The booming romance category is the domain of heavyweights like Nora Roberts and Debbie Macomber, as well as other hugely popular novelists like Christmas Feehan and Diana Palmer. While those authors show no sign of slowing down, it's inevitable that romance bestseller lists will at some point require new names. But who will replace—or take their places beside—these Goliaths? Below are 10 first-time romance novelists with books coming out in the next year. These debuts may not become threats to Roberts and Macomber, but who knows where their authors' future efforts may land?
Jacob: The Nightwalkersby Jacquelyn Frank
(Kensington Zebra, Nov. 28)
First printing:250,000 mass market
Author's Web site:www.jacquelynfrank.com
Author's background:Interpreter for the deaf
In a nutshell: 700-year-old "Earth Demon" Jacob finds himself drawn to a human female, the worst of his society's taboos.
Editor's take: "It's so magical, sexy and intense.... I've never been more enthusiastic about a project." —Kate Duffy
Compare her to: Diana Gabaldon
Break-out strategy: Handpainted, locked wooden boxes containing the manuscript were sent to 10 key buyers, and Duffy mailed keys to the boxes only after speaking with buyers about the book; ads in Romantic Timesand PW Daily; radio giveaways
Venus Envyby Shannonn McKelden
(Tor, Dec. 26)
First printing: 20,000 trade paperback
Author's Web site:www.shannonmckelden.com
Author's background: Medical transcriptionist
In a nutshell: Goddess Venus plays Cupid in a frothy combo of Greek mythology, classic fairy tale and chick lit.
Editor's take: "The combination of paranormal with what we've come to recognize as the tropes of chick lit make this a very different kind of book. We have quite high hopes for it." —Melissa Ann Singer
Compare her to: Melissa Senate
Break-out strategy: "What Would Venus Do?" column (written by the author in the protagonist's voice) running in Affaire de Coeur magazine; ads in NYTBR, Romantic Times
Demon Angelby Meljean Brook
(Berkley Sensation, Jan. 2)
First printing: 40,000 mass market
Author's Web site:www.meljeanbrook.com
Author's background: Grad student in English literature; bookkeeper for a construction company
In a nutshell: Demon Lilith and heaven-sent Sir Hugh Castleford join forces to fight evil in modern-day San Francisco.
Editor's take: "She writes complicated books with very layered characters. I don't expect it to be a bestseller, but I believe it will be the beginning of a career." —Cindy Hwang
Compare her to: Marjorie M. Liu
Break-out strategy: Mailings to romance publications and major metro dailies
The Rest Falls Awayby Colleen Gleason (Signet Eclipse, Jan. 2)
First printing: 100,000 mass market
Author's Web site:www.colleengleason.com
Author's background: Marketing
In a nutshell: Vampire Victoria Gardella Grantworth is torn between London's most eligible bachelor, the Marquess of Rockley, and her enigmatic ally, Sebastian Vioget.
Editor's take: "It's Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Regency romance. [Colleen has] a terrific imagination that's meeting the marketplace." —Claire Zion
Compare her to: Laurell K. Hamilton
Break-out strategy: "Immortalize Your Friend in a Book" contest; video trailer on YouTube; podcast excerpt
The Warrior Trainerby Gerri Russell
(Dorchester, Jan. 2)
First printing:TBD mass market
Author's Web site:www.gerrirussell.net
Author's background: Former broadcast journalist, newspaper reporter, magazine columnist, technical writer and editor, and instructional designer
In a nutshell: Warrior Scotia is trained to protect—but never thought she'd have to protect her heart from a roguish clansman seeking to learn her battle skills.
Editor's take: "[The main character] is such a strong woman, and that seems to be a trend that's coming back around to historicals. We expect it's going to do well." —Leah Hultenschmidt
Compare her to: Julie Garwood
Break-out strategy: Spa getaway sweepstakes; meetings with librarians; mailings to key romance bookstores and readers' groups; regional book signings; RWA speaking engagements
Dancing on Sunday Afternoonsby Linda Cardillo
(Harlequin Everlasting, Feb. 1)
First printing: 44,000 mass market
Author's Web site:www.lindacardillo.com
Author's background: M.B.A.—holding writer for a business think tank
In a nutshell: Italian immigrant Giulia shares her life story with granddaughter Cara via letters and memories.
Editor's take:"The story of a big love that has endured through time and has shaped the characters' lives. [I hope] that it will help launch [this new] series very successfully." —Paula Eykelhof
Compare her to: Laura Esquivel
Break-out strategy: Sample chapters given to vacationers on cruise ships in the Caribbean in January and February; ads in Romantic Times
No Regretsby Shannon K. Butch (Warner Forever, Feb. 1)
Subgenre: Romantic suspense
First printing: 55,000 mass market
Author's Web site:www.shannonkbutcher.com
Author's background: Industrial engineer
In a nutshell: On a dangerous mission, cryptologist Noelle Blanche falls for the stranger sent to safeguard her.
Editor's take: "It's incredibly sexy, which can be hard to pull off in a first novel. Yes, it's difficult to make [first novelists] stand out, but it's a great book and I think that it'll find its readers." —Michele Bidelspach
Compare her to: Mariah Stewart
Break-out strategy: Online marketing campaign; ads in Romantic Times
Restore My Heartby Cheryl Norman
(Medallion Jewel/Emerald, Mar. 1)
Subgenre: Romantic suspense
First printing: TBD mass market
Author's Web site:www.cherylnorman.com
Author's background: 25-year veteran of the telecommunications industry
In a nutshell: Joe Desalvo teams up with auto restorer "Mustang" Sally Clay to try to solve the mystery of his father's death, and winds up falling in love.
Editor's take: "The heroine is a crippled car mechanic—there is a lot that makes her stand out from the crowd." —Helen Rosburg
Compare her to: Janet Evanovich
Break-out strategy: Ads in Romantic Times; author appearances at RT Booklovers Convention (April '07)
Claiming the Courtesanby Anna Campbell (Avon, Mar. 27)
First printing: 150,000 mass market
Author's Web site:www.annacampbell.info
Author's background: Retail, hospitality and marketing; art gallery
In a nutshell: The duke of Kylemore kidnaps London's most celebrated courtesan, Verity Ashton, and holds her in his thrall until they work things out.
Editor's take: "It really sweeps you away. It's kind of a 'they-don't-write- them-like-that-anymore' kind of romance." —Lucia Macro
Compare her to: Stephanie Laurens
Break-out strategy: Special sales promotions and co-op; ads in romance publications; targeted marketing to romance blogs
Highlander Untamedby Monica McCarty
(Ballantine, July 31)
First printing: 250,000 mass market
Author's Web site:www.monicamccarty.com
Author's background: Former lawyer
In a nutshell: Married in a temporary "handfast" marriage to her clan's enemy, Isabel MacDonald can't resist her smoldering attraction to the powerful chief who she has vowed to betray.
Editor's take: "[Publishing Monica's first three books as a back-to-back trilogy is] a great way to launch her. If readers know there are more books in a series coming, they are more willing to pick up a book they haven't heard of before." —Charlotte Herscher
Compare her to: Kinley MacGregor
Break-out strategy: Linked packaging on each of the books in the trilogy; excerpts in books from others in the series; galleys to romance reviewers