After selling more than 14 million copies last year alone, Colleen Hoover’s novels, such as It Ends with Us and It Begins with Us, continue to dominate bestseller lists in 2023, and publishers are coming up with titles to take advantage of the surge in interest in romance books. Religion houses say the BookTok star is helping drive interest in contemporary romance—including Christian contemporary romance. As a result, there is an increased appetite for new voices in the category.
“I do think this renewed interest in the contemporary category has encouraged us in some recent acquisitions,” says Karen Watson, publisher at Tyndale Fiction. In June, Tyndale is releasing Indigo Isle by T.I. Lowe, a Southern-set tale about “two damaged souls,” according to the publisher. “The story is right on trend, and we’re excited for its launch,” Watson notes. In spring 2024, Tyndale will publish Love Edith, a new contemporary romance by Becca Kinzer, author of Dear Henry. “We are selecting carefully, but we believe this is a category that holds great possibility for Christian fiction,” Watson explains.
Janyre Tromp, an acquisitions editor at Kregel, believes the “reading boom” around Hoover’s titles has driven both reader demand and sales for publishers of contemporary romance across the board. “It’s interesting to note that Colleen Hoover has actually been around for more than a decade, yet readers are just now starting to pick up on her and are voraciously reading her backlist,” she says. “But once readers exhaust Colleen’s backlist, they’ll definitely be searching for additional books to satiate their desire for spicy books with slightly a-typical plot lines and spot-on writing.”
In this vein, Tromp says, is Kregel’s Hero Debut by Angela Ruth Strong (Aug.). It follows “deeply flawed characters” and explores themes around assumptions, forgiveness, and second chances, serving as “a perfect fit for readers looking for a bit of spice in a clean read,” Tromp adds. Looking further ahead, she notes, “Romance has been the blockbuster seller for years now, and I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon.”
Mountain Brook Ink’s entry into the Christian contemporary romance category is Patricia Lee’s In Search of Forever (June), which publicity manager Tim Pietz calls a “messy, unconventional romance” that follows two characters who grew up in foster care as they navigate trauma, anxiety, and their new relationship. The title aligns with MBI’s efforts to “publish contemporary Christian fiction about difficult topics: abuse, alcoholism, child trafficking, prostitution—topics that many Christian publishers steer clear of and that secular publishers aren’t willing to tackle with a Christian viewpoint,” Pietz says.
Though Revell’s senior acquisitions editor Rachel McRae says its market and audience are separate from those of Hoover, the press is releasing a book with a title reminiscent of Hoover’s megaselling It Ends with Us. Coming in June, This Is Where It Ends by Cindy K. Sproles follows the widowed and reclusive Minerva Jenkins and her unexpected friendship with a reporter. The book highlights Tennessee’s natural beauty, its people, and its culture through “well-developed characters who come across as old and cranky but have a depth of life wisdom that younger generations need,” McRae notes.
Additional upcoming releases in the Christian contemporary romance category include the following:
Famous for a Living
Melissa Ferguson (Thomas Nelson, May)
Into the Fire
Irene Hannon (Revell, Oct.)
The Thing About Home
Rhonda McKnight (Thomas Nelson, May).
(See “Finding Home,” our q&a with McKnight.)
Windswept Way (A Hope Harbor Novel)
Irene Hannon (Revell, Apr.)