Let's talk truth.
Category romance has always received a bum rap. Touted as formulaic, with
cardboard themes and tropes galore, many hard core romance readers have also
admitted they love the big single title but would never deign to pick up a
category romance novel.
This was never my problem. I adored category romance and ploughed through them
like a pre-menstrual woman in a Godiva factory. Still, I did find myself
frustrated many times as my favorite tropes were either not used in a fresh way,
or the story fell flat. Certain limitations seemed to restrict the freedom of
the author's voice, and I always craved just a bit...more.
When I first penned THE
MARRIAGE BARGAIN, I wrote for myself. I wrote about my all time fave trope
— marriages of convenience — but I decided to write it my own way.
My hero kissed another woman. I peppered it with lots of snappy humor and tons
of dialogue. I originally wrote a secondary subplot of an older romance, which
got deleted later in the editing process, but I didn't hold back. I wrote the
kind of story I wanted to see in the genre I adored.
And it got rejected pretty much everywhere.
Entangled took a shot. They saw something in the story that went beyond the
regular category romance, and stretched some limits. With a hot new cover that
was fresh, and a reasonable digital price to bring in new readers, the book
launched February 2012.
And became a bestseller.
My other books in the series — THE MARRIAGE TRAP and THE MARRIAGE MISTAKE
— sold to Simon and Schuster. Each one was a bit larger, more sketched
out, but still keeping with the trope and characters I had learned to love like
family. Many readers emailed me in shock that they adored the series and asked
me this question. "Did I just read a category romance?"
Maybe. Maybe not.
But this story isn't about me. It's about breathing life into a genre that
before was frowned upon. After BARGAIN, I started seeing
more category type romance novels hit the top 100 list in droves with many
familiar tropes readers used to snicker about. Alpha males and billionaires.
Best friend's older brother. Wrong beds. Boss/secretary. Secret babies.
But things seemed different now. The tropes might be the same, but they were
handled in fresh new ways by authors and readers dying for all the elements in a
bestseller. The explosion was a beauty to watch as new readers to the romance
genre — many brought by the success of the FIFTY SHADES OF
GREY—gobbled up these category like books and loved them.
And bought more.
It's a new time on the horizon. Category is not what it was years ago. The
issues are hard, the women are strong and feisty, and the sex is hot. Or not.
From Brazen types with sex driving the story, to Indulgence with a humorous, fun
touch, to Bliss with a sweeter type tone — there's something for everyone
but it is no longer standard category.
Welcome to the new age. Welcome to the new category. Welcome to an age where
maybe we don't even have to tag books category, single title, chick lit, or
women's fiction? Maybe we don't have to scream self pubbed, indie, small press
or Big Six?
Maybe, just maybe, a great romance story is just that and we have learned our
lesson once again about labels.
I love writing category. I love writing erotica. I love writing single title,
and short stories, and children's books.
Because it's always about the story.
About the Author
Jennifer Probst wrote
her first book at twelve years old. She bound it in a folder, read it to her
classmates, and hasn't stopped writing since. She took a short hiatus to get
married, get pregnant, buy a house, get pregnant again, pursue a master's in
English Literature, and rescue two shelter dogs. Now she is writing again.
She makes her home in Upstate New York with the whole crew. Her sons keep her
active, stressed, joyous, and sad her house will never be truly clean.
10 comments posted.
I love to read and find that I will devour "category" romance. They are fun, a great read, something that you can look forward to picking up.
(Carla Carlson 10:11am February 27)
Yes it's always about the story! And sometimes the story takes you in directions you didn't expect. Good luck!
(Clare O'Beara 8:35am February 28)
I think crossing genres is fine, but I'm not so sure if the bookstores know where to put them since they are in more than one category.
(Alyson Widen 9:48pm February 28)
I love to read. I read to be taken away from the trials or monotony of every day life. If that means reading a "category" romance then give me one!
(Annetta Sweetko 7:29pm March 5)
It's always about the story. I read category and mainstream romances. If a story is well written I don't care how it's packaged.
(Marcelyn Shuler 6:44pm March 6)
I read category romances, although not as many as I used to. I read so fast that I can go through one a night. I only buy authors now that I really love in category romance. I prefer bigger books cause it takes longer to read!! Your books sound really great. Putting them on the wishlist.
(Martha Lawson 9:23pm March 6)