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Getting Serious about Series Romances

Series romances are the literary equivalent of Rodney Dangerfield; they just don’t get any respect. However, libraries dismiss series romances at their own peril. Not only did some of the romance genre’s best-selling and most beloved authors like Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Farrah Rochon get their start in series romances, but some of the genre’s most talented and creative new authors are also currently writing series love stories.

What Are They?

When applied to romances, the word “series” doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as it does in other fiction genres (i.e. a main character or group of characters that continues to be the focus of the story from book to book).
Series—or category (the terms are used interchangeably)—romances are shorter (in page count or word count) romance novels that are published within clearly delineated lines, with a certain number of titles published within each line every month. Romances within a series line are numbered sequentially and though they share some common characteristics, including the level of sensuality within the story, and other key elements that are incorporated into a plotline, from intrigue and danger to a particular type of setting (foreign locale, small-town America), ultimately, each series romance is an original literary creation.

Once Upon a Time: The History of Series Romances

Harlequin was founded by Richard H. G. Bonnycastle in Winnipeg in 1949. The company originally published a range of different books, but Richard’s wife, Mary, who nudged the company into acquiring paperback rights to British romance novels published by Mills & Boon in the UK, is the one responsible for this publisher’s foray into romance fiction. Over the years, other publishers have launched (and folded) their own series lines of romance, including Bantam (Loveswept, which closed shop in 1999 and was revived as a digital-only line in 2011) and Simon and Schuster (Silhouette), but today, Harlequin is the most prolific publisher of romance fiction in the world, selling two books every second and delivering love stories in 32 different languages to readers around the globe.

Serious (Not) Hurdles

While public libraries should definitely have series romances on their collection-development radar, there are some acquisition hurdles that need to be taken into account. For example, most series romances have a relatively short print shelf life. If you do not acquire a particular title within a few months of publication, there is a good chance you may not be able to get a print copy (or copies) for your library’s collection. However, the good news is that, with the advent of digital publishing, libraries do not face this same type of acquisition deadline when it comes to obtaining e-book copies of Harlequin titles.

Another hurdle? The number of titles Harlequin publishes each month can be somewhat overwhelming when it comes time to order, but libraries can tackle this challenge by choosing to concentrate on a series line (or two) that will be most popular with romance readers at that library. As an added bonus, because Harlequin carefully curates each of its series lines, this means that, even if you yourself are not a romance reader, you can successfully acquire the type of romance novels your library’s readers will enjoy.

One last hurdle regarding series romances that you might be familiar with is the misperception that, simply because each series line has certain key ingredients that are required within a story—say, an element of danger or a wealthy, alpha hero—books within a series line are “interchangeable.” Luckily, this myth is easily overcome: each Harlequin author brings her own viewpoint, life experiences, and literary skills to her love stories, making each series book a unique reading experience.

Why Libraries Should Care about Series Romances

Harlequin is the most prolific purveyor of romances in the book business, publishing more than 100 romance titles each month in 12 different series lines. Harlequin titles are available in both print and digital editions, and many Harlequin titles are also available in a large-print format. Most importantly of all, Harlequin offers readers an incredible range of love stories. Interested in a historical romance with a different setting than the usually Regency England? The Roman Lady’s Illicit Affair, by Greta Gilbert, awaits you. How about must-read stories set in the world of the Amish? Harlequin offers dozens of excellent choices including Finding Her Amish Love, by Rebecca Kurtz. Can’t get enough of playboy CEO heroes? Then Brenda Jackson’s Claimed by a Steele will definitely hit your reading sweet spot.

Ignoring series romances means missing out on a wealth of stories that your library’s patrons would love to read, and that would be a serious mistake. Delve into some of the best series romance 2020 has to offer below.

Sixteen Spectacular 2020 Series Romances No Library Should Miss

After Hours Redemption, by Kianna Alexander

Songwriter Eden Voss thought that she and recording executive Blaine Woodson made perfect music together until he broke up with her. Now Blaine needs Eden’s musical talents to save his label, but will Eden tell him that she’s already heard that song before? A reader from almost the start (everything from cereal boxes to Goosebumps), Kianna Alexander counts chocolate, sweet tea, Idris Elba, and now, having the ability to make her characters do exactly what she wants (unlike IRL), among her favorite things in life.

The Amish Newcomer, by Patrice Lewis

After witnessing a murder, television journalist Leah Porte is put into the witness protection program and placed in an Amish community, where she is welcomed by everyone . . . including bachelor Isaac Sommer. Lewis lives on a 20-acre homestead, where she continues to hone her gardening, canning, and preserving skills, in addition to writing her blog, Rural Revolution.

Christmas Witness Conspiracy, by Maggie K. Black

Twenty years ago Detective Liam Bearsmith fell hard for Kelly Marsh, but now she is a hacker trying to convince Liam she’s being framed. Award-winning journalist (and self-defense instructor) Black has traveled the globe in search of stories and now lives in Canada, where she loves crafting thrilling novels of romantic suspense.

Claiming His Bollywood Cinderella, by Tara Pammi

Billionaire Bollywood actor Vikram Rawaal is unrivaled at playing a lover on the big screen, but now shop assistant Naina Menon has him wondering if he is ready to play the role in real life. A self-professed “STEM girl all the way”—with a degree in engineering and two masters—Pammi began writing her first romance after realizing writing about carbon nanotubes was boring her silly.

Colton Storm Warning, by Justine Davis

With a storm brewing and a dangerous enemy circling, Ty Colton has his hands full protecting philanthropist Ashley Hart. After a long career in law enforcement, four-time RITA award winner and RWA Hall of Famer Justine Dare Davis sold her first book after meeting an editor while standing in line for the ladies’ room at a writing conference.

The Cowboy’s Holiday Bride, by Cathy McDavid

Will visits from Cash Montgomery’s three ex-girlfriends right before Christmas be enough to convince Cash that marrying his business partner, Phoebe Kellerman, is the right idea? Cathy McDavid is the author of 47 contemporary romances (and counting), and her writing career began when she was a sophomore in high school and her self-illustrated children’s book won a local writing contest.

The Flapper’s Scandalous Elopement, by Lauri Robinson

Heiress Jane Dryer and railroad tycoon David Albright enter into a mutually advantageous marriage of convenience, but what’ll happen when the new couple decides they want to turn their fauxmance into the real thing? Lauri Robinson is a die-hard Elvis and NASCAR fan who began writing historical romances because she knew that she “wasn’t the only girl who wanted to grow up and marry Little Joe Cartwright.”

His Brand of Justice, by Delores Fossen

If U.S. Marshall Jack Slater is to have any hope of identifying the person who murdered his father, he’ll first have to help his ex, Caroline Moser, regain her memory. A former air force officer, RITA finalist Delores Fossen is now the author of more than 100 romances, almost all of which contain at least one of these three things: Texas, cowboys, and danger.

His Princess by Christmas, by Therese Beharrie

Amari Hayes’ new employee, Kade, is on the run from something, but never in a million years would Amari have guessed his secret. South African resident Therese Beharrie’s lifelong dream of becoming a writer was realized after she entered the Harlequin So You Think You Can Write competition and attracted the attention of an editor.

Incognito Ex, by Geri Krotow

The only person who can help Coral Staufer escape the Russian mob is her old ex: undercover agent Trevor Stone. A U.S. Naval Academy graduate and former naval intelligence officer, Geri Krotow published her first book in 2007 and has since gone on to author 25 more titles of romance and suspense.

The Last Man She Expected, by Michelle Major

Recently divorced Mara Reed moved to the small town of Starlight for a fresh start, but that proves to be a bit difficult when Mara discovers Parker Johnson, her ex-husband’s divorce attorney, living there. After graduating with a degree in journalism, Michelle Major gave various careers a try, but it was picking up a Julia Quinn novel in order to distract herself from her fear of flying that put the idea that she, too, could write romances in her head.

Marriage by Arrangement, by Sophia Singh Sasson

Architect Rani Gupta is an all work and no play kind of girl until she meets her new client, sexy hotelier Arjun Singh. Sasson shares many elements of her Indian heritage with readers in the first title in her Nights at the Mahal series, including her protagonists’ struggles to reconcile their modern beliefs with the traditional cultural values of their heritage.

The Price of a Dangerous Passion, by Jane Porter

The only way Charlotte Parks will agree to marry Italian tycoon Brando Ricci is if he agrees their marriage will be one of convenience only. After wandering the globe and eventually completing a masters degree in writing, Jane Porter worked in a number of fields. Now, she happily dedicates her days (and occasional nights) to writing romance and women’s fiction.

A Reunion of Rivals, by Reese Ryan

Quinn Bazemore will do anything to ensure that her grandfather’s farm becomes the primary supplier of peaches for the Abbott family distillery’s new line of fruit brandy, even if it means teaming up with her romantic ex, Max Abbott, on the project. The latest in Ryan’s Bourbon Brothers series is a fun, sexy spin on the popular second-chance-at-love story line. Born a northerner and now living in the South, Reese Ryan gauges how well she is doing by “the number of ‘bless your hearts’ she receives each week.”

Tempted by Her Viking Enemy, by Terri Brisbin

Katla’s only hope of escaping marrying a man she can’t stand is Brandt Siggurdsson, who is currently imprisoned in her father’s dungeon. A three-time RITA finalist, Terri Brisbin spends her days pivoting between the fabulously fun world of romance writing and the more down-to-earth lifestyle of working as a dental hygienist.

A Winning Season, by Rochelle Alers

Zoey Allen’s last hope when it comes to putting her rebellious younger brother Harper back on the right path is her new next-door neighbor: retired baseball star Sutton Reed. The author of more than 80 books (and counting), Rochelle Alers is also the recipient of many awards, including the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award and the Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award.

Six Sensational 2020 Debut Series Romances

Cave of Secrets, by Shannon Redmon

Carlie Moore knows her brother didn’t murder Zain Westcott’s sister, but finding the proof she needs to convince Zain may get them both killed. Shannon Redmon traces her love of romances back to the first Victoria Holt novel she read when she was a teenager.

Stolen to Wear His Crown, by Marcella Bell

Falling for the Innkeeper, by Meghann Whistler

Single mom Laura Lessoway isn’t about to sell her family’s Cape Cod inn—no matter how much attorney Jonathan Maters tries sweet-talking her into it. Is it any wonder that Meghann Whistler, who earned her MFA in creative writing from Emerson, calls herself a hopeless romantic since she met her rocket scientist (yes, a real rocket scientist) husband on a blind date?

Stolen to Wear His Crown, by Marcella Bell

Mina thought she was about to become Cyrano’s newest scientific advisor, but instead she finds herself King Zayn’s new wife. Marcella Bell answers to late bloomer and yogini, but the title she prefers most is that of author.

Temporary Wife Temptation, by Jayci Lee

In order to keep his grandmother from marrying him off to her handpicked bride, Garrett Song convinces Natalie Sobol to pretend to be his wife. After working for 15 years as a defense litigator, Jayci Lee now loves her new career writing happily ever afters for characters who love food, wine, and traveling (and no coincidence, their creator does too!).

The Warrior Knight and the Widow, by Ella Matthews

Treacherous Mountain Investigation, by Stephanie M. Gammon

Blogger Elizabeth Hart and her young son are in serious danger, and the only one who can keep her safe is her ex-fiancé, officer Riggen Price. Stephanie M. Gammon credits her love of Sherlock Holmes and a full bookcase of novels by Grace Livingston Hill for inspiring her to write novels of suspense and faith.

The Warrior Knight and the Widow, by Ella Matthews

The latest assignment of Sir Braedan Leofric “aka the Beast” is retrieving widow Lady Ellena Swain and bringing her back home to her father’s castle. When not dreaming up her next romantic hero, Ella Matthews can probably be found walking the beautiful coasts of Wales.

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About the Author:

The Romance Writers of America 2002 Librarian of the Year, Charles has been reviewing romances for Booklist since 1999 and is the author of Romance Today: An A to Z Guide to Contemporary American Romance. After working for the Scottsdale Public Library System for 30 years, Charles retired and went to work for Scottsdale's independent bookstore the Poisoned Pen, where he still gets to push books but has to deal with far fewer computer questions.

1 Comment on "Getting Serious about Series Romances"

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  1. Karen Gibbs says:

    As a romance reader myself, I whole heartedly agree with John. I have gotten to know many romance writers in the last 5 years. In my opinion, they’re writing is as good, if not better, than some of the New York Times bestselling authors. These authors do an enormous amount of research to make sure their story fits the time period and flows into the story. And the best thing–there’s always a happily ever after! What a joyous way to end your day.

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