And he was so taken by her passionate writings, he swept her up into his powerful arms, and delivered her into a life she never knew before.
In this case, the passionate writer is local author Juanita Critch (pen name J. Margot Critch), and “he” is publishing with powerhouse Harlequin.
In May, Critch’s novel, In the Boss’s Bed (her first for Harlequin), was published. The company has been publishing romance novels since 1953, available in 34 languages, and read by millions of fans that like the bodices ripped and their gazes smouldering.
Critch got her break last year, when the editors at Harlequin Blaze tweeted about an open submission call for manuscripts. “They offered guaranteed feedback on a synopsis and the first chapter,” says Critch. “So, I submitted In the Boss’s Bed, and a month later, to my surprise, I had a request for my full manuscript, and then some time later, they told me that they wanted to publish it.”
Writing for an international publishing house with a rabid fanbase could be a daunting task, but Critch did her homework.
“Before I submitted to the Blaze line, I entirely immersed myself in it,” she says.
“I read as much Harlequin Blaze as I could get my hands on, and became familiar with the style and the voice they were looking for… When you write for Harlequin, you aren’t just writing in the ‘romance genre.’ There are requirements for each imprint that set them apart from each other. For Blaze (the line I write for), they want contemporary, fun and sexy, and that’s how I wrote it.”
“It’s a little more explicit in its descriptions and language used,” says Critch of the Blaze imprint. “There’s freedom to be a little more risqué. Some of the sweeter lines [like ‘Superromance’] will end a romantic scene with a kiss and the rest will go on behind closed doors, where the sex is implied. Blaze doesn’t end there, and as long as it isn’t too repetitive or gratuitous, it will go into more explicit detail.”
However, it isn’t just sex. The emotional pay-off has to be high, as well, says Critch. “The HEA (happily ever after) is the one of the only rules of writing romance, and it shows that no matter what conflict the couple faces during the book, that love always wins out.”
Critch has also found some literary success outside the mega-publisher, with her own self-published novel, Bump & Grind, the first of her romantic suspense series. “That one is set in St. John’s, is darker, edgier, and allowed me to explore themes that didn’t fit the Blaze line.”
“It’s set in a fictional downtown St. John’s cafe named Brewed Moon, and each book focuses on the women who work there, and a group of sexy police detectives,” says Critch, who drew inspiration from eight years of experience working at a cafe, as well as the Michael Chiklis cop drama, The Shield.
“I kind of wanted to do a quasi-dirty cop drama mash-up with a coffee shop setting. There’s danger, drama, sex, humour, and I’m really proud of it.”
Critch is currently in the middle of edits of her second Harlequin Blaze novel, which will be released February 2017, as well as a follow-up to Bump & Grind (available as an ebook on Amazon), planning a September release.