[A giveaway follows the post, so read on!]
We all have our comfort reads, and they serve an important need. Often the stories do the work for us, which is especially nice when weâ€™ve had a stressful day. We know what to expect from the plots. The characters are familiar ones. The story manipulates our emotions in the safest of ways. A real win-win!
Occasionally, however, romances invite us to step outside our reading comfort zones. Iâ€™m referring to stories that create new romance conventions or challenge current ones in various ways. They include but arenâ€™t limited to: plots off the beaten path; subverted characters; unusual/new/rare characters; and hybrid stories.
Sometimes creating new conventions means a story remains squarely in the niche slot where it was born. On the other hand, if authors spin a certain character or trope in just the right way (Hello, vampire and motorcycle heroes!), readers gain a whole new way to experience a romance story. Whatâ€™s old becomes new again, but in a different guise.
Creating conventions of any kind involves risk, not just for authors but for readers. How can we trust that the romance will retain its core spirit if it looks different from the types of stories weâ€™ve come to expect?
Plus, when we decide to take a risk on a new type of story or characters depends on where weâ€™re at in our lives (e.g., our age and/or personal circumstances) and also the general culture in which we live. How we learn information about stories is also key. In the case of unusual characters or elements, some of us rely on recommendations from friends or trusted reviewers, while others will only consider new story frontiers if itâ€™s being offered by known authors.
Interestingly enough, the stories themselves never change. But how we view them changes according to the lens weâ€™re using to experience them. For example, paranormal romance was once niche, but now itâ€™s mainstream and will be for a long time. The outlier romances of today might appear different to us in five or ten years.
In light of the above, Iâ€™d like to discuss a few stories that illustrate how authors have experimented with new romance conventions or challenged them in some way.
Nights of Fire by Nico Rosso is a western steampunk romance loadedâ€”and I do mean loadedâ€”with high octane action-adventure. The â€œUpland Rangerâ€ hero and sheriff heroine engage in a variety of face-offs, shoot outs, and chases as they pursue the villain.
Does this mean the action sequences are once-removed from the romance development? Thatâ€™s one way to look at it. Hereâ€™s another: theyâ€™re helping the couple build an emotional bond similar to the way love scenes do. Given that action-adventure elements have historically been segregated from literature aimed at female readers, it could very well be that Nico Rosso is bucking the trend by creating a new kind of romance code. In Nights of Fire, he uses action to bring the hero and heroine closer together.
Metal Reign by Nathalie Gray is an action-adventure space opera with a â€œsweetâ€ heat level. Ms. Gray wrote many erotic romances, so this story is a departure for her in that regard.Â The story ends with a Happily For Now, one that occurs before the coupleâ€™s sexual journey.
Thirty years ago few would have given the heat level a second thought. Currently, however, itâ€™s a risk because itâ€™s competing for the attention of readers who are enjoying unprecedented access to erotica and erotic romance stories. But it also challenges us to think about romance as more than the sum of its sexual content.
A Gift For Boggle by P.J. Schnyder features a geeky, heavyset hero with a disability. Boggle is confined to a power chair and lives the life of a loner. Through the magic of storytelling, the author makes him attractive in the eyes of the heroine. And they also make passionate love. P.J. Shnyder didnâ€™t pull any punches!
But wow, talk about a risky type of hero. While Boggle pushes serious romance convention boundaries, his existence hints at the possibility of more diversity in romance for readers who want it. By introducing a few new conventions, A Gift For Boggle invites us to question our assumptions about what makes heroes and heroines compelling.
And thereâ€™s more. Diane Dooleyâ€™s Blue Galaxy tells the story entirely from the heroâ€™s point-of-view. In Meljean Brookâ€™s Heart of Steel, the heroine, an airship pirate, is the Alpha in the relationship. J.L. Hiltonâ€™s Stellarnet Rebel features an alternate romanceâ€”one different in terms of culture and structure, not sexual orientation. Cathy Pegauâ€™s Rulebreaker features an f/f romance.
Have you encountered stories like the above? Iâ€™d love to hear your thoughts about romances that experiment with conventions in different ways.
Now you can enter for a chance to win a copy of Iron Guns, Blazing Hearts, my new Western steampunk romance from Lyrical Press!
Winnerâ€™s choice PDF, ePub, or .mobi. Please include your email address. The deadline to enter is March 12. Iâ€™ll announce the winner right here in the comment section.
Hereâ€™s the cover and blurb:
The West just got a whole lot wilder.
A woman on a mission… Scientific achievement isn’t enough for Violet Whitcomb. Life working alongside her renowned scientist father is filled with intellectual challenges, but what she truly craves is love and adventure. Sheâ€™s resigned to a fate of academic pursuitsâ€¦until a fateful trip across the American frontier changes everything. A rogue inventor known as the Iron Scorpion kidnaps Violet’s father and she alone is left to plan his rescue.
A man with a secret… Logan McCoy knows firsthand going up against the Iron Scorpion is suicide, but he can’t let Violet waltz into the villain’s lair alone. She may be a stranger, but she’s also the most compelling woman he’s ever known.
A perilous quest… Their attraction is undeniable, but their alliance turns contentious when Violet insists on including a third partner on their mission: her father’s latest invention and the world’s most advanced automaton, Arthur. The reason for Logan’s resistance isn’t clear until Violet comes face-to-face with the Iron Scorpion’s diabolical devices, and by then, it’s far too late.
(P.S.- Iron Guns, Blazing Hearts has a â€œsweetâ€ heat level, lots of action-adventure, and an automaton gunslinger!)
About the author
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express. Sheâ€™s also an author in the subgenre. To learn more about her published work, visit heathermassey.com.