Often when I tell people I write for Harlequin’s Romance line, they respond, “Oh, my grandmother used to read those”. I bet they did – Harlequin’s Romance line is the original Harlequin Romance, birthplace of Betty Neels.
Guess what though? Today’s Harlequin Romances are not your grandmother’s Harlequin Romances. They aren’t even your mother’s. Today’s Romance heroines are feisty, strong, and modern. They are independent. They have jobs and careers. They have *gasp* pre-marital sex (albeit behind closed doors).
One thing, however, today’s Romance line does have in common with the books of old is that they feature strong emotional reads. My fellow authors and I have touched on everything from domestic abuse and sexual assault to depression and self-harm. When it comes to my novels, I like to focus on people’s psychological scars. More often than not, it’s not the trauma keeping them from finding true love, it’s their own fears and misgivings.
In my August novel, The Courage to Say Yes, the heroine, Abby Gray, has left her abusive boyfriend for a fresh start. Jaded and afraid she’ll make the same mistake twice, she keeps herself at an emotional distance. This distance is challenged when she meets photographer Hunter Smith, a man as emotionally fearful as she is, if not more:
“The building’s an investment.” He looked up from the screen. “You never talked this much when you were a waitress.”
Meaning she was talking too much now. Abby felt her cheeks grow hot. “Sorry,” she murmured. Biting her lip, she went back to her cleaning.
Behind her, Hunter let out a breath. “You don’t need to apologize,” he said.
“Sorry. Force of habit.”
“Let me guess. Warren didn’t like you talking either.”
“Said he needed quiet after a hard day at work.” Thinking of all the aspects of her life her ex-boyfriend had controlled, Abby cringed. Thank God he was out of her life for good.
“Hey.” Hunter’s voice, soft and low, sounded behind her. “You don’t have to stop talking.”
“But you said…”
He touched her shoulder. “I’m not Warren.”
No, he definitely wasn’t . Far from it. For starters, Warren’s touch was never as gentle, nor had it sent warmth spiraling around her spine.
“I- I found a bunch of receipts,” she said , edging away before she grew too used to the feeling. “Underneath a pile of photos. Are they important?”
“Probably. What are the photos of?”
“Right. Damascus, last month. I should submit those.”
He said it casually. Abby handed him the paperwork, glancing again at the photos. The images were violent and rueful. It was jarring to think a person could be having breakfast at a streetside café one moment and photographing brutality the next.
One picture showed a man being dragged away, blood staining his torn jeans. “Do you ever get worried, taking photos at events like this?”
“I worry about missing the shot.”
“Would that be so bad?”
Hunter, who’d been settling back into his seat stopped what he was doing to stare at her in disbelief. “Yes, it would…”
Hunter , she comes to find out, has spent his entire life hiding behind the lens. The camera has become a shield; protecting him from the pain that comes from becoming emotionally attached.
Like I said, these are not your grandmother’s Harlequin Romances. If you haven’t read a Harlequin lately, I suggest you pick one up to see for yourself. If not The Courage to Say Yes, then one of my colleagues’ releases. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
In fact, just to prove my point, I’m giving away a free ebook copy of The Courage to Say Yes to one lucky commenter. All you need to do is tell me what kind of romances you like to read, and why. Deadline is midnight Eastern Time.
Award-winning author Barbara Wallace writes for Harlequin Romance and Entangled Publishing. Her upcoming releases include latest book, The Courage to Say Yes, hits shelves August 1. To order your copy, click here. She loves to hear from readers and fellow writers. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook or email her at Barbara@BarbaraWallace.com