Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Writing a Tame Romance in the Age of 50 Shades by Nicole Evelina

Please welcome Nicole Evelina to the Roses today with a fresh take on choosing her genre of romance.

I’ll be the first to admit that my award-winning romantic comedy Been Searching for You is about as far away from the erotica craze as you can get. It’s not technically a “sweet” or “clean” novel because it does have adult language (my characters are adults, after all) and references to sex, but other than some kissing and groping, the action takes place off the page. If it was a movie (which hopefully someday it will be), it would likely be rated PG-13. 

I’m not an inspirational/religious writer and my historical fiction novels are more graphic than Been Searching for You. So, in a time when “mommy porn” and all things BDSM seem to be the rage in the romance industry, why did I choose to go the alternate route, rather than writing where the money is? A few reasons:

  1. Sexy/steamy/graphic romance has never been to my taste. Even as a reader, I prefer to use my imagination. After all, a good writer can do a lot with some sexual tension and the power of suggestion. If I feel that way, chances are good that a portion of the reading audience does as well.
  2. Romance novels are widely believed (rightly or wrongly) to be all about sex. I wanted to prove that you could have a very romantic storyline that goes beyond the “will they or won’t they” or “when will they” questions in its plot into deeper issues (in this case the value of liberal arts education, the power of trust in yourself and others, and the sometimes conflicting nature of friendship). I know other books do this, but to people who have the misconception that they are all bodice-rippers, another one in the “more to it” column never hurts.
And most importantly,  

  1. I miss old-fashioned love stories. 
I grew up on romantic comedies like Pretty Woman and Bridget Jones’ Diary, in the halcyon days of the late 80s and 90s when you couldn’t go to a movie theatre without tripping over a Gary Marshal or Nora Ephron film. Those funny, sweet movies shaped my view of romance as something kind and gentle, as opposed to films like Trainwreck and its ilk, which are being hailed as “modern” romantic comedies. Please, please give me You’ve Got Mail (even though I don’t like Tom Hanks), While You Were Sleeping or French Kiss any day over those. 

I like the meet-cutes, goofy heroines and the inevitable happy ending. I like leaving the movie or closing the book feeling like love, peace and romance still have a shot in modern society. However, I’m not a big fan of the obviously contrived deception, so you won’t see much of that. (You know the storyline: the fake boyfriend/fiancée, the woman pretending to be rich when she’s not, the person with a lie that will have to come out in the end.) There is a plot line toward the end that involves deception, but it’s on the part of a villain, not the hero or heroine so it’s not the typical trope. 

At the end of a long day, I want to read or watch a story where women are wooed, not beaten into submission (even if it’s done with their desire and permission). In a world where our political system is worse than a circus and terrorism, the economy and public/school shootings are daily concerns, we need fairy-tale like escapism. That’s what rom-coms are, after all, fairy tales for those who have outgrown Cinderella, but still want the prince and princess to get married in the end.  

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with the wilder side of romance. If that’s your thing, go for it. But it’s not mine and I hope that I’ve provided a fun alternative others who feel like I do.

PS – Due to fan demand, I’ve recently decided to extend Been Searching for You from a standalone into the first book in a series. Each book will cover a different couple from the series (from the woman’s POV only, which is the way I write), but you’ll still get to see what else happens in the lives of the characters you’ve grown to love. There will be at least two more books in this unnamed series, but there is a possibility for more. And yes, they will remain on the sweet side. 


Annabeth is a hopeless romantic who believes in soul mates. In fact, she’s been writing to hers each year on her birthday since she was 16.

Now, at 34, she’s still holding out hope of finding Mr. Right even though he’d be fighting an uphill battle to gain her trust, thanks to a traumatic experience years before that’s left her unable to commit. 

When Annabeth meets a handsome literature professor named Alex on her 34th birthday, she thinks her quest may finally be at an end. Things don’t quite go as planned, so Annabeth resolves to do everything she can over the next year to find the unknown recipient of her letters.  But blind dates, Meetup events and online singles sites have nothing on what fate has in store for her when a co-worker unexpectedly quits and Annabeth finds herself working in close quarters with both Alex and her long ago ex, Nick. Fighting her attraction to one and loathing for the other, Annabeth is forced to face all of her old insecurities while keeping an eye on a scheming frienemy who may derail her hopes and dreams. 

Written in the tradition of Bridget Jones' Diary, Kim Gruenfelder’s A Total Waste of Makeup, and Melissa Pimental’s Love By The Book, this romantic comedy shows that love on the sweet side can exist for the modern girl, if only she’s willing to trust herself and search hard enough. 

Been Searching for You was the winner of the Romance category in the 2016 Colorado Independent Publishing Association’s EVVY Awards, as well as the 2015 Romance Writers of America Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.


Ever since I was a teenager and Angela Chase, the main character on the teen drama My So-Called Life, said she equated the ticking of the 60 Minutes clock to the end of the weekend, I’ve hated Sunday nights. But none quite so much as this one.

            Not only was I facing the first morning of the new regime at work, but Alex was leaving for the conference too. I was so nervous that not even two glasses of wine could steady me. Alex, on the other hand, was the definition of calm and collected, watching TV as if this was any other night. It was driving me crazy. Finally, I kicked him gently in the ankle.

            That got his attention. “Ow! What was that for?”
            “How can you possibly be so calm? Your interview is tomorrow morning. Why aren’t you freaking out?”

            “Because you’re doing that enough for both of us.” He grinned and pulled me down next to him, pinning my hands behind my back and covering my face in kisses.

By the time he came up for air, I couldn’t help but smile back.

“I was going to wait to give this to you, but it looks like you need it now.” He fished a long, thin rectangular block out of the pocket of his tan wool sweater and presented it to me.

When I looked closer, I realized it was one of those weekly pill boxes that older people keep their daily medications in so they know if they took them or not. “You’re giving me drugs?”

“No. I’ll leave it to you to medicate yourself. Open the one for today.”

I popped open the lid on the far left marked with a capital S for Sunday. A small folded piece of paper jumped out at me, leaving a bed of dark chocolate Mini Kisses behind. I opened the page and read. “‘This note entitles the bearer to a single wish fulfilled.’”

Alex leaned over and whispered a few racy suggestions in my ear.

            My face flushed in response. “I’m up for that.”

            He pried my fingers from around the pill box. “And that’s just the beginning. Each day has a little surprise in it to help you get through the week since I won’t be here to help you in person.”

            I placed a hand on the side of his face and kissed him. “This has to be the most thoughtful thing anyone has done for me. How in the world did you think of it?”

            “I could lie and say it was my own ingenuity, but I’m man enough to admit I found it on Pinterest.”

            “I think it’s very sexy when a man is willing to admit to being crafty.”

            “Oh, you’ve seen nothing yet. Just wait until Valentine’s Day. There’ll be crafty things all over this apartment.”

            “Should I start calling you Mr. Stewart?” I giggled.

            “Perhaps not, but that does conjure a lovely mental image of you in only an apron.”

            Biting my lip to hide a grin, I waited until Alex turned back to the TV. Then I bounded to the kitchen, grabbed the apron that hung on the oven door, and shed my clothes. A moment later, he had his wish.

I crooked my finger at him. “About that desire you were going to fulfill?”

            “I think I said ‘wish,’ but I won’t argue over semantics.” He wrapped his arms around me, palms resting on my bare rear end.

            “Oh, this sounds like the plot to a romance novel,” I said, pulling his sweater up over his head. “The naughty cook who needs a lesson from the hot English professor.”

            He gave me a wolfish grin. “I like the way you think.”

            He carried me to the bedroom and made sure I didn’t have any time that night to worry about what the next day would bring.

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Jannine Gallant said...

Seems as if you've found your niche. I don't shut the bedroom door, but I don't do graphic. I shoot for a happy medium that will sell books but not make my daughters cringe in horror that "Mom wrote that!" Best of luck turning your book into a series.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Thanks for joining us today, Nicole. I'm always amazed at the ever-broadening spectrum of romance. I like that there are choices, but we end up having to define ourselves so the reader who prefers our 'type' can find us. And although I understand completely your branding with Bridget Jones Diary and Sleepless in Seattle, the newest generation might not connect with those references. (Some people have never heard of An Affair to Remember...can you believe THAT loss?) Heavy sigh goes here. Since I write romantic suspense, I also have to consider how much blood is spilled, how many people die in my books and how much forensic detail I the reader can decide if mine is the right book for her. Another heavy sigh. Our covers and our blurbs have a big job to do to tell the reader what's inside! Best of luck with your series!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Welcome. I'm with you on less is more regarding love scenes. Horrifying daughters and all. Best of luck developing your series. I recently did that. It's fun to revisit our characters.

Leah St. James said...

Welcome, Nicole! When you mentioned growing up on "Bridget Jones' Diary" and "Pretty Women," I had to laugh. In my head I substituted "An Affair to Remember" (like Rolynn) and "Casablanca," although both were a BIT before my time. Those were the days when Lucy and Ricky Ricardo turned in every night on twin beds...separately. :-) I agree with Rolynn that the broad range of genres and heat levels is one thing that makes romance the best-selling genre it is. While I like my romance on the steamier side, a good romance that makes me feel the emotions will leave me happy every time.

Diane Burton said...

Welcome, Nicole. I don't think a writer can force herself to write what isn't comfortable-or what she doesn't want to write. Readers can tell. There's a spot for books of all types, from each end of the spectrum. Like we've been talking here lately, while we each write the way that works best for us, our topics have to be what we want to write. Best wishes.