Romance has been elegantly defined as the offspring of fiction and love.–Benjamin Disraeli
Last month I gave you an introduction to our bookstore. This month, let me tell you about a part of it that has become the bane of my existence: The Romance Shed, aka the Luv Shack.
I spent the week sorting this outbuilding, which sits on the front lawn of our bookstore. We put about a thousand romance titles in there when we first acquired the building two years ago. As near as I can figure, when we close the doors at night, the fat romance novels get together and spawn litters of “Harlequin Presents.” When I gave the Luv Shack a serious seeing to this past weekend, more than 3,000 of the li’l suckers lay in obscene jumbled heaps on the dirty floor.
Sorting through 3,000 romance novels is enough to make any woman cynical. And of course I had to read the back blurbs to figure out which of our genre groupings it would fall under: Kilts and Celts; Hunks and Horses; Ravishing Rakes; Fleas and Fangs; or Guys with Big Guns. (That would be Medieval, Western, Regency, Paranormal and Contemporary/Suspense in the civilized world.)
My favorite back blurb was probably on the novel “Falling For You.” It was a time travel romance about a bush pilot from Australia falling out of her plane into the arms of a Roman Centurion in the Lost Legion. I didn’t open the book; likely the historical inaccuracies would have been painful. And one has to admit that the possibility of her falling onto his spear has a daunting effect….
Still, after spending two days cooped up in that shed with those books, I am almost tempted to try my hand at writing one. In that vein, here are my top ten observations on what it takes to write a bestselling romance novel:
10. Set it in Texas, Scotland, or a fictional village full of stuffy cast rejects from Pride and Prejudice, and refer to that place only as The Ton.
9. Make the heroine a doctor, or a nurse if it’s a civil war, or an herbalist if it’s medieval.
8. Make the hero show up wounded. If he got wounded rescuing a small child or a kitten, so much the better. Fighting to save a village of unarmed farmers is also good.
7. Set it in a period of conflict. Civil wars are great. It doesn’t matter whose, but American, European, and Oriental work best. So far I’ve not seen one about any African country. And if you aren’t inclined to historic accuracy (or research) no worries; neither, apparently, are the editors. If inaccuracy should concern you, write a paranormal and don’t say what planet you’re on; just let it look an awful lot like someplace in Europe that can’t quite be defined.
6. The heroine’s name should be cute and snappy (Amy, Paige) or smoky and evocative (Jasmine, Arietta)
5. The hero’s name should be strong and stark (Roark, Gabe, or Dirk – yes, Dirk)
4. The hero and heroine should take an instant dislike to each other, then fairly early in the book accidentally brush up against each other (especially good while she’s cleansing one of his wounds) causing a pheromone explosion that makes them bonk like mad rabbits.
3. Amy/Arietta should be soft and tender, yet capable of blowing a man away with one shot.
2. Dirk/Gabe should be capable of blowing a man away with one shot, yet soft and tender.
1. Take the advice of Jack Nicholson’s character Melvin, a romance writer, in the film “As Good as it Gets.” Asked by a reader, “How do you write women so well?” he replied, “I think of a man. Then I take away reason and accountability.”