A Wish List for Series Romance: What Our Editors Want

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As we wind down SYTYCW 150, the holidays are just around the corner. Do you have your wish list ready? Well, the editors at Harlequin do!

This month, we’re shining a spotlight on our series categories to help you find a good home for that story you’ve been working away at. Whether your story sweeps us away to small-town Montana, a busy London ER or a medieval French court, there’s a category for it. And to celebrate your efforts—and the holiday 150  season—we’re gifting you with some trade secrets. 😉

We asked the series editors at Harlequin to share their story wish lists with us. Want to know what tropes and trends are most popular, and what our series editors are dying to see in a new submission? Read on to find out!

INSPIRATIONAL, HOME & FAMILY

Love Inspired

  • Wish list: Amish stories; Westerns (cowboys/ranchers, etc.); babies/children (twins, triplets, kids under eight); secrets stories (secret babies, secret marriages, secret spouses)
  • Editor faves: single dads, small towns, animals, humor/quirkiness, unexpected plot twists
  • Remember, these stories are about family and community, and feature strong and relatable H&Hs with a core of kindness and whose partnership is equal.

Heartwarming

  • Wish list: stories that feature a strong sense of friendship and community; stories featuring active careers (cops, cowboys, doctors, etc.)
  • Things we see a lot of: chef heroes, bakery stories, romances about fixer-uppers (home and garden). We’re open to new themes, but if you’ve got a unique angle on these, send it in!
  • Remember, these lengthier stories feature characters with traditional values whose stories unfold in a wholesome way.

ROMANCE

Medical

  • Wish list: stories featuring single dads; children’s transplant units; H&H dealing with physical challenges and overcoming them; stories set in big cosmopolitan cities (London, Sydney, Paris, NYC); stories featuring higher sensuality
  • Popular themes and storylines: reunion stories, weddings, guarded hearts, rags to riches, royal/aristocratic docs, babies (pregnancy, secret babies, conception issues/assisted pregnancies), single parents, friends to lovers, holiday romances, falling for the boss, marriage reunited, marriage of convenience, falling for the boss, one night to unexpected pregnancy, fertility/health issues

Harlequin Romance

  • Wish list: surrogacy stories, couples reunited, curvaceous heroines (not currently looking for Westerns).
  • Popular themes and storylines: office romances; reunions stories; weddings or runaway bride; holidays and snowbound romances; rags to riches; royalty/aristocracy/sheikhs; secret babies/pregnancy and “in need of an heir”; friends to lovers or shared past; marriage of convenience; damaged/guarded heroes
  • Remember, these romances are all about glamourous settings, rich, commanding men, and strong intelligent heroines!

Special Edition

  • Wish list: diverse characters, military themes, urban settings, stories featuring switched at birth/mistaken identity/back from the dead. Fresh twists on classic tropes are a must!
  • Popular themes: babies/pregnancy, Westerns, instant families, single parents, pets, military, weddings
  • Remember, these stories feature relatable, proactive leading couples – people you could meet in real life! Sensuality ranges from sweet to sizzling!

HISTORICAL

Harlequin Historical

  • Trending now: marriage of convenience, governess, Cinderella or Ugly Duckling stories, strong and rugged alpha heroes.
  • Diverse characters from all backgrounds and walks of life are always welcome!
  • Remember, these are rich and emotionally intense stories with sweeping settings that span history – from ancient civilization up to World War II.

PASSION

Dare

  • Wish list: Nordic heroes; diversity; badass/go-getter heroines who are empowered in their sexual life as well as their personal/professional life; heroines as the boss (along with original and realistic reasons the hero is working with/for her).
  • We want original, glamourous international settings, high-stakes romance and alpha heroes who meet their match in strong, sexy heroines. And of course, emotional growth to go with the detailed sexy-times!
  • No Western, military, law-enforcement or sports stories, and no paranormal or historical, please! J

Desire

  • Wish list: dramatic and sensual soap opera plots; unique twists on pregnancy/baby stories; first-person POVs; wealthy heroines (doesn’t always have to be the hero); and more authors of colour writing for Desire.
  • What’s selling: some pregnancy/babies stories but not necessary, rich ranchers (wealth in Westerns), a range of emotions (“we want to laugh, cry, and be swept away!”).
  • Popular themes: marriage of convenience, friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, weddings, Christmas.

Presents

  • Popular tropes: marriages of convenience and secret babies. These well-loved story lines feature a couple bound together by circumstance, meaning they can’t escape their magnetic attraction!
  • Readers particularly love an alpha hero who has most of the control in the beginning – he dictates the terms, but it doesn’t mean your heroine can’t be empowered!
  • An intense focus on the couple – no focus on community and little to no secondary cast.

SUSPENSE

Love Inspired Suspense

  • Wish list: Amish, Westerns (cowboys/ranchers), secret babies, protecting babies, amnesia, secret identities, law enforcement heroes, military themes, diverse characters
  • Remember, these riveting stories feature strong characters in suspenseful situations. The heroes are courageous and protective and the heroines are not damsels in distress, but equals!

Intrigue

  • This editorial team is always on the lookout for a great mystery with diverse characters!
  • Remember, a complex mystery is at the centre of these romances. We want fast-paced stories featuring a leading couple whose attraction is as intense as the high-stakes situation they find themselves in.

Romantic Suspense

  • Wish list: Western, law enforcement and military themes, diverse characters, reunion romances, natural disasters, families with scandals/secrets, and (of course) babies!
  • Not looking for: royalty, lighter-hearted stuff, anything too close to current events
  • Classic themes include: revenge, women in jeopardy, espionage, family, Westerns, military and law enforcement. Remember, these are big, sweeping romances amid danger and suspenseful plots and settings!

So there you have it! An editor’s wish list like no other. If your story already takes this into account, good on you! But don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t. Remember, the 150 challenge is an open submission call, and we always encourage aspiring writers to take check up on our series guidelines and the things we share on SYTYCW—you can tweak your WIP to fit, or simply remember this for next time!

You love hearing the editor’s comments, but we’d love to hear from you! Share your favourite series, hooks and tropes in the comments below!

Reply to Kimber Li

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Comments

  1. Kimber Li

    As a Reader & Reviewer, I would add that I’d love for one my favorite lines, Historical, to include more 20th century and Ancient History stories. 🙂 Pretty-please.

    Also, if you call the heroine a nanny, please make her a nanny, you know, a trained, experienced professional committed to her career. Thanks.

  2. Wow, thanks for these uber current wish lists. I’ve read over the series guidelines, of course, but it’s helpful to know what editors are looking for specifically. The more definitive the target, the better my aim. 😉

  3. This is great. How long is it valid for? If I start writing a story with a theme from the wishlist now will the editors have changed their requirements in 3-4 months when my story is ready for submission? Or maybe there will be regular editor wish lists on this blog throughout next year as requirements change?

    • Katie Gowrie

      Hi, J. Tough to give a definitive expiration date for this sort of thing as so much of it depends on what editors see too much/don’t get enough of, and what’s saleable at the time as we respond to marketplace trends. However, as needs change we will update our guidelines on Submittable, and we encourage authors to check in there frequently. Thanks for your question!

  4. Thank you for posting the editors’ wish lists. It’s good to know if we’ve come close to hitting the mark of what they want or need to do more revising to accommodate their wants. And if we have something they don’t want any more of, we can either change that element or work on an alternate to send in. I also appreciate all the feedback we’ve received from the editors during this 150 day challenge.

    • Katie Gowrie

      Hi Becca. Yes, you can submit through normal channels and the review process and response times will be the same as normal (as this is an open submission call). You don’t have to mention that it was part of the challenge but of course you’re welcome to!

  5. Chrissie

    If we are ready to submit say to Special Edition, do we need to put a particular editor’s name we’ve worked with in the past, if they are from a different line or should we just submit and let it go where it may? I’ve worked with three different Harlequin editors, but from three different lines. I have not submitted to Special Edition before, though one of the editors suggested my voice would be a good fit there. I’ve polished and edited my WIP, so I hope it sparkles. Thanks to all of you for this challenge. I didn’t need it to complete or inspire my work, but all the hints are very helpful. 🙂