Wednesday, April 30, 2014

When is a romance a romance? by E. Ayers

Author E. Ayers talks about defining 

a romance book

When is a romance a romance? In today’s reading world, a romance means it will have a happily-ever-after. If the hero or heroine dies in the end, even if it were the most romantic thing you ever read, it’s not considered a romance. You’ll find that tragic story in general fiction. And there went all that stuff you were taught in school about romances. Sorry, Romeo and Juliet, you’re not a romance.

Almost every popular book, including ones written for men by men, has some sort of a romance in it. It could be a war story and there will be a romance tucked in it. Men like reading books with a happily ever after, too. Books are an investment of time. In the end, you want the good guy to get the girl.

Today’s romances have evolved and now include romances between two females or two males, and can also include more than one partner. Most people think that those stories are only in the erotic genre. Not so. We’ve seen a broadening of the spectrum in the last few years.

The other change we’ve seen is romance now happens to anyone of any color, or size. A friend of mine started reading romances when she was thirteen. She devoured them, often reading a book a night, even through college. She honestly believed you had to be slender, blonde, blue-eyed, and always beautiful to have a romantic relationship. The rest of the world just found someone compatible and got married. That had to be a tough way to grow up when your skin is the color of cocoa, and your hair is dark and curly. There are more romances available today for women of color - all colors. And heroes also come in various colors.

In my own books, I recognize that we aren’t all petite blondes with blue eyes. Some women are short and others are tall. Some are curvy and some aren’t. And beauty really is in the eyes of the beholder. The same goes for my heroes.

Most of the world falls into what is considered average. There are very few truly beautiful people in this world. We’ve all seen those fashion magazines with those women on the front cover. A dear friend happens to be an orthodontist and he pointed out some flaws on several women on covers. I began to look at those women in a different light. Take the makeup off and without airbrushing, most look like average people.

The size of the heroine has changed. For years, traditional publishing wouldn’t allow authors to write stories about chubby women. The author might hint she was chubby, but she couldn’t say the women wore a size 22. Today’s heroines can wear a 22 or a 16. She can be solid packed muscle or just soft and rounded.

It doesn’t matter if the hero is wearing a kilt or a Stetson. He can be a redhead with a million freckles or a lean, quiet bean counter for a small company. He or she can carry a sword, gun, lazer, or blast a bad guy with some powerful beam from his or her eyes. People want to feel good about their fellow man or woman. And they want a reason for good things to happen.

The general romance genre has changed, and now it can happen to anyone, at any time, and in any situation. A romance might include a lot of other things beyond the boy-meets-girl stories, but it will always end on a happily ever after or at least a happy for now. People want to escape. And what better way to do it than with a romance?

In A Rancher’s Woman, I took a girl with long blonde hair and blue eyes, and paired her with a Crow Indian. They were total opposites. He was as fascinated with her coloring as she was with his. I stirred in the history and social customs of Victorian times and created a true-to-life western. It just happens to have a romance in it. I like writing books with happy endings.

How did a contemporary author wind up writing historical westerns? It’s a twisted path, but in my book A Snowy Christmas in Wyoming I mention the diary of Clare Coleman, one of the original settlers in Wyoming. Suddenly my readers were asking for the diary. I dove into the research and began to write it. Then Debra Holland asked me to be part of her Sweetwater Springs Christmas. I put the diary to one side, and “borrowed” the grandson of Clare Coleman for A Christmas Far From Home. That’s when I realized I had another tale. Malene Reiner, who is the sister to the heroine in A Christmas Far From Home, and Mark “Many Feathers” Hunter took over, and I had to write their story, A Rancher’s Woman.

I promise I’m working on the diary, but it won’t be a romance. It’s Clare’s life story – her entire life living in Wyoming. But in the meantime, my readers can enjoy A Rancher’s Woman and visit with Clare’s family.

I was thrilled, shocked, and honored to have A Rancher’s Woman accepted into a site that collects and maintains a Native American Encyclopedia. It is also a USA Today recommended book.

If you like following me around on the Internet, you’ll find me in the following places.


(Creeds Crossing Historical)
By E. Ayers

Coddled and protected from the harsh realities of life, Malene runs away from a bad marriage by posing as a chaperone to her younger sister. A series of events soon prove she’s capable of standing on her own two feet. However, she’s not prepared to follow her heart and accept marriage from the one man who truly loves her.

Many Feathers' chance encounter with a blue-eyed blonde woman sets him on a path that lands him between the white man's ways and the traditions of his people. Determined to protect his people and prove his worthiness as a suitable husband to a white woman, he stakes claim to land and establishes a ranch. But there's one outlaw focused on destroying Many Feathers and everything he's trying to accomplish.

Author’s Note on A Rancher’s Woman:

I’m not a historian, but what I’ve had to learn in order to accurately write western historical fiction boggles my mind. Hundreds of hours of research have been poured into this book. From social customs, clothing, furniture, appliances, forts, government surplus, shipping boxes, cardboard, and trains, it was all researched. Even the plague that hit Bombay and the trading ships that anchored, but supposedly never picked up supplies had to be researched. So many historians have helped me along the way from the wonderful folks at BNSF Railway to the Bureau of Indian Affairs aka BIA.

I’d start to write a paragraph and then spend six hours in research. A previous job had me spending hours looking at old photos and deciphering everything from plants to clothing and even possible colors. Those skills were applied to so many old western photos taken in Wyoming and of the Crow tribe for they are often more accurate than the written history of the time. It’s been a labor of love.

The atrocities that we, as white men, have imposed on our Native Americans/American Indians are unforgivable. As an author I hope I can help people understand what we did to the American Indians either directly, or indirectly by our presence. The Crows have always respected their environment, the wildlife around them, held their women in high esteem, loved their children, and truly were the stewards of this great land. Mark “Many Feathers” Hunter is fictional, but he’s based on their heritage, the white man’s pressures, and human nature, which we all share. I hope he is worthy of being an Apsáalooke (Crow).

A very big thank you to my friends who happen to be everything from harbormasters to ships’ captains, train engineers, modern day importers, or married to American Indians for all your help. Their ability to point me in the right direction to find necessary information and explaining things has made a huge difference.

Today, most of us cannot imagine a young woman going to another city to marry a man because her father said to do it. Yet, in that day and age, women did and still do in places around the globe. My own great-grandmother’s marriage was arranged. I know from my father, she had no say-so in it. She did as her father instructed.

My heart and soul went into this book and I hope you, the reader, find it a worthy of your time. It’s a cold, hard glimpse at life in the West, minus the glamour and romanticized notions that romance readers have come to expect. But through it all is a love between two people that can’t be ignored.


  1. Thanks so much E for talking about dynamics in romance writing. I love how you explained how the Crow Indian was just as fascinated with the blonde, blue-eyed woman as she was with him. Opposites do attract.

  2. In today's world with all the media, we can't imagine seeing someone so completely different. But for a man who had little contact with the world outside the reservation and a sheltered woman who had never seen much of the world, seeing a man with red skin and hair below his waist would be very strange.