Hi friends!

Last weekend, I was honored to sit on a panel on romance in Chicago after viewing Laurie Kahn’s wonderful documentary, Love Between the Covers. Then I got to hang out with some of the awesome women from the Chicago RWA chapters, Windy City and Chicago North.

Spending time with other women who love to read or write romance reminds me how terrific this community can be, and how quick the trip can be to friendliness. We know how condescending the outside world often is toward the genre that anchors the publishing industry, so when we meet other smart, interesting people who read it, there’s already common ground.

But there are a lot of people under this umbrella, and a lot of disparate ideas. Over the past five years, romance has blown up e-publishing and created a brand new world of superstars—some of whom have stayed indie, many others who have embraced traditional publishing.

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Meanwhile some traditionally published authors have moved into indie, while some choose to do both. And no matter which direction you go, if you’re a new author, it’s always hard to get your name highlighted in the marketplace.

There’ve been big changes in romance & publishing for a while now, and also some big news in RomanceLand recently.

The Ripped Bodice opened recently, the first-ever brick & mortar bookstore devoted completely to romance titles. I’m still not a fan of the name, but the store looks gorgeous, and from what I hear, the sisters have an amazing collection of classic, new and up-and-coming stars, as well as possibly the best collection of inclusive titles you’ll ever see. I’m still sad that a spot that could have had 100% buy-in chose to represent romance with a name and tagline that would make many readers and writers cringe; on the other hand, having a bookstore devoted to romance with any name is a positive. And I’ve heard from more than a few authors that LA-area bookstores have routinely ignored romance authors—gah, this makes me crazy—so for LA authors to have a space where they can have signings and romance-friendly events is a good thing. So good luck, ladies, and thanks for being romance advocates!

For more information, visit their website.

There was sad news from Samhain, who announced they’re winding down and will be closing their doors in the near future. Samhain was a smaller publisher who had a great reputation and was a great resource for LGBTQ romance. (They also publish one of my favorite M/M writers, Heidi Cullinan.) It’s not clear exactly what will happen with them or how they are fulfilling their contracts with authors. But I’ve heard great things about them and hope they can end things gracefully. I know they’ll be missed, by authors and readers alike.

There was unexpected news, in that Nora Roberts switched publishers, from Penguin to St. Martin’s. (Did anyone see that coming?)

Sinners Creed Finally there’s been a lot of chatter about what makes a romance novel and whether it needs a happy ending—either an HEA, ‘happy-ever-after’, or an HFN, ‘happy-for-now’—to make it a romance novel. This seems to have come up especially in regards to a recent release, Sinner’s Creed, by Kim Jones and published by Berkley, who put a lot of energy and resources into plugging it.

This seems more like a romantic tragedy than a romance, and a lot of people seem upset by the fact that it was marketed as a traditional romance. I can tell you that if I’m reading a romance, I want an HEA. My favorite movie is Casablanca, and I cried through Love Story and P.S. I Love You (the Sweet Dreams version published in the 80s) when I was in middle school, so I can appreciate a good bittersweet romance.

But this doesn’t sound like that.

In Love Between the Covers, the inimitable Nora Roberts chides the audience that Romeo & Juliet was not a romance. Romantic, maybe, but not romance.

I concur.

The most recent book I listened to was The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward, courtesy of my library and also published by the Penguin Group, which I’d been waiting for for a couple of months. The story revolves around a family that produces the best bourbon on the market, and lives lavishly in a Southern town that’s also known for a famous horserace (the town and the race are fictionalized). The father is a mean bastard, the mother lives in a druggy haze, and all four of the kids are messes, while the real soul of the family is the revered African American cook who’s dying from cancer.

(possible spoiler below)

I could tell from the beginning that this book, the first in a series, was going to leave a lot of details hanging—there was way too much going on to have them all tied up by the end. However, during the expected Black Moment, I sincerely thought she was going to end the first book with no hope, even for the relationship she spent the most time developing.

I was so disappointed. Almost angry.

She didn’t. {phew}

If she had, I still probably would have read the next one—The Angel's Share releases in July—just to see what happens. (This family is messy in epic, Ewing proportions!) Circling the Sun 2 But I might have disliked a book that I wound up loving. All thanks to that ending.

Because that ending only tied up one string. And that family is in dire straits. But because of that ending, I have faith that the rest of the family will probably be okay, and I’m willing to take that journey with them, even though it’s going to be painful.

So what do you think? HEA all the way, or Bittersweet is my treat? (Or somewhere in between.)

(I also recently read Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, “the story of Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.” Highly recommend, though it’s also a little bittersweet. Then again, it wasn’t marketed as a romance.)

Happy reading!