BookCon is hosting three romance panels today—“New York, I Love You: Romance (Novels) ‘Made’ in Manhattan”; “Suffragettes, Sex Positivity, and Smashing the Patriarchy: Historical Romance as a Powerful Political Text”; and “When Millennials Met Romance: The Rom Com Phenom.” We talked to six participating writers to find out how they are reinventing romance for 2019.

Tessa Dare

Opposites attract in Dare’s The Wallflower Wager—the latest in her Girl Meets Duke series—which focuses on self-made Gabriel Duke and animal lover Lady Penelope Campion. Let’s just say that Gabe loves animals, too, but only on a plate in front of him.

Did you know that Penny would be the softhearted champion of wounded creatures and an incurable romantic?

Penny was always the sweetheart of the group. That said, she has more to her than meets the eye.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing a series like Girl Meets Duke?

The joy and challenge of writing a closely linked series is the continually growing cast of characters. I love adding new ones to the mix and letting them bounce off the established characters. Begrudging bromances among my heroes are one of my absolute favorite things to write.

“Suffragettes, Sex Positivity, and Smashing the Patriarchy: Historical Romance as a Powerful Political Text”: 12:15–1 p.m. // Room1E16

Abby Jimenez

Food Network star Abby Jimenez has a debut novel, The Friend Zone, a hilarious tearjerker written primarily on Jimenez’s cellphone. The main character, Kristen Petersen, is based on a real-life friend.

Did the novel take a lot of research because of the infertility component?

Absolutely. The infertility story in the book is based on the experience of my best friend—only hers was, frankly, even worse than what my main character went through. The bulk of the symptoms and feelings about my main character’s condition came from Lindsay’s experiences. I also interviewed several other women who struggled with infertility, and my ob-gyn, and I read a lot of online discussion threads about it. It was really heartbreaking to see how emotionally taxing it is to go through this diagnosis.

“When Millennials Met Romance: The Rom Com Phenom” 1:15–2 p.m. // Room 1E16

Joanna Shupe

The Rogue of Fifth Avenue is the first of three books in Shupe’s new Uptown Girls series, about characters who, while wealthy, don’t play by anyone’s rules but their own. In this first novel, set in 1890s Manhattan, Marion “Mamie” Greene and handsome attorney Frank Tripp are forced to maneuver their way around forbidden love.

Why do you write about the Gilded Age?

I grew up reading Edith Wharton and fell in love with her stories of New York high society at the turn sof the 20th century. The Gilded Age is a fascinating period in American history. Society struggled with huge wealth inequality, while technological advances reshaped everything about the way people lived.

What was the inspiration behind Marion Greene and Frank Tripp?

It was common for wealthy New Yorkers to go slumming downtown in the Gilded Age, so I thought it would be fun to have three sisters who all end up with men from the other end of town.

“New York, I Love You: Romance (Novels) ‘Made’ in Manhattan” 10:15–11 a.m. // Room 1E16

Sabrina Jeffries

Project Duchess, the first in Jeffries new Duke Dynasty series, focuses on Fletcher “Grey” Pryde and Beatrice Wolfe. When Grey’s mother becomes a widow—again—he meets unconventional Beatrice, a funeral manager. Initially neither Grey nor Beatrice are interested in one another, but time and honesty have their way of melting hearts.

Why do you love writing romance?

I like exploring relationships in a fun but realistic way. Just because a book ends happily doesn’t mean that the happy ending must, of necessity, be forced or unrealistic.

What was the inspiration behind the new Duke Dynasty series?

First, the pleasure I took in writing a previous series, the Hellions. It had a mystery thread going through all five books that was only solved in the last book. Second, my fascination with blended families. I don’t have a blended family myself, which may be why I find them interesting. Families in past centuries were more likely to be blended, since the mortality rate for mothers was higher (many more women died in childbirth), but I thought it might be fun to deal with a family where the mother lived and the fathers died. Sort of a matriarchy within a patriarchy.

“Suffragettes, Sex Positivity, and Smashing the Patriarchy: Historical Romance as a Powerful Political Text”: 12:15–1 p.m. // Room1E16

K.M. Jackson

In Jackson’s second book in the Sugar Lake series, Too Sweet to Be Good, Alexandrea Gale is ready to leave the South and return to New York. To earn the money to head back North, she decides to renovate an old theater in town. There’s just one problem: Kellen Kilborn.

What was the inspiration behind the Sugar Lake series?

I wanted to try my hand at writing about a small town, since for the most part my books have been set in and around New York. So in order to stick with the old “write what you know” way of thinking, I took my New York sisters and had them travel to help their family with their Southern bakeshop.

“New York, I Love You: Romance (Novels) ‘Made’ in Manhattan” 10:15–11 a.m. // Room 1E16

Maria Vale

Forever Wolf, Vale’s third novel in the Legends of All Wolves paranormal romance series, focuses on Werewolf Varya and an injured white wolf named Eyulf. Varya must hide Eyulf, because of his mismatched eyes and the omen they represent.

What appeals to you about writing paranormal fantasy romance?

I always think of the definition of paranormal as being “beside normal.” Like normal’s wingman. To me that means the ability to look at normal with an outsider’s eye. For example, during Human Behavior classes, the Pack must learn to distinguish among the Varieties of Human Misrepresentation. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how often we manipulate the truth. In my imagining, Leonora, the Human Behaviors teacher, comes up with a mnemonic to help them learn: JAFFEWIP. Jokes, Advertising, Flirtation, Falsehood, White lies, Irony, and Politics. It’s a small example of how writing about the paranormal causes me to look with fresh eyes at what is normal.

“New York, I Love You: Romance (Novels) ‘Made’ in Manhattan” 10:15–11 a.m. // Room 1E1