Does anyone remember the old style sweet romances? Not today’s sweet romances, but those short contemporaries of the ‘60s and ‘70s that matched up young, virginal heroines (who were often poor and alone in life) with older, worldlier heroes, who were always very rich, very handsome, and very, very alpha?
Believe it or not, I once wrote one. (Yep, me, who now writes erotic-romances. Talk about moving from one extreme to the other, LOL.) In fact, I would have written more, but the publisher closed. It was fun while it lasted though. I honestly liked those old style sweets—both reading and writing them. They were like fairytales in a way. Also, my mother and older brother were writing them at the same time I was, which added to the fun. The year was 1978—I was an innocent young thing of 23 (almost as young and innocent as those novels’ heroines, come to think of it)—and the three of us were writing for the MacFadden Romance line, which was published out of NY in the late ‘70s. If you’ve never heard of that line, just picture the old original Harlequins and you’ll have a good idea of what a MacFadden romance was like.
They were called “formula romances,” a term that’s considered rather derogatory today, but it didn’t seem so back then. True, the books were written to a pretty specific formula, but it was one that readers enjoyed. It worked, just like a recipe for one’s favorite food. If you like a particular dish, you can eat it often without tiring of it, right? That’s the reader perspective, anyway, as I see it.
As an author, now, I found the challenge in writing this sort of book was discovering how creative I could be within the confines of the assigned formula. To use another food analogy, it was like cooking with limited ingredients but still doing one’s best to produce a tasty meal. My mother, for instance, always managed to season her MacFaddens with a dash of mystery and suspense, whereas mine contained a generous sprinkling of comedy, so though we were using the same basic recipe, our stories still had different flavors.
My brother, on the other hand, was a little too creative, so to speak, and ended up having to rewrite half of his before it could be published. What he did, actually, was… Are you ready for this?… He wrote a ROMANY hero. (Gasp. LOL) Nowadays, of course, that would be fine, but we couldn’t slip it past the “formula police” back then, and he had to change it. I received a wee bit of criticism, too, for writing a hero with an Irish accent, which was also considered a tad un-formula. Mind you, an Irish hero was okay, but apparently I should have had him educated in England so he could have an English accent. My bad. However, I convinced my editor to let it stay by regaling her with tales of the Irish rugby team my two roommates and I had dated for one weekend back in college, thereby proving that it was indeed a sexy accent and added a worthwhile dimension to his character. (Big grin)