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.
The Marriage Bargain
The Marriage Trap
The Marriage Mistake
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.