RNA Conference Penrith 09: Mills and Boon Editors on Series Romance

Posted on Posted in Romance Fiction, Romantic Fiction Craft, Starting a New Story, Story Structure

I write for Harlequin Mills and Boon. So any presentation from Mills and Boon editors is a brilliant, brilliant resource.

Jenny Hutton and Meg Lewis from the Richmond office took time out of their hectic schedule to give a presentation on Saturday on:

“Digging Deeper” – Creating  Diversity and Variety in Series Romance

Many Series Romance Stories are based on popular themes but these can be very difficult to write in a convincing and believable way.

THE TOP FIVE THEMES and their associated challenges are:

1.      Marriage of Convenience.

  • Are the actions and reactions of the heroine and hero believable? What would YOU do if faced with that dilemma of a situation?
  • Are the motivations clear and unambiguous –do they make sense? Does our hero NEED a wife? What would our heroine sleep with a man who has shown no integrity?
  • Why are you using this as a plot device? Is there another way of bringing the characters together?

[ My note – Marriage of Convenience also applies to pretend engagements and pretend couples and is not limited to fiction- see the current Movie ‘ The Proposal’ where Sandra Bullock pretends that she is engaged to her PA to prevent being deported from the US to Canada. And they fall in love on the way.]

 2.      Marriage on the Rocks.

  • The obstacles and problems in the marriage must be based on compelling and heart wrenching emotional conflict and dilemmas and how that conflict impacts the loving relationship.

Recent examples include infertility and adoptions.

 3.      One Night Baby/ Secret Baby

  • This can be very difficult to make convincing within the framework of a loving and committed relationship. You have to know the characters flaws and strengths and build powerful reasons why the heroine has not told the hero about this baby in a world of modern communications. And contraception.

 4.      Traumatic Past

  • The issue itself should not drive the story – it should be the emotional exploration of the impact on the person and in turn, how this affects the love story.
  • Not depressing. Readers are promised an uplifting story.

 5.      Revenge or Blackmail Plot

  • The hero returns to punish our heroine and force her into his bed and she weakly agrees. This could be very effective in an historical romance, but is it relevant to contemporary women? How would this be the start of a powerful loving relationship – and a romantic one?
  • If this is based on a misunderstanding which could have been resolved in a simple conversation [aka ‘Who was that man you were hugging and kissing last night, oh, that was my brother who is off to Antartica for 18 months’ ] the hero will look foolish, without integrity and the reader frustrated.
  • Revenge must be well motivated – why does one person want revenge on another?  You have to express this powerful emotional drive through the characters and their flaws.


Readers want to follow the journey of two interesting characters as they fall in love against the odds, rather than puppets who have been forced to act out of character to fit into a particular theme or plot line. These stories must be character driven rather than plot or theme driven.

Editors are looking for original voices who can bring something fresh and unique to a series – you have to be able to bring something new.


  • Stretch your imagination
  • Stay true to the promise of the Romance Genre.
  • It is all about the characters:
    • Take them on a Journey
    • Show how those characters grow and change on their journey
    • Start with the characters- not the plot or theme.
    • The characters should shape the plot. What is interesting about them?
    • Ask why the heroine – and the reader- should fall in love with this hero.
    • Are the hero and heroine equally matched?
  • What is the story that you want to tell? And only YOU can tell?


Hope the notes help – especially if you combine them with my notes from the presentation from Jessica Hart. IMHO these ideas apply to ANY subgenre of Romance Fiction.

Happy writing.


5 thoughts on “RNA Conference Penrith 09: Mills and Boon Editors on Series Romance

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *