Category Romance vs. Single Title

As far as my long weekend reading extravaganza goes, (my 72 hours off before I dive in to final revisions and edits on book 2), I’ve completed Robyn Carr’s WILD MAN CREEK, a MIRA single title romance, and I’m now reading Michelle Willingham’s, SURRENDER TO AN IRISH WARRIOR, a Harlequin Historical romance.

Since my serious push toward publication began, (April 2010 when I began revising for my editor),  I have been totally focused on my heroes and heroines, keeping them together on the page, progressing their romance, and keeping secondary characters to a minimum. This total attention to the hero and heroine is what I LOVE about category romance. But I also like an interspersing of secondary characters to add color and humor to an emotional read.  

I usually love Robyn Carr’s books. She’s an excellent author. But, in WILD MAN CREEK, I found myself skimming over the scenes that did not pertain to the main romance. I got aggravated with all the different POVs and story lines. Funny, I don’t remember this bothering me before I started writing category romance.

In contrast, SURRENDER TO AN IRISH WARRIOR is all about the hero and heroine. They are together in every scene. I LOVE that! I must admit, at times, I’ve read some category romances that felt flat to me. For those of you who aren’t writers, it’s hard work to combine believable/realistic conflict, in-depth characterization, and an interesting plot to create an entertaining 50,000 word book. But so far, for me, Michelle Willingham is doing an EXCELLENT job. (And I note, I think her book may be a bit longer than 50,000 words, but it is still less than single title length.)

So I’ll ask you, how do you feel about secondary characters and multiple POVs (point of views) in the books you read? Do you prefer only hero and heroine POV? Or do you like to go into occasional secondary character POV? And do you like multiple story lines or prefer to stick to the hero and heroine’s storyline?

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  • Posted February 20, 2011 at 12:31 PM | Permalink

    very interesting observation, wendy. Thanks for sharing.

    I’m new to category romance, and to some degree romance single titles – it’s because I’m new to romance!
    I’ve been wondering what attract people to category romance. I generally like reading about all sorts of different characters and events other than romance, becuase if there is nothing but romance I feel nothing happens and skip scenes. I like to watch how subplots intertwin, affect and reflect the main plot, and same for secondary characters.

  • Posted February 20, 2011 at 7:44 PM | Permalink

    I’m addicted to the emotional punch of just having the hero and heroine’s POV. The occasional secondary character POV is great when it gives another perspective on the hero and heroine’s relationship or adds to the conflict but I’m not a big fan of multiple storylines. See I’ve been completely spoilt by category lol!

  • Posted February 20, 2011 at 8:06 PM | Permalink

    I have a tendency to like more than just the hero and heroine. but if you’re writing category that’s the way to go. I seldom read category any more but the ones I like do have secondary characters who have a presence in the story. Much of what I read shows multiple characters. I’ve read Tolstoy – everything and War and Peace two or three times. Now there’s a writer who liked characters.

  • Posted February 20, 2011 at 9:53 PM | Permalink

    Not being much of a romance reader, I can relate to Janet’s comment about Tolstoy (I’ve read War and Peace 3 times, and it gets better each time around). I like a number of characters and subplots all wound together. In terms of romance, I thoroughly enjoyed Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice — I’m not sure where they stand on your POV spectrum.

  • Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:35 AM | Permalink

    Hi Kate!
    I, too, like the interplay of secondary characters, as long as it happens around and involving the main hero and heroine. The point of romance is to take two people, with apparent insurmountable obstacles between them, and watch their journey to overcoming those obstacles and finding love. When done well, the book should keep you engaged from start to finish.

  • Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:40 AM | Permalink

    Hi Lacey!
    I totally agree. A small, secondary storyline is perfectly okay, as long as it doesn’t overshadow or take too much time away from the hero and heroine. Victoria Dahl and Susan Mallery are great at it!

    I like to write a cast of characters, all involved in the main storyline. Medical does NOT like casts of characters. This was hard for me, but made me focus on the relationship of my hero and heroine. So, in the end, I think it made the love story much stronger. (I’ll wait to read what YOU think!)

  • Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:42 AM | Permalink

    Hi Janet!
    My book has several secondary characters. Honestly, I couldn’t write a story without them. I had to limit their page space, but I got almost all of them in!

  • Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

    Hi John!
    In longer, single title romance books (90,000 + words), there are frequently subplots and secondary story lines. But in shorter category books (50,000 – 60,000) it’s harder to get all that in and still tell a realistic and fulfilling love story.

    I seem to remember suggesting one of Robyn Carr’s books to you in the past. Not sure if you finished it, or what you thought.

  • Posted February 21, 2011 at 9:12 PM | Permalink

    I did read a romance at your suggestion, but I don’t remember the title. It was part of a series, and I found it incredibly unsatisfying. I felt like I was reading an episode of a soap opera — the story ostensibly finished at end of the book, but half the characters were only present so they could prep for their appearances in the next book, so their stories were not finished at all. Some of those characters were much more interesting to me than the (all too stereotypical) central couple were.

    I’d have to say that I’m not a fan of romance written in modern times.

  • Posted February 21, 2011 at 9:20 PM | Permalink

    Oh my — that looks awful. It appears that I’ve read one single contemporary romance and decided the whole genre is not for me.

    It’s naturally more complicated than that. I’m planning on reading YOUR book, for instance. But in general my reading list is full to overflowing, so I have to pick and choose carefully. The books I read are many and varied, with much of it tending toward the literary end of the spectrum: books which generally do not see fit to straight-jacket themselves into happy endings.

  • Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:11 PM | Permalink

    Hi John!
    You made me smile. It doesn’t offend me if you don’t like the romance genre. It’s not for everyone. Just like War and Peace is not for me. At least I don’t think it is. I made my determination based on the title.

    You are under no pressure to read my book. Really. If it’s not your type of book you won’t like it and I’ll feel like I somehow let you down. Maybe wait to read some of the reviews first.

  • Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:14 PM | Permalink

    Oh, and I forgot to tell you all, my friend Abbi informed me my book is available for pre-order on Amazon UK. Go to books and search Wendy S. Marcus. No picture yet, but it’s kind of cool to see my name there. And for my U.S. friends, it should be up on our Amazon soon, and by May. Wow! Can’t believe how soon that is! Warm weather! YAY!

  • Posted February 22, 2011 at 12:01 AM | Permalink

    I’m a huge Susan Mallery fan as well! I can’t wait to get my hands on your first book. Prepare to be gushed over!

  • Posted February 22, 2011 at 8:02 AM | Permalink

    Hi Lacey!
    Did you read Marcelli Bride? One of my ALL TIME favorite books!

    I’m so happy you’re eager to read my book. You enjoying it is enough. No gushing required!

  • Jen FitzGerald
    Posted February 22, 2011 at 9:09 AM | Permalink

    I guess it depends on the book and the sub-plots. I have a Catherine Mann book where there are three romances in one–but they are all linked and each subplot is closely woven/necessary to the primary plot and it is a great read. It’s also a single title and has the word count.

    But I do also like shorter romances where the focus is clearly on the hero and heroine.

  • Posted February 22, 2011 at 9:17 AM | Permalink

    Better a smile than a grimace! No, my expectations have been recalibrated, and One Night is going to be my second try at contemporary romance. My wife is looking forward to reading it as her first try in the genre.

  • Posted February 22, 2011 at 11:26 AM | Permalink

    Hi Jen!
    I’ve never read anything by Catherine Mann. It sounds like I’d like her – since all the story lines circulate around the main romance. I’ll have to check her out.

  • Posted February 22, 2011 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

    Hi John!
    Oooohhhh. The pressure of trying to please you AND your wife, or risk turning you both off the genre completely. You know there’s sex in my book, right? There are no guns or car chases, no research into the theory of relativity or putting an end to global warming. I haven’t interviewed Barbara Walters or written about her life. My book is purely for entertainment. If that sounds good, I’d love for you to read it. (And I hope you’ll continue to visit my blog afterward – whether you like my book or not.)

  • Posted February 22, 2011 at 11:54 AM | Permalink

    Uh-oh. You mean no deep discussions of the meaning of life or the justification of god? No questioning why the emission lines of hydrogen don’t match the theory? No consideration of where a clam puts its foot when it’s not using it?

    Well… that’ll make my wife happy, but I’ll read it anyway (a little sex never hurts either).

  • Posted February 22, 2011 at 3:06 PM | Permalink

    Hi John!
    Another smile! Keep em’ coming!

  • Joanne Coles
    Posted February 22, 2011 at 5:03 PM | Permalink

    I got my April medical books a week ago so not too long until I hold your book in my hands 🙂

    I love category and the fact heroes and heroines have to be on the page together as often as poss to further their relationship.

    I must admit to being a big lover of medicals because, although you don’t have the opportunity of having a huge *cast*, it’s a line where you can sneak a couple of kids in and still have a sparkling love story 🙂

  • Posted February 22, 2011 at 5:36 PM | Permalink

    Hi Joanne!
    I REALLY hope you like it! Especially since yours will likely be the first opinion I read.

    I did an interview for Harlequin’s spring publication sent to subscription members. I’m going to try to get my hands on a copy. I don’t know if it’s circulated in the US.

    And I managed to get some secondary characters into WHEN ONE NIGHT ISN’T ENOUGH. My book two has a child in it.

  • Posted February 22, 2011 at 6:37 PM | Permalink

    HI Wendy! I adore category romance because it concentrates on the hero and heroine and the tension/conflict is usually on most of the pages. Over the weekend, I picked up an oldie by Iris Johansen – she used to write in Loveswept series (OMG I am old) and her category books were top notch. I ripped through this reissue in a few hours. She now writes mainstream romantic suspense but I love going back to my roots. Sometimes, secondary characters annoy me but the writer who does secondary characters the best are Suzanne Brockmann and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It’s the only time I can’t wait to read both storylines! Hooray – pre order time for your book this spring – can’t wait!

  • Posted February 22, 2011 at 7:05 PM | Permalink

    Hi Jen!
    I’ve never read Iris Johansen. I find I don’t often like old romances becuase they moved much slower way back when.

    And you pointed out another thing I like about category: I can usually finish the book in a day, two tops if I’m busy. I love Suzanne Brockmann. I can’t wait to read Izzy’s story. I have SEP’s Simply Irresistible, but haven’t read it.

    I can’t believe spring is almost hear. YAY!

  • Posted February 22, 2011 at 7:05 PM | Permalink

    Okay. Here not hear.

  • Joanne Coles
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 3:50 PM | Permalink

    Let me know if you can’t get a copy, Wendy. I can always send you the newsletter I get so you can have a hard copy 🙂

  • Posted February 25, 2011 at 4:43 PM | Permalink

    Hi Joanne!
    Thanks so much for the offer. I’m to see if there’s anything my editor can do to get me a copy. I’ll let you know.

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