Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sweet Doesn't Mean Syrup- by Karen Rock

As an author of sweet romance for Harlequin Heartwarming, it amazes me how sometimes others mistake the term “Sweet” or “Heartwarming” for “Sappy”. This couldn’t be farther from the case. “Sweet” refers to the heat level in the book, not the issues or conflicts which are contemporary, raw and edgy. Here’s an example of such an assumption from a recent review that said, “A LEAGUE OF HER OWN is part of the Harlequin Heartwarming series of stories. Don’t be misled by the inclusion of this book. There’s nothing sappy or condescending about this lovely and at times raw story.”

Don’t get me wrong. It was a beautiful review.  I cried when I read the critic’s praise. That line, however, made me sigh. Just because a story does not contain racy or objectionable content, doesn’t mean it lacks fire, high stakes, emotional intensity or edge. Quite the opposite. We aren’t serving weak tea. Our characters are flawed, face raw issues, must overcome high stakes, make hard choices, and through it all, conquer what’s held them back to find lasting love. In other words… life and people in all their imperfect glory. I’m inspired to reflect what I see in the world rather than create an improbably flawless one that didn’t even exist on The Andy Griffith Show. (I am still addicted to it!)

Here are some examples of me doing just that: WISH ME TOMORROW, my Sept 2013 novel that was the recipient of the 2014 Golden Quill award for Sweet/Traditional romance and the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for Contemporary Series Fiction, features the true-to-life struggles of a single father recovering from cancer. His tough path to believing in a future he’d counted out… and find lasting love touched me deeply and I’m glad that it moved others as well. In March 2014, my novel, HIS HOMETOWN GIRL, depicted a heroine who assumes more than her fair share of ‘mom-guilt’ as she battles to pay for the high-level care her autistic son needs but she can’t afford. In the end, she comes to realize that love and acceptance is what they needed most of all.
My September 2014 novel, SOMEONE LIKE YOU, was inspired by my grandfather’s experience with PTSD. I wanted to feature a wounded war hero who doesn’t believe himself worthy of the life he’s been spared or the love that’s waiting for him. He contemplates suicide until my heroine shows him how valuable his life truly is. Addiction was a central issue in my December baseball romance, A LEAGUE OF HER OWN, in which a young woman finds it hard to entrust her heart to a recovering alcoholic on her father’s baseball team because of her addict-mother’s struggles and betrayals. Finally, my April 2015 novel, RAISING THE STAKES, focuses on the mental and physical recovery of a rape victim whose retreat to the “safety” of the country isn’t coping… it’s hiding… something she comes to realize as she heals in the arms of a strong, good man.

That’s a cup of strong coffee, in my books, and maybe a little cream and sugar, too. J

I hope, after reading this, you might see “sweet romance” differently and know that while authors of it hold back some possibly offensive content, we still give our readers real, raw and meaningful stories that will hopefully touch your hearts. I'm also pleased to share that WISH ME TOMORROW has been selected to be part of the TRY HARLEQUIN promotion that will run 5/15-12/15 from eHarlequin! It's an honor to be included in this fun, no risk way for romance fans to download books free in order to sample our many category lines. They're all wonderful, although I'll admit to a bit of a bias for Heartwarming... :)

 
Also, please be sure to enter our amazing Harlequin Heartwarming Mother's Day giveaway on this blog to win many of our books (including my latest release, RAISING THE STAKES) a Mother's Day spa or brunch and Harlequin MyRewards Points!! You can find this fantastic giveaway by simply clicking on the "Giveaways" tab at the top of the home screen or following this link: http://heartwarmingauthors.blogspot.com/p/contest.html . For all of us who've ever leaned over a cradle, holding our breaths to make sure our own baby breathed, who followed the school bus on our child's first day of kindergarten, who pasted together poster board projects, held our child's hand and told them tomorrow would be better because they were in it, applauded wildly as they accepted their diplomas and dashed away tears when they said their own marriage vows, cooed over their children and was that voice on the end of the phone line that always- always picked up... Happy Mother's Day! You deserve a special one <3
 

18 comments:

  1. I'm glad to know that there are books being published that can deliver a well-written and moving story without the distraction of explicit material. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Heidi! Whenever the Heartwaming authors and editors get together it's clear how passionate we are to deliver high quality contemporary stories with heart, but it's discerning readers like you who inspire us :-)

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  2. Hi Karen and thanks for the lesson on what a Harlequin Heartwarming book really is. (Of course I already know since I'm one of Heartwarming's biggest fans!) Sappy these stories are not, but they truly are satisfying love stories with deep plots and the HEA we romance readers love. I hope that visitors to the blog today will understand more fully what to expect from a Heartwarming story. Nice to see WISH ME TOMORROW is a Try Harlequin promotional title. ( :

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    1. I appreciate that, Laurie! You are Heartwarming's ambassador and a champion of the real, relatable, moving and romantic stories we tell :) we are so lucky to have you in our family!

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  3. Well said, Karen. Your books show that sweet is not sappy. These are books with strong issues, so thanks for clarifying. And congrats on your book being part of Try Harlequin. Awesone!

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    1. Thanks, Tara and as I'm lucky to be your critique partner, I am inspired by the depth and heart you put in each of your beautiful stories. It's no wonder that RT awarded you it's highest rating of 4.5!

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  4. Thanks, Karen, for speaking so eloquently on all our behalfs!

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    1. You're welcome, Liz! It's such a joy to write for Heartwaming and to work with such wonderful authors like you :-)

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  5. I agree with Tara and Liz! Well said, Karen! VERY well said...and thanks for saying it!

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    1. It's no wonder you agree, Loree as your spectacular novels are the perfect example of grit and heart <3

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  6. I agree with Tara and Liz! Well said, Karen! VERY well said...and thanks for saying it!

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  7. Karen, thanks for the lovely post. And congratulations on your Heartwarming books winning those great awards. I believe there is a wide audience for our books if only we knew how to reach them. I'm sorry Wal-Mart didn't decide to shelve the print versions of our books, because I think a lot of rural readers who only have Wal-Marts to shop in would love the stories.

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    1. What a great point, Roz! I absolutely agree that our target audience tend to be out shopping for their families in Walmart and might grab a book there then cruise the Internet searching their next read... But I believe our audience is finding us :-)

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  8. Well done! And you have me crying, Karen, over your Mother's Day words too. So heartfelt. All your books sound wonderful.

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    1. Aw! Thanks, Leigh :) I teared up a little, too when I wrote the Mother's Day list because I've done all but the wedding vow crying and babysitting which I know I'll be doing, too! Mother's are the ultimate Super Woman <3

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    2. Karen, all your posts are insightful and accurate and incredibly informative, but this one was on target as so many of the authors are continually explaining what we are trying to do. Kudos, my dear and thanks for posting this!

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    3. I'm so glad to hear, that Catherine! I encounter the same issue of trying to convince my YA fans that Heartwarming can be just as hard-hitting and emotional without being sappy and am so glad when they tell me how they're now converted and reading other Heartwarmkng authors, too :)

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