May 11 2011 9:00am

Super Duper: Harlequin SuperRomance, the Gateway Category

His Wife for One Night by Molly O’KeefeOne 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.

A Holiday Romance by Carrie AlexanderSupers 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.

Recommended Reads:

His Wife for One Night by Molly O’Keefe
The Man Behind the Cop by Janice Kay Johnson
A Holiday Romance by Carrie Alexander
A Not-So-Perfect Past by Beth Andrews


Wendy Crutcher, Fighting For Truth, Justice and the Right to Read What You Want

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Victoria Janssen
1. VictoriaJanssen
Supers are my favorite categories these days. I discovered several favorite authors from that line thanks to your recommendations!

I have a stash of unread Janice Kay Johnson that I dole out to myself.
Wendy the Super Librarian
2. SuperWendy
@VictoriaJanssen You have no idea how hard it was for me to pick just one Janice Kay Johnson Super to recommend. She's got a huge backlist I'm still collecting (and working through), but I easily could have listed like 4 or 5 of her titles here as recommendations. I fought the urge, and dialed it back a bit :) Figured potential readers would probably prefer a wee bit of variety....
Amber McMichael
3. buriedbybooks
Wendy, you are so bad for my TBR. Honestly.

I'm one of those who often lament the word counts of the other Harlequin category lines. (Although not usually with SR). I think it's because so few authors seem to be able to keep their focus narrow enough that I don't feel cheated on characterization.

I love SRs because they are emotional. Much of the conflict is internal, and sometimes the longer non-category romances seem to use external conflicts as a crutch to prop up bigger word counts. And we do have enough room with the SR line to get some character back story in there, too.
4. HannahI
I would also recomend Harlequin Romance (or even some in the HP Extra line) for non-series readers who like chick lit. SuperRomance=the series equivalent of women's fiction in my mind.
I have lots of SRs in my TBR pile including the latest by Janice Kay Johnson, which looks really good.
5. JILL Q.
Congratulations, Wendy. You have now covered my two favorite Harlequin lines. One of my favorite, "make me laugh, make me cry" authors is Susan Gable. I especially like that she sets most her stories in Erie, PA. No offense to the many authors who write Westerns (and the readers who love them!!!) but non Western is generally my personal preference.
Rakisha Kearns-White
6. BrooklynShoeBabe
Personally, I don't like a hefty romance novel--anything past the 200 page point, so I'm a sucker for the Desire and Blaze lines. I used to think that if I wanted something without a little bit more emotional depth than I could just borrow a traditional "women's fiction" title. However, I am reading a SuperRomance novel right now that I'm really enjoying. It is called Texas Two-Step by Liz Talley, and it is wonderfully paced, the characters are fleshed out, and there's loads of passion and inner monologues. I picked it up thinking it was a cowboy story (I love those among all others), but I wasn't disappointed when I found out it wasn't. I'm looking forward to reading other SuperRomances.
Wendy the Super Librarian
7. SuperWendy
@buriedbybooks - I like external conflict (hey, I started out life as a mystery/suspense reader!) - but I gotta be honest that the big draw for me in the romance genre is all the internal "stuff."

@HannahI - Supers do tend to revolve around "issues," and the
comparison to women's fiction is an apt one. The important difference
being that readers will always get their romance fix with a Super :)
It's the best of both worlds!

@JILL Q. - I know she's written several, but Gable is one of the HSR
authors I haven't tried yet. That said, she's naturally waiting for me
in my TBR :)

@BrooklynShoeBabe - Talley's one of the newer authors within the HSR line, and I've got a couple of hers waiting for me on my Sony Reader (pretty sure Texas Two-Step is one of them!). I love a good emotional "angsty" read, and Supers tend to give that to me. Hence, it being one of my favorite lines.
Rakisha Kearns-White
8. BrooklynShoeBabe
The book is called Vegas Two Step, lol. I keep calling it Texas because that is where the main character lives. I finished it today. (it is abouut a small town librarian who unleashes her wild side in Vegas but falls in love with her fling.) Whew. The ending was superhot AND romantic. I think you'll like it.
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