Photo by Jamie Moncrief/Copyright

Monday, September 27, 2010

a chance for the romance genre

The first round of results is in, and the editors at Mills & Boon have whittled the 824(!) entries in their New Voices competition for unpublished writers down to 10 finalists. Even though they didn't pick my entry (I know, go figure), I'm pleased to see that the writing is, for the most part, pretty good.

Sure, a few of the finalists would never have made my short list. But that's understandable. No two people will agree with every choice. In fact, the post announcing the finalists gives the impression that even the editors had some throw-downs over what to choose (here's hoping at least one of them is sporting some bruises earned in support of "Deadline," entered under my pen name, McKenna Darby).

What I find truly exciting, though, is one of the entries that did make the list. It's well-written, poignant, and completely different from your run-of-the-mill category romance. It is set somewhere in what I guess to be the Middle East, and it focuses on a married couple struggling to save their relationship. He's the country's leader, she's the wife trying to reconcile herself to the demands of his job and the conventions of his culture. Each is desperately in love with the other, but through miscommunication, competing priorities, and their failure to conceive a child they're each terrified the relationship is crumbling and that it's their fault. Acknowledging that is the one admission neither dares to make.

I don't know how long the author can sustain the tension of the first chapter, but I'm rooting big time for these two characters and for their creator, Kara Jacobe. I hope she wins the whole thing. Why? Because she took a chance. She didn't write to a formula. She dared to tell a touching story, not about a couple falling in love but about one that is already married. And she did it well enough to make it through the first and toughest test against a collection of stories that I have mostly seen before. In a world of too many cookie-cutter Regency romances, that strikes me as cause for celebration.

In the next round, readers who vote have some influence on the outcome; not much, but some. If Chapter 2 proves to be as compelling as Chapter 1, I'll be throwing my support behind "The Royal Marriage Rescue." Not because it's perfect, but because it surprised and touched me. And that's an accomplishment I definitely want to encourage more editors and agents to support.

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  1. Bernadette: I'm having trouble leaving a comment. I think Blogger is ill. I came here from a digest to read your post. I didn't enter the M&B contests, because I'm pubbed, but still, it's always good to see what the editors picked. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Blogger is definitely ill. It took me about nine tries to get this post up. Especially given that, thanks so much for stopping by, Joyce. Always delighted to connect with someone I haven't seen here before.

  3. Awww...I hope lots of editors are sporting bruises. I can't wait to hear you got "the call" one of these days soon.

  4. Here's what Editor Sally Williamson of M&B had to say about this entry, which she will be mentoring through the rest of the competition:

    "This first chapter is amazing. The sense of emotion and tension created between Rafiq and Joselyn had my skin tingling – and it was done in such a wonderfully subtle, well-written way. I was absolutely gripped from beginning to end! What I also loved was that the chapter so brilliantly portrayed a marriage in crisis and evoked that breakdown in communication between a husband and wife that reveals all the cracks in a relationship. Going forward I would really encourage Kara to keep the focus on this – it left me absolutely desperate to read more!"

    So Sally and I saw this one precisely the same way. Maybe I should be an editor instead of a writer!