I remember that no one drove American cars--which I never have figured out. No one was a blue-collar worker unless they were functionally illiterate as well. Waitresses were all destitute. In steamier stories than we write here at Heartwarming, no one had morning breath or used birth control or...well, other things.
Much of this, other than our actual series guidelines, wasn't actually written down. There was no real book of rules. We just knew. And in those days, anything that had the word issue attached to it was a no-no. Romances were to be what way too many people had referred to as "light fare."
But things have changed. We have entire series based on sports now. A guitar is as at home in a story as a law degree. There's nothing wrong with being a mechanic or a waitress or a retail associate. There's room in the industry for all ages, all sizes, and all ethnicities.
Many Heartwarming authors have written about issues and I hope they will list them here in the comments. Because they've also written about the hope that rises from confronting those issues in the romantic journeys we want our books to be.
To start the list, the heroine in my December book, The Happiness Pact, suffers from clinical depression and anxiety disorder. I hope I did it right and that you will like and understand Libby's story. And all of our other stories that address issues that are important to all of us.
Thank you for reading. Have a great week.
P.S. Speaking of issues, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is nearly over. If you haven't made your appointment yet, go ahead and call--we'll wait here.
Interesting to see the changes over the years. I like the new, more realistic stories. In the past I've written about a recovering alcoholic, and in a story coming out next summer, a character is almost destroyed by guilt. That story will also feature an older heroine.ReplyDelete
I can't wait to read The Happiness Pact, and I LOVE that cover.
Thanks, Beth--I love it, too! I'm looking forward to that older heroine!Delete
Thank you for this post, Liz, and how true that the ‘guidelines’ have changed dramatically and all for the better. As a reader, I want characters to be as real as possible and as a writer, I’m way more interested in forming characters who have real issues and problems. The cover of your new release shows a real scene from real life - a coffee date - and I look forward to reading it.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Janice. I want realism, too--it makes the HEA all the more convincing and necessary!Delete
I really like the move toward being able to put current issues in our books. We have such a great reach with our stories. I just commented on Facebook about how relevant the timing is for Karen Rock's November Heartwarming dealing with addiction. Looking forward to your next book, Liz. Depression is so widespread it needs a light shined on it.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Roz. I like that we're able to open things up, too.Delete
Liz the early rules are the reasons I never read Harlequin romances. I can't identify with "perfect" characters. One of my books dealt with drug addiction. Another dealt with a children's shelter. Thanks for a thought provoking post!ReplyDelete
I think the readers have grown right along with the books, don't you? I love what we're doing now.Delete
God Bless you, Liz, for this post. Back in the day, the "issues" stories were reserved for "Women's Fiction". Romances were meant to be light and carefree and centered on the romance. The thing was, we all found out there is just too, too much LIFE in our lives.ReplyDelete
My December release, Happy Book Birthday to both of us, has a disabled hero. Mica Barzonni has lost the use of his arm. He no longer can work the family farm. He is depressed, angry, lost, confused and feeling very displaced and inconsequential. He has to re-think his life goals and on top of it all, he finds out he's the father of a seven month old son he knew nothing about.
I agree that readers demand more real life in their stories these days and I, for one, LOVE it!
I love it, too, Catherine. I'm sure Mica's a great hero--I'll find out soon!Delete
Okay, more issues from here. I’ve written about sexual and emotional abuse, the death of a child, and, not in Heartwarming, about infidelity and a gambling addiction ( in a book to be self-pubbed shortly). Also, guilt. I seem to be big on that! I love realistic fiction and, looking back, that’s what I’ve always written or did in women’s fiction. Hurray for these newer guidelines that give us so much freedom.ReplyDelete
I am very big with guilt, too. Even when it's unintended, it ends up in my stories. Sometimes it takes courage to address some things (I have a few of them in my back list, too). I see below where Virginia mentioned "broader themes," and that's what we're talking about here. I'm glad to still be writing at this coming-of-age time in "clean" romance.Delete
I'm with all of you--I like the broader themes, and I've noticed our line explores the same kind of issues we routinely see in women's fiction. I've so admired the story lines all of you have chosen because they are so real--and relevant. I also think it's time to get away from the stereotyped addict/alcoholic who is always fighting the urge to use--a person in recovery for a time can have entirely different challenges. The recovery may not even be the crisis or story issue, but in some ways, just part of what a character deals with every day, much like any chronic illness. Thanks, Liz!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Virginia. We're all learning so much as we go along, and I hope some readers will gain some knowledge from us, too.Delete
Oh my gosh, I remember those unwritten rules! The industry sure has come a long way-for the better. It's important to write about real issues and because of it, readers respond to our stories. Great post, Liz.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Tara. Big differences, for sure!Delete
Good grief.... We live in the real world. I need to read real life issues. I like those better. I have read about domestic violence, miscarriages, murdered relatives, missing children.... And so on. I remember reading harlequin books since I was a teen. So, glad they've broadened their horizons. 😂ReplyDelete
So good to hear, Donna!Delete
Real-world issues make stories so much more approachable--just like the age thing. I love that older characters are getting their stories told because I'm an older character myself and it's so much easier to relate! Great post, Liz! Thanks!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Nan. The stories ARE easier to relate to now, aren't they?Delete
I'd love to read the The Happiness Pact.ReplyDelete
I hope you do and I hope you enjoy it!Delete
Liz, What a great post! I like realistic issues in books, too. Although, I will admit that I like the light-hearted stuff an awful lot. I can get depressed watching the news. I often turn to romantic comedies and authors who I know keep it light because sometimes I don't want to "feel" too much. Lol!ReplyDelete
Me, too, Carol, although I think issues and humor mix really well. Most of us wouldn't survive if we didn't learn to laugh through the rough spots. However, I must admit that Hallmark movies are my happy place. :-)Delete
I’m sure glad things have changed. I just recently read a book with a 47 year old protagonist. And I think I’ve read at least one book for every subject on that no-no list. Your new book sounds wonderful. I keep checking Harlequin.com every day for when it will be released in paperback. ( :ReplyDelete
Thanks, Laurie. I hope you like it. And yay for protagonists "of a certain age!"Delete