One of the knocks against category romance I hear most often is that the books are just “too short.” Simply screaming an emphatic “You’re wrong!” doesn’t seem to work all that well, so I go another route. That route is by suggesting to reluctant category readers that they might want to try a Harlequin SuperRomance, the category romance equivalent to a gateway drug.
I started my romance reading life as a casual reader of category romance, reading only on occasion. I turned to category as a palate cleanser, when I wanted to read something different from my usual poison of historical romance. I liked the format, but I wasn’t over-the-moon, addicted to it.
That is, until a SuperRomance landed in my lap and it was love at first sight.
The appeal of SuperRomance is that they’re the longest contemporary category romance line in the Harlequin universe. Omitting a brief, unfortunate period in recent memory when they experimented with chopping back word counts, Supers tend to clock in around 270 pages or so.
What does this mean? Well, not only are readers still going to get that intense focus on the romantic couple that is found in all categories, they’re also going to get more in the way of subplots and secondary characters. Authors have a bit more wiggle-room in the world-building department.
Supers very often feature authentic-feeling characters in emotional storylines. I often say that the characters in a SuperRomance novel could be people you know in real life. That woman you see at the grocery store, one of the local cops you see patrolling the streets, maybe your next door neighbor. They feel like real people.
Likewise, when I want a deeper, emotional story, maybe with a touch of angst tossed in for good measure, Supers are where I can usually find them. Conflict that you can really sink your teeth into, featuring characters wrestling with real-life issues. A good Super is an emotionally messy story that I can really believe in. A story that feels so real, and so authentic, that it’s easy to forget that it’s actually fiction. This emotional angst component to Supers also spills over into the sensuality department. While I have stumbled across gentler G-rated stories in older titles, these days Supers tend to comfortably sit in PG to PG-13 rated territory.
Romance in general, but category romances especially, have that stigma of being nothing but fairy-tale escapism. I’m not going to say that you’ll never get a fairy-tale quality out of a Super, but the added emotional punch to the storylines, and the authentic feeling characters, definitely add a certain satisfying weight to the happy-ever-after. When I want a book that’s literally going to move me? When I want a book that’s going to stick with me for days on end? When I want a book that’s going to send me over the moon into “OMG, this was such an awesome read!” orbit? Yeah, I go looking for a Super.
Wendy Crutcher, Fighting For Truth, Justice and the Right to Read What You Want