Writing Comfort Reads

I should be editing book 5, which has taken a little longer to draft than I’d like, but I am interrupting that to reflect on something I’ve been thinking about a lot. One review today made me think more about it.

We’ll Always Have Venice has had the best start of all my books on Netgalley, which I’m thrilled about. When I wrote it, I wrote the book I wanted to read at that moment, full of funny, loveable characters with amusing flaws and playing around with tropes I love, just for fun: friends-to-lovers, a super-swoony hero and only-one-bed scenes. It is designed to be a comfort read. The characters do have some heartache, but they overcome it and it doesn’t get unpleasant at all.

Romance novels are marvellous comfort reads. Not all of them are comfort reads, but lots are. I think all of my books probably count: they are fairly low-angst and all of the obstacles are overcome in a satisfying manner without too much doubt. But there is actually a great responsibility when writing comfort reads.

I have to make them ‘comfortable’ for the majority of readers. I can’t plan for every reader preference, so I’m not talking about the kinds of characters readers prefer. But I do have a responsibility not to make anyone uncomfortable with the way I tell the story.

The most recent Netgalley review (which was a gorgeous five stars and I’m quite overwhelmed by the lovely recommendation), also pointed out one part where Gianluca had commented on Norah’s weight in the context of rowing her around the lagoon. I hadn’t thought of how that comment would come across to readers who have a larger figure (I should have, though!). The reviewer was able to put that to one side and enjoy the rest of the book, which I appreciate, but I definitely did make a mistake with that wording.

The great thing? I can fix it! The reviewer read an advance reader copy (ARC), so I can even fix it before publication. In fact, I’ve already marked it up and sent it off to our production team at Boldwood, which means this story has a happy ending (the only kind of ending I appreciate in a comfort read!).

Writing is a learning curve (LIFE is a learning curve) and it’s made me appreciate the opportunity to fix my mistakes and be open about it when I make them. I’m sure this one won’t be the last!

The cover of We’ll Always Have Venice, showing a couple kissing in the foreground and the Rialto Bridge and Venice in the background, along with a cup of coffee and a stitched heart.

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