If you’re a romance reader and/or writer, odds are pretty good that at some point in your life, someone has responded to your proclamation of love for romance novels with, “Oh, like those Harlequin novels? I could write one of those! They’re so formulaic!”
Or, as Nora Bing explained in a first-season episode of Friends, “If I can do it, anybody can. You just start with half a dozen European cities, throw in thirty euphemisms for male genitalia, and bam! You have got yourself a book.”
Anyone who has ever actually tried to write a category romance, however, knows how tricky writing to that formula actually is. Because, sure, European cities and euphemisms, but you have to tell a compelling story in a concise 55,000 or so words.
Harlequin’s Presents lines is one of my not-so-guilty pleasures, and in some ways, those books are every romance novel stereotype—foreign settings, alpha male heroes, heavy on the soap opera tropes—but in the hands of a skilled author, they are also super fun reads. When I decided to write a book for the Dreamspun Desires line, I essentially set out to write a gay Harlequin Presents.
And the process turned out to be a lot more difficult than I expected!
Some skill is required to structure a plot that fits within the format. It’s not a structure that works for every writer. Not too angsty, only two sex scenes, a fluffy, trope-heavy plot, but still a story that keeps readers turning the pages—it’s tricky to write.
The Greek Tycoon’s Green Card Groom really started with a list of tropes—marriage of convenience, billionaire hero—and then a little bit of brainstorming with other authors led to the title, and then I had to figure out what I could do to mix it up. What if the titular tycoon were broke! What if he’s only alpha on the outside but a marshmallow on the inside? What if he and his love interest kind of hate each other at first?
I was off to the races pretty quickly, but mastering how to pace that kind of book, how much detail and backstory to include, how to tell a whole story in a shorter format, all of those things were tricky to navigate. After I sent the completed manuscript to a beta reader, her first comment was to point out a hole in the plot that made the whole story unravel, so I had to figure out how to fix it. (Thank goodness for beta readers, though! Glad I caught that before I submitted it.)
The lesson I learned is that writing a category romance is deceptively hard, but I like to think I’ve conquered the formula and put out a book that’s fun and romantic.
The Greek Tycoon’s Green Card Groom
Marriage gets less convenient when love is involved.
It started simple: Ondrej Kovac marries Archie Katsaros so Ondrej can stay in the US, away from his judgmental family in eastern Europe. Archie marries Ondrej in exchange for the money to bail out his failing company. It’s a fraud neither man is convinced he can pull off.
But as Archie introduces Ondrej to New York society and Ondrej proves his skill in the office, they start to discover a connection between them. Can they overcome the rocky foundation their relationship was built on, meddling immigration agents, gossip columnists determined to out their deception, and an aggressive executive set on selling Archie’s company out from under him? Only if they can prove to each other their love is worth fighting for.
Review by Roroblu’sMum
A novel experience – an MF style romance, just with MM leads. A bit Mills-and-Boon-ish, but retreat to the 90s and enjoy!!
This is well-written, but it felt dated, as it reminded me of old Mills and Boon novels, with the traditional male/female roles fulfilled by two guys. I can’t say that I found it entirely believable, either on the Greek front or on the Greek ‘tycoon’ front, but if I pretended that it was an M&B novel, it reminded me of the 90s stuff that I used to read, and technically, it worked.
The tale was rather far-fetched, again reminiscent of M&B, but here, the guys seemed to share the position of power. I couldn’t quite believe that one was made to fit so perfectly into the female role (without being effeminate) and the other into a male role, but it was a novel read, because it’s not like any other MM tale I’ve read, and tbh, it didn’t read as a contemp. At the same time, it was a nice trip down M&B memory lane and I did read it with a fond smile on my face.
Star Rating: ★★★
Meet Kate McMurray
Kate McMurray is an award-winning romance author and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers and is currently the president of the New York City chapter of RWA. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.