Beginning this fall, HCI Communications is introducing what it believes is a new subgenre in romance publishing—reality-based, or RB Romance™. A new imprint, Vows, will debut with three titles written by established romance authors and will draw on real-life couples for inspiration. Editorial director Michelle Matrisciani said HCI has been collecting stories from a number of different places, including newspaper announcements and contests, and matching couples with authors who will use the arc of their courtship as the basis for what Matrisciani called “true life fiction.”

“We'll keep to the facts, but embellish and add certain elements like dialogue,” explained Matrisciani. Authors choose the couple they want to work with, although the writers and subjects will not meet; rather the authors will work from detailed questionnaires supplied by the couples as well as supportive material such as e-mails. Getting the project off the ground had its challenges, Matrisciani said, particularly in finding couples who understood the concept of creative license. Couples will read their stories in galleys and while they can make sure the facts are correct, they will not have approval over the manuscript. For a couple's story to be chosen, it must have the elements that make up a contemporary romance such as conflict, tension, and a happy ending. “There will be a happily-ever-after quality,” Matrisciani said, adding that while the stories may not end in marriage, they do have a commitment to fidelity.

Matrisciani said she hopes that by using real-life stories as the basis for a novel, readers will see that “romance really exists. It doesn't have to be fiction.” The RB Romance genre also fits with HCI's overall publishing program of telling inspirational stories through its nonfiction (including the original Chicken Soup titles) and memoirs. First book in the line is Hard to Hold by Julie Leto, a bestselling author with more than 35 books to her credit. The novel tells the story of New York lobbyist Michael Davoli and reporter Anne Miller. RB romances will include the real names of couples, but while the covers will picture a couple, it will not be the actual man and woman. Vows will be a featured part of HCI's booth at BookExpo America, where the publisher plans to have one of the couples in attendance. Three books are planned for this fall with six titles—three per season—set for 2011. All will be trade paperbacks; the first books are $13.95.

To encourage more submissions, HCI has just launched a new Web Site, “We're looking for people who want their story told by a popular novelist,” Matrisciani said. Couples receive payment for participating. In addition to Leto, authors Alison Kent and Judith Arnold will write books for the Vows launch. The authors, Matrisciani said, were eager to try something new and see Vows as a way to make contemporary romance more timely.