Sometimes series books get a bad rap. After all, if you read certain series such as Harlequin Romance, Special Edition or Presents, you see plenty of old-fashioned mores. These are the places to go if you expect to find extreme alpha male behavior, single moms who wouldn’t dream of asking for child support (as an attorney, I can tell you that I have yet to find that out in the wild), and plenty of high-powered women who can’t wait to drop it all and have babies with a small-town sheriff. Not exactly the stuff feminists spent centuries and decades fighting for, I think it’s fair to say.
On the flip side of the coin, I could never make the blanket statement that series romance is outdated and staid. Too many authors and lines push boundaries for that to be an accurate assessment. Have you read a Superromance lately? You will find all kinds of different plots from private detectives investigating cases and falling in love to a severely depressed father finding love again after losing his wife. The depth of emotion and willingness to play with traditional plot tropes sets many books in this line apart in my opinion.
And that pushing of boundaries continues into other lines. Nocturne has some paranormals that go beyond the typical alpha werewolf/vampire mold such as Lori Devoti’s Unbound series or Anna Leonard’s The Hunted, which featured a selkie. Then there’s the Love Inspired lines: they publish some rather traditional inspirational “faith and family” romances and for a while I worried they would be too preachy or formulaic for me. However, they also have historicals that aren’t all set in Regency England (thank you!) and some of their romantic suspense has worked well for me with imperfect characters who ring true and stories that catch my interest.
I’ll be honest. Some lines work better for me than others. I really love Harlequin Historicals, Love Inspired(LI) Historicals and Superromance. I also have a thing for LI Suspense and Blaze, and for whatever reason, Harlequin Presents has been my romance guilty pleasure of choice for eons now. One thing I love about series romance is that it’s not all 1950s – style housewives. Sure, there are some books that just don’t work, but I love that I can find variety. I sometimes wish for more variety, but with series, I sometimes feel like I have a little more variety in tone and types of plots than I get with various single title houses.
Another thing I really like about series romance is that they’re relatively short reads. When I’m busy, I can just pick one up and sink into it. Because of this, I’ll often take a gamble on something new because I know that the time commitment will be less than if I picked up a 500 page trade-size tome from an author I’ve never heard of and never seen reviewed. It’s a gamble that has paid off as I’ve discovered all kinds of books to love. Cheryl St. John, Carla Capshaw and Jenna Kernan have become historical autobuys for me now, and Jeannie Lin’s Butterfly Swords was a fabulous read. On the contemporary side of things, I have all kinds of series autobuys now from longtime authors such as Liz Fielding and Janice Kay Johnson to newer writers like Sarah Mayberry or Karina Bliss, who caught my eye with her pairing of a rocker and a librarian with secrets in What the Librarian Did. And with the Loveswept relaunch coming up, I can’t wait to see what other authors will be out there to discover.
When I think about series romance, I figure that, promo materials from the publishers aside, there are bound to be some bad apples in every month’s releases. Whenever that many slots on a publishing calendar have to be filled on a monthly basis, it would simply make sense that the quality of the books will vary. That’s been my experience as a reader and since my series romance grades come in all over the spectrum, I think it’s fair to say that it’s been my experience as a reviewer, too. Even so, there is just something wonderful about finishing the perfect series read that keeps me coming back.
– Lynn Spencer