:53

    I always thought the titles were a little tongue and cheek. Like HQN was aware of the stereotype and they decided to have some fun with it.

  101. Charlene Teglia
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 11:24:43

    I actually commented about how effective the titles are in my blog a few days ago. If I see “Blackmailed” or “Revenge” in the title, I don’t even have to see who wrote it or read the blurb on the back to know I want it. *g*

  102. Catherine
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 11:28:59

    Category romances are what first got me into romance. I think I was 12 or 13 and my sister read them but she wouldn’t let me touch them. So of course I had to go steal them from her. I ended up hooked. However, I never read them anymore. I appreciate that they introduced me to a genre I now love, but I can no longer stand reading them. I want more depth and length in a book. I want to have the characters grow on me and give me time and enough detail that I immerse myself in the plot. I personally believe that I cannot get that in a book that I can read in 1-2 hours, and I haven’t read one to prove me wrong. I don’t even read novellas. It’s just a personal preference.

  103. Shannon Stacey
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 12:24:21

    Works for me as long as its not a secret baby.

    I’m laughing at you, darling editor. That’s why you pick on my reflexive pronouns, isn’t it? Because I’ve gifted you with multiple secret babies.

    The one thing I wonder most often about the titles (and I was just at the grocery store, scanning them), is how they can go month after month, year after year, without repeating them. One would think there’s a finite number of ways to combine the key hooks. Can you imagine the Presents title database alone?

    Oh, and Charli, I like “Revenge”, too. I must see if anybody’s written “The Greek Billionaire’s Revenge” yet.

  104. Angela James
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 12:34:02

    You already knew I didn’t like secret babies, so…*blows raspberries*

    I must see if anybody's written “The Greek Billionaire's Revenge” yet.

    *swoon* The perfect title.

    Do you ever notice how most of the titles describe the hero? Or describe the heroine in relation to the hero. The Italian’s Defiant Virgin Mistress but not The Defiant Virgin Mistress.

  105. Shannon Stacey
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 12:47:50

    One of the things I like about Presents and their titles is how hero-centric they are. They say there are two kinds of romance readers—those who want to walk in the heroine’s shoes and identify more strongly with her and those who just want to fall in love with hero and consider the heroine a means to get more him. (I’m not sure who “They” is. Presumably not the same “Theys” driving around in black government-issue SUVs.)

    I’m very hero-centric. When I read the Outlander series, I just want Jamie, and half the time can’t even remember the woman’s name. Same with Presents—I just want that Alpha male. And if she’s a defiant mistress, that means nothing to me but that he’s really Alpha.

    The more sinister, arrogant and Alpha the title makes the hero sound, the more I want the book.

  106. Laura Vivanco
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 13:02:45

    Do you ever notice how most of the titles describe the hero? Or describe the heroine in relation to the hero. The Italian's Defiant Virgin Mistress but not The Defiant Virgin Mistress.

    I’ve recently come across Sandra Marton’s The Disobedient Virgin, and Anne McAllister’s The Santorini Bride (Santorini being the name of the island on which her family home can be found).

  107. Robin
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 13:10:25

    Robin, my favorite Susan Napier is The Sister Swap from (gasp) 1996? Time flies when you're reading category. It's a secret baby, but the secret is, the baby isn't hers. It was a charming twist way back then. Plus the heroine cusses like a Russian sailor, in Russian.

    Thanks, Jackie; I can see it might be time to visit eBay again for some mass used book purchasing.

    Do you ever notice how most of the titles describe the hero? Or describe the heroine in relation to the hero. The Italian's Defiant Virgin Mistress but not The Defiant Virgin Mistress.

    This is one of the reasons I dislike them so much.

    I always thought the titles were a little tongue and cheek. Like HQN was aware of the stereotype and they decided to have some fun with it.

    I’m a cynical bitch, because I think they’re making fun at the readers’ expense.

    As much as I understand and respect the fact that readers are looking for specific kinds of stories, and that these titles allow easy sorting and purchasing, a large part of me still cringes both at the titles and the idea that they are no more than sorting devices. Like the mantitty and clinch covers are sorting devices on single titles. With so much of the market geared toward leading readers to such specific books, how does anything new actually break through? And what a surprise (not) when one new big thing yields a thousand just like it.

  108. Isabel Swift
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 15:55:39

    Dear Jackie L. “Ms. Swift, as a closet category reader, would you please get somebody to work on your website. Shopping for books should be the easiest, not the hardest thing to do at eharlequin. Plus upcoming by author, not month, would be fab.” First, thanks for feedback! But the site actually gets positive comments & sells a fair number of books, so you need to share your specific issues with them so they can understand how and if they can respond or address.

    Also, at the bottom of the home page, there’s a link to Author Index. If the author is listed, and they are added all the time, you’ll find a listing of all their available titles. As well, you can search on an authors name (go for the last name, otherwise they’ll give you all the authors that share the first name.

    And Robin, I can’t speak for every editor, but almost all I’ve ever worked with at Harlequin and Silhouette are readers. And we don’t take kindly to being made fun of. We do try to have fun, and tap into what Jayne Ann Krentz referenced in one of her essays in Dangerous Men Adventerous Women as the quintessential myths and legends–it’s all about taming the beast. Those titles try to capture the dynamic, the conflict, the excitement, the tabloid appeal…and I love them. But then, I confess to buying Star and US and People too! Now I’ve shocked you.

  109. Jackie L.
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 16:49:04

    Ms. Swift–

    Ok, to get specific. UPCOMING BOOKS BY AUTHOR. You have backlist but available and current, but I like to ANTICIPATE a read. See, I read category, but not ALL category. I can get upcoming singles from the Garden website BY AUTHOR, but not from yours.

    Glad you sell a lot of books. I have ordered from your site a few times. It was not easy. You have that “order a month early feature.” I ordered one book a month earlier than the shelf date and it came two months later. I was kind of, “When did I order this?” But your site doesn’t save data long enough for me to look it up.

    When you want to look at upcoming books, you have to click around the site a few times to get to the upcoming list. Then you have to scroll thru all of Silhouette to get to the ones I buy. Or maybe if I remembered what you guys call the different lines, but I don’t care, because I read authors, not “LINES.”

    Specific question: Re-release of old Brockmanns? I missed her the first time around and I try to buy from the publisher, oh, I don’t know, to keep them publishing.

    And just so you know, I probably have two or three hundred Sil/Harle books lying around on my shelves. But I buy them at the grocery store mostly, because I would rather get the funny looks from the cashier than try to navigate eHarlequin. I realize I am a low tech kinda person, but my son used to work in the Geek Squad, and trust me on this, I am not alone.

    Oh, and I been buying you guys for DECADES. I just want things to be easier. Or at least not deal with the snotty baggers at the local supermarket.

    “You read this stuff?”

    “Ah, yes, because unlike you, I can read.”

    (The guy sacking the groceries was a friend of one of my sons, so I figured I’d just let him have it.

    Sorry for the rant.

  110. Robin
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 20:42:07

    We do try to have fun, and tap into what Jayne Ann Krentz referenced in one of her essays in Dangerous Men Adventerous Women as the quintessential myths and legends-it's all about taming the beast. Those titles try to capture the dynamic, the conflict, the excitement, the tabloid appeal…and I love them. But then, I confess to buying Star and US and People too! Now I've shocked you.

    Well, I’m glad to know you’re having fun in a good way. I don’t know if I’ll ever be brought round to embracing those titles, though.

    Your mention of JAK’s essay is interesting, though, because it does bring up the question of how you express those archetypal myths in a title. Are tabloids our contemporary fairy tales? Intriguing question.

    And as far as the tabloids go, from what I understand, the Enquirer is the most reliable. Dominick Dunne insisted that during the OJ trial everyone (i.e. folks involved in the trial itself) would buy the Enquirer to catch up on the related trial news, because the Enquirer had the best defamation lawyers vetting the stories.

  111. Janine
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 21:56:37

    To Malle Vallick,

    “I was looking to buy a historical romance. I wanted to read about a smart plain Jane who makes the duke fall in love with her. I searched high and low and thoguht to myself, if only others titled their books like we do. I didn't find that book (if you have any titles suggestions bring them on)”

    If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh.

  112. Janine
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 22:09:44

    “Anyone have any other recommendations? I'll throw out a few: Lisa Renee Jones' Hard and Fast, Barbara Dunlop's Billionaire's Bidding; Jessica Bird's Billionaire Next Door; Jill Shalvis' ShadowHawk; Kathleen O'Reilly's Beyond Breathless.”

    My recommendations would mostly be for older categories:

    Rule Breaker by Barbara Boswell — Silhouette Desire #558 (pub 3/90)
    The Wedding by Emma Darcy — Harlequin Presents #1463 (pub 6/92)
    Midnight Rainbow by Linda Howard — Silhouette Intimate Moments # 129 (pub 1986)
    Diamond Bay by Linda Howard – Silhouette Intimate Moments #177 (pub 1987)
    Secrets & Scandals by Miranda Lee — Harlequin Presents #1778 (pub 11/95)
    Mirrors and Mistakes by Kathleen Gilles Seidel — Harlequin American Romance #57 (pub 1984)
    Rafe’s Revenge by Anne Stuart — Harlequin American Romance #453 (pub 1992)

    Where the heck are those formatting buttons when you need them?

  113. Lynn Matherly
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 23:46:27

    I will admit it… I AM A CATAGORY READER! I love catagory. I’ve tried them all. Well, except regency historicals, because they aren’t my cup of tea in any form. However, there are a few bad apples in any format and genre. BUT, the reward, IMO, is the great espcape I can get from them. I like the short/sweet aspect because I have limited time. I love single titles as well though.

    Catagory introduced me to the majority of my favorite single title authors. I started reading them in the late 70′s and have never stopped. I used to buy every HQN Presents that came out every month. Kept them on the shelf in numerical order. When a new line started, I got those and kept them the same way. Once I graduated from High School though, I didn’t have the storage space. **sigh** I also took, and still take, a lot of flack for my book selections (including single titles sometimes). I don’t care though. They are for my entertainment and enjoyment.

    If it weren’t for catagory, I never would have discovered Nora Roberts, Fern Micheals, Debbie McComber, Sandra Brown, Linda Howard, and on and on and on. Incredibly talented writers that mastered the catagory and have gone on to create single titles that just rock!

    My tastes have matured and I read more than just romance now. The lines have changed and/or come and gone over time, and some authors and themes I am less fond of than others, but catagory remains my true love for a guaranteed HEA (or at least the impression there will be.) I too hope to be included in their ranks one day.

  114. Lynn Matherly
    Oct 10, 2007 @ 23:49:00

    Ok, spell check… **hitting self upside the head** Where did I learn to spell today? I had to correct my incorrect spelling – Category. I really did know how to spell it. (Although, I’m sure no one believes it now…) Thanks for the opportunity to put in my two cents.

  115. Writers Blog » Blog Archive » 13 great category romance reads
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 06:05:35

    [...] discussion at Dear Author about category got me thinking about how many great books I’ve read from Harlequin/Silhouette lately. And [...]

  116. Angela James
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 11:50:56

    I would love it if Harlequin offered coupons for their ebooks. They do such great deals for print books (like Free Book Friday, or when you buy so many from a certain selection and get one free), and offer coupons, but I’ve not seen anything like that for the ebook side. I’ve wondered why the difference?

  117. Laura Vivanco
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 12:21:28

    I would love it if Harlequin offered coupons for their ebooks.

    They do. After I’d bought my first (and so far only, because my computer doesn’t run Windows and isn’t a Mac, so the ebook didn’t work) ebook from them I was sent an email offering me “an extra 20% off* any order!” if I used the discount code they sent me.

  118. Angela James
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 12:30:01

    *jealous* ;)

  119. Laura Vivanco
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 12:37:50

    Well, given that I can’t read the ebooks, the discount’s not doing me any good :-(

  120. Angela James
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 12:42:21

    Why can’t you read them, Laura?

  121. Laura Vivanco
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 12:48:23

    They don’t seem to work on computers running Linux because, from what we could work out, you need to have the Windows version of Acroread.

  122. Isabel Swift
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 14:11:27

    Jackie L: thank you for the rant–its hard to respond to a problem if no one tells you! Unfortunately I don’t think I’m going to be able to fix anything, but I may be able to offer an alternate perspective. I think your points are good ones, but unfortunately, business is rarely as simple or linear as ‘how can I deliver the perfect experience to my customer.” There are always other elements that need to be factored in that complicate things. For example, publishers with websites to sell books must address that they are viewed negatively by online retailers as direct competion. Their own sales force & volumes can be demanding and compromises may need to be made–sometimes “compromising” a customer experience.

    I wanted to say I love your Snappy Answers to Stupid Sales Clerks. I’ve always wanted to get a group together to compile a kind of Romance Mad Libs! And I don’t think you’ve got any worries about Suze Brockmann going out of print!

    Robin: Are tabloids our modern fairy tales–someone should write their dissertion on that one! I can only say that Rocky & Bullwinkle would say they were Fractured Fairy Tales at best.

    Thanks Janine who told Malle to read Mary Balogh–she’s the best! I will reinforce the recommendation!

  123. Cheryl P.
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 18:06:25

    Hi all, just stopped in to read from a link on the I Heart Presents blog, very interesting discussion. I love HP books and have been reading them for almost 25 years.

    I just wanted to say I agree with previous posters regarding Susan Napier (who writes for HP), I love her, she is my favorite author. Her best book (IMO) was The Revenge Affair, but I also loved Mistress of the Groom and Phantom Lover.

    Even though I live in the States, I have been buying her new books published in the UK (postage is expensive!), her M&B Modern Extra “Just Once” was also great. I just ordered her latest (cost me $24, ouch!) and hope to receive it next week.

    Cheryl

  124. Sher
    Oct 11, 2007 @ 20:31:37

    Someone mentioned getting M&B historicals later in the US. I discovered that M&B issues a lot of historicals as Harlequin Historical Large Print. Some of these books are only available in the US that way, and I searched via WorldCat and got some via Interlibrary loan. There were even a few books that are only now being released by HH in mass market format.

  125. Claudia
    Oct 12, 2007 @ 03:29:42

    I started reading categories in the late, late 80s during my summer library job. The short length meant I could read a couple each shift and they were mostly a way to pass the time. My teenaged mind thought they might as well have been science fiction with the their British settings and crazy plots :) I never thought they were poor quality though.

    I read less category than I used to, but I’m reading less romance in general. I was a Temptation fan that sprinkled Desires and Supers in the mix. It was exciting to see the hotter Desires and Temps lead to Blaze, but I quickly gave up on Blaze beacuse the emphasis on sex scenes resulted in poor plots and decreased sensuality.

    Most of my recent category purchases have been Nexts with a few Blazes, Kimanis and SEs in the mix. I haven’t liked Desires since the line changed. I’m sorry to see Next fold, but could tell they weren’t selling well because they were some of the few books still in stock near the end of the month.

    My next Category venture is try one of the Nascar books :D I’d probably buy more Categories if the ebooks were cheaper. I know some people compare books to entertainment expenses like movies, but I’m less willing to shell out $4-$6 for something I’ll read once if I complete it at all.

  126. Karen Templeton
    Oct 15, 2007 @ 15:15:14

    Oh, yay! Somebody loves us (sniff). ;-)

    I’ve been writing category — Yours Truly, Intimate Moments (non-suspense stuff) and now Special Edition (because I write non-suspense stuff) — for ten years. I’ve also written single title and chick lit, and I’ve never found category restrictive at all in terms of characterization, tone or plot. Sure, the shorter word count forces me to be succinct (and cut at least ten percent out of my first drafts), but I’ve never felt I’ve lost anything by doing so. If anything, getting rid of those extraneous words really helps me get to the meat of the story!

    Over the years, I’ve read plenty of category books that have made me swoon with envy because they were so good (Kathleen Korbel, Jenny Crusie, Jennifer Greene, Virginia Kantra, Liz Beverly) and plenty of single titles that weren’t nearly as tightly written, nor as original, as those categories. In some cases, size doesn’t always matter!

    And category readers are the best. ;-)

  127. Jenna Bayley-Burke
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 11:24:16

    Christine Merrill said…Modern Extra is the current name of the old “Harlequin Temptation” line, that I was reading when I got hooked on category.

    Actually…no…that had been the plan, but line direction now makes them more like Presents for the 18-30 set…younger characters and more based in that generation..

    However…Blaze is starting a Blaze Blush series that promises to be more like Temptation…

    And Jane wanted reccomendations…lately I’ve enjoyed ::

    FLYBOY by Karen Foley (Blaze)
    The Spanish Prince’s Virgin Bride by Sandra Marton (Presents…but then, I do tend to worship SM)
    Miracle On Christmas Eve by Shirley Jump (Romance)
    Seduced for the Inheritance by Jennifer Lewis (Desire)

  128. Bronwyn Jameson
    Oct 20, 2007 @ 22:39:17

    Fabulous post, Jane, and all the comments, wow. I started reading category romance WAY back with Lucy Walker’s governesses and cattlemen. For amny a teenage year my only ambition was to be a governess! LOL. You have inspired me to (a) search out some Lucy Walkers, the nostalgia bug has bit me good! (b) compile and post a list of my favourite category books.

    Bron

  129. Teresa
    Jul 31, 2009 @ 03:06:23

    I’ve read tons of catagory romances, even those Second Chance at love, loveswept, and Harlequins. I did read some Blazes and Intrigues. I loved Betty Neels, Violet Winspear Debbie Macomber and jayne AnNe Krentz’s book the Pirate. I’ve read some good and others that were stinkers. I only pass up a book if it had a title that seemed more strange than the usual billionaire secretery title. I did pass up an Intrigue because it had a title I didn’t care for. I do love some catagories. The only ones I didn’t like were Harlequin next. I thought all the heroines in those acted too dumb for words.

  130. Jane
    Jul 31, 2009 @ 07:38:26

    @Teresa – I loved Jayne Ann Krentz’s categories. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Violet Winspear. Any particular title you recommend.

  131. Lisa J
    Jul 31, 2009 @ 08:08:39

    I am definitely a category romance reader. I have been since I was a teenager. I now buy cetain authors instead of just purchasing all in the Presents line each month like I used to do.

    It would be great to buy them in e-book form, but I read on both my e-reader and my computer at work, which leads me to the DRM dilemma. So for now I am only buying them in paper form.

  132. medumb
    Jul 31, 2009 @ 08:28:20

    Jane if you read a Violet Winspear.. will you read one of her earlier ones and do a review??
    I am sure it would be quite entertaining!!

  133. Jane
    Jul 31, 2009 @ 08:35:37

    @medumb – that sounds ominous but intriguing.

  134. medumb
    Aug 01, 2009 @ 01:28:37

    It has been a long while since I have picked up any of her books, but some of her earlier ones traumatised me when I was younger. LOL
    For a partial hint of her earlier work check out the fantastic fiction blurb on her:
    link

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