I was introduced to series romance many years ago in college when I needed a quick read to escape from the dull books I was required to plod through for classes. I can still remember discovering the Harlequin books at the local Woolworth store in Germantown. Just the fact that I visited a Woolworth store ages me. And buying a romance for under a dollar? Well, it’s been a few decades. But those books saved me from many a night of college anxiety. Not only were they fast reads but they also guaranteed a happy-ever-after, at least for one couple. And they took place in England or Europe or Australia—all places I wanted to visit. They definitely weren’t set in a basement apartment in Philadelphia with a heroine who had no time for a boyfriend—although a rich one would have come in handy.
Time marched on, and I found my own happy-ever-after along with a baby and a job and my own trip to Europe, thanks to the U.S. Army. There was little time there for series romances or, rather, the Harlequin books I loved weren’t carried by my local post exchange. When I returned to the States in the early 1980s, I encountered the flood of “little romances”: Every week it seemed like Harlequin, Dell, Silhouette and other publishers were putting out red-, yellow- or purple-covered short romance books. It was a welcomed bonanza! I discovered all kinds of different places in these books—settings populated with nurses or women tangled up with cowboys or secret agents—all of which seemed very romantic and exciting to me. The market seemed to shrink, though, back to just a few series, and by the turn of the century, I’d lost interest in most of these continuing stories. Short reads did fit nicely into my lifestyle. But I’d lost my connection with the characters; I turned to stories of magic and the supernatural.
Recently, however, the series romance has re-emerged, in true phoenix fashion, and found new life in e-books. Shorter lengths and smaller prices make these books very attractive to the hungry romance reader. It shouldn’t be too big of a surprise that publishers are discovering a market of hungry, eager readers ready to devour series romances again. In some cases, we’ve never stopped reading!
In August, the Bliss line from Entangled Publishing celebrates its one year anniversary. Sugar Rush by Rachel Astor, Lucky Break by Kelley Vitollo and Three River Ranch by Roxanne Snopek were the three books that started the line in 2012. Their shelf life is unlimited, which is great for these series within a series books. You'll always be able to find the first book, even if you discover the series further in. This August, Bliss releases Bikers and Pearls by Vicki Wilkerson and Fake Fiance, Real Revenge by Roxanne Snopek, both of which are in the traditional vein of series romance. They emotional and sexy reads, but with a 21st century set of characters: A tattooed biker is matched with a proper Southern lady and a city boy returns to his cowboy roots. Both are fun and recommended reads.
To make sure we’re all up to date: Harlequin has announced new e-book lines starting in fall 2013 with e-book first printing of books in their series, Teen, MIRA and HQN lines. This is in addition to the Carina Press titles which are now up to 175 per year. Avon Romance has its Impulse line of e-books with new releases every month. A romance reader might not find many traditional series romances there, but can discover new romance genres like New Adult. For those of us romance readers with at least 10 years on our bookshelves, this genre seems to be romances with heroines in their 20s who are ready to leave the parental nest and make mistakes and find first loves. There’s a huge audience of readers who have outgrown the YA market and are eager to get sexier.
The more traditional series romances are found in the e-book division of Loveswept from Random House. More than a decade ago, Loveswept introduced readers to authors such as Suzanne Brockmann, Iris Johansen, Tami Hoag and Janet Evanovich, among others. Today, their authors include Ruthie Knox and Jessica Scott, who will surely be more famous in a couple of years. Grand Central’s Forever imprint also has a romance e-book line gearing up to release a steady stream of books. And as a ravenous reader, I can’t wait to try them all.
It’s good to know that as technology changes the way we access our books, this doesn’t signify the end of a good series romance. Instead, as our platform is transformed new life is breathed into “old” types of books, or better yet, we get more series romances to read, discuss and cherish.
What are you reading? Do you enjoy the series romances as e-books? Do you still belong to the book club delivery system? Or pick them up in the grocery store or book store? I’m always curious to find out from readers, so please leave me a comment!
Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com, a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors an annual author reader tea in June, a readers conference in November, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.