Whether you’re a longtime romance writer or new at it, you are always on the lookout for the latest trends. If only there was a way of knowing what readers are enjoying and looking for in a romance right now. Well, look no further! Here are a few trends that our editors in Harlequin have been noticing lately. What’s working in romance right now? Let’s find out!
Non-traditional characters and families
Strong characters, especially female main characters in traditionally male-dominated jobs are taking the lead in romance trends right now. Heartwarming Editor Johanna Raisanen has been following the trend of strong, independent women working as firefighters, pilots and female farmers, for example.
In the same line of building strong characters, Heartwarming Editor Kathryn Lye wants to highlight the trend of blended or created families, characters redefining the definition of family. “Instead of the usual hero with kids and heroine with kids that fall for each other and join their respected families, this trend is following main characters who were or are part of a family of fosters, or people who come together via adoption, or out of friendship, or a shared experience.”
Love Inspired Assistant Editor Caroline Timmings has been noticing more inclusion when it comes to neurodiversity. “Not only are people focusing more and more on self-care and working with their own mental health in real life, but I think readers like to engage with neurodiverse characters and see them find their happily ever afters.”
Feel good situations and settings
One thing Heartwarming Editor Adrienne Macintosh and the rest of the team can agree on is that including animals in the story is a strong trend in romance right now. From the classic cats, dogs and horses to more unique ones, like donkeys, goats, llamas. Baby animals and K-9 always bring a plus on cuteness. I mean, just look at these covers from Harlequin romances!
And in the topic of settings, Love Inspired Editors Katie Gowrie and Caroline Timmings have been noticing a lot more romances that take place in the world of publishing and bookstores.
Tried and true tropes with layered hooks or new twists
Heartwarming Editor Dana Grimaldi wants to remind you that you can never go wrong with a fresh take on classic tropes and hooks.
In the same line, Love Inspired Editorial Assistant Besarta Sinanovic has recognized that readers are seeking out books with specific tropes, “particularly fake relationships and enemies to lovers, as readers recognize that these classic tropes allow them to feel immersed in the story and anticipate the moment the characters finally realize their feelings for one another. These tropes are successful because, while they may feel far-fetched in the real world, they emphasize this idea that love can be found in the most unexpected places.”
Real life situations with intense emotion and high stakes
When acquiring new books, Heartwarming Executive Editor Kathleen Scheibling is rooting for stories with “all the feels.” Stories with strong conflict, big stakes, characters we can root for, and ups and downs.
“I think more than ever, people are looking for complex, relatable protagonists and character-driven stories that don’t shy away from raw emotions or tougher themes (like grief, loss, mental health, etc.). That’s not to say that they can’t be light and fun, but perhaps they still deal with real-world issues or are a bit gritty.” —Katie Gowrie, Associate Editor, Love Inspired and Love Inspired suspense.
Finally, from Associate Editor John Jacobson, Harlequin Desire:
“I feel like what’s working in romance right now are stories with high heat/high sensuality that have an element of fantasy but establish realistic conflicts between the characters that make it genuinely feel like that kind of love story and happily ever after could happen in real life. Books that allow readers to acknowledge the bleak and uncertain moments, but still show the power of love, community, and personal growth, are really speaking to the current market and reader.”
Identifying the trend of your next romance could be the first step to building a great story. We hope these tips from our editors in Harlequin help you. Be sure to highlight the trends and story hooks in your cover letter when the time comes to submit.