What About the New Blaze Line?
(August 28, 2001)
There's been a lot of interest in the new Blaze line for Harlequin. Those of you who regularly read series romance will know that previously, the Blaze line was a sub-line in the larger Harlequin Temptations line. Because of strong reader interest, Harlequin decided to give Blaze its own line. Alison Kent aka Mica Stone, got together with her fellow Blaze authors and compiled this article for us at AAR. Given its promotional nature, links to articles and/or reviews written by any of these authors other than Ms Kent are not provided.
Thanks to the phenomenal success of the Blaze imprint within the Temptation line, Harlequin turned the hot concept into its own series. As of this August, readers can find four sexy, red-hot Blaze reads each month.
While putting together this collection of mini-essays from several of the Blaze authors, I spoke with Birgit Davis-Todd, senior editor for the line, who graciously shared with me information she's provided for additional interviews. "Blaze will feature sensuous, highly romantic, innovative plots that are sexy in premise and execution. The tone of the books can run from fun and flirtatious to dark and sensual."
As the Blaze books are longer than those found in Temptation, the authors have more room to experiment with subplots, characterization and the edgy sensuality. Again, from Ms. Davis-Todd: "No question Blaze has moved beyond Temptation in terms of the level of sensuality, the intensity of the sex, the kinds of encounters that occur between the hero and heroine. There is an erotic feel and quality at times to the stories, but they are not erotica per se."
Will Blaze move that direction in the future? Even Ms. Davis-Todd admits to the possibility of change, depending on author innovation.
What can readers expect to find between the covers of a Blaze?
- Carly Phillips, Body Heat: "Harlequin offers something for everyone. While Temptation is sexy, sassy and fun, Blaze is a unique combination of intensity and fire, sizzle and emotion. Blaze is heat every night of the long hot summer, as readers will find in the pages of Body Heat. Blaze is also erotically sensual, as in Erotic Invitation, due on the shelves in December."
- Donna Kauffman, Her Secret Thrill: "The secret is out! Blaze has arrived and is looking to thrill readers who enjoy a book than can be a little naughty while still being nice. Sexy, fun, and packing an emotional punch that will leave you panting for more, pick up a Blaze and see what all the fuss is about. Maybe Blaze will be your secret thrill."
- Jo Leigh, Going for It!: "If you're looking for a category read that's edgy, erotic and has a more mainstream feel, Blaze is for you. And don't think they're only about sex. In Blaze, as in all good Harlequin reads, you'll find characters to love, to identify with, to sigh over. They just have more fun than in other lines. My recommendation? Go for it!"
- Susan Kearney, Enslaved: "Wanted: young at heart, adventurous and daring readers for Harlequin's newest line appropriately called Blaze. These books are meant for women who like their romances hot My last 17 books are romantic suspense but I couldn't resist the sheer brazen joy of writing for the Blaze line. How could I when my editor allowed me to create a story about a secret resort called Eden where wealthy women purchase the services of men to pleasure them? Is this book spicy? Oh, yeah. Edgy? Absolutely."
- Karen Anders, The Bare Facts: "If you're seeking a bold, adventurous, and romantic read - Blaze is the line for you! This line will ignite your imagination, heat your blood to sizzling hot, and touch your heart. Those are The Bare Facts"
- Rebecca York, Body Contact: "What does an author do who's mastered romantic suspense but wants to write an edgier, sexier book? Write for Blaze. My first Rebecca York Blaze is coming out next March. It's got an action suspense plot that's a lot like what I've written in the past for Intrigue - but, in this book, a big portion of the action takes place in the bedroom. Forced to play the part of lovers to infiltrate an evil island kingdom, my hero and heroine find that their hot and heavy performance sparks the real thing. They're secret agents with a mission, yet they can't keep their hands off of each other. And while the passion between them heats, so does the danger of their perilous situation - as the book builds to a shattering climax (pun intended)."
What makes a Blaze a Blaze?
- Vicki Lewis Thompson, Notorious: "Although Blaze may have more of an edge than Temptation, it definitely has room for humor! But because this is a Blaze, nearly everything in the book has to be sexually oriented. This is not the place for the feisty grandma or the hilarious toddler. Humor with a sexual element helps make sex scenes unique. It can also ratchet the tension higher. You can create the tension, throw in humor to ease up a bit without giving the payoff, and then build the tension even higher. This is perfect for a Blaze, which strives to give you a more intense read."
- Janelle Denison, Heat Waves: "What are the differences in writing for Harlequin Temptation and Harlequin Blaze? Longer length in the new Blaze books is one difference, along with room to create characters who have more depth and a book with a layered plot. Blazes are more explicit in language and in sexual situations and explore the sexual relationship between the hero and heroine on many different levels. While erotic, boundary-pushing sex is prevalent in Blazes, creating these books is about more than just writing a super-hot, over-the-top love scene with kinky elements thrown in for good measure. "These books are about fantasy mixed with seduction and emotionally compelling characters that keep readers turning the pages. The stories are bolder, broader in range and style and tone, and offer readers everything from suspense, to character driven stories, to light-hearted reads."
- Lori Wilde, A Touch of Silk: "Blaze pushes the limits of category romance. In tone, in situation, in raw sexuality. Things that are no-no's in other lines, can certainly be a go-go in Blaze. But these books, despite their erotic core are still love stories. One man, one woman, happy every after. The tone is hip, contemporary, cutting edge. The characters are bold men and women who aren't afraid to grab life by the throat and wring out every last drop. In a nutshell, Blazes are
- sexy premise;
- unforgettable characters;
- great writing; and
- lots of hot, hot, hot sex!"
- Joanne Rock, Silk, Lace, and Videotape: "A sensual tone and sexy premise are must-haves in a Blaze book. There is a lurking eroticism both in the story and within the characters that takes sexual tension to delicious new heights. Blaze's longer length lets us explore complex characters and deeper relationships in a very modern setting. To draw comparisons between some more well known lines, you might say that love stories in Superromance have an almost timeless quality, love stories in Duets have a hint of irreverence, while love stories in a Blaze have a distinct pop culture awareness and contemporary edginess. But they are definitely love stories - not only will you reap the benefit of sizzling sexual tension throughout, you also get the ultimate emotional satisfaction of happily-ever-after."
- Cathy Yardley, The Driven Snowe: "Like any good relationship, really incredible sex (varied and often!) is fantastic - but when infused with love, it transcends pleasure, and becomes magic. The beauty of Blaze is that even while it quickens your pulse and shortens your breath, it will, most importantly, touch your heart. If you want to get caught up in that sort of passion, read a Blaze."
- Alison Kent, All Tied Up: "Beyond the authors' more open exploration of sexual relationships lies the characters' more open attitude toward intimacy. Heroines are not shy and retiring, reticent or virginal in their reactions to the topic of sex. Not to say they can't be virgins. But, if they are, they're curious and ready to explore. This is what defines Blaze for me. Given that heat and eroticism are so much a part of these stories, the characters need to reflect contemporary times, with an awareness of that edge and a willingness to explore a sexual encounter with an open-mind. The stories themselves can take any tone, from humorous to darkly dramatic. But the characters' sexual natures will encompass reality and be universally topical."
How do authors approach writing for Blaze?
- Isabel Sharpe, The Wild Side: "My feeling about Blaze is that it's grittier, edgier, all those vague and annoying adjectives. More substance, if you will. More reality and less fantasy, even in the context of a fantastic situation. Less reliance on sassy sexual banter to carry scenes and less preoccupation with the relationship, subplots with more complexity, kinkier and more detailed sex scenes that show up earlier in the book and don't have to entail commitment. Creeping toward mainstream in feel and tone. I don't know if all editors see it that way or if all writers do. What I wrote for Blaze was like nothing I've written before or since. My Temptation and my Duets are breezy and don't take themselves very seriously. My Blaze did, even when it was being humorous. Maybe that's the biggest difference."
- Judith Elizabeth Leto, Exposed: "I'm just about to start writing my third Blaze and having written three Temptation Blazes and two Heats, the difference between the lines has concerned me quite a bit. One word that stands out when discussing the stand-alone Blaze line is edgy. Edgy to me meant sexual, but with a strong dose of the forbidden. EDGY means taking that forbidden sexual concept and making it work within the context of a romance. My Temptation Blazes and Heats all have sexy premises and hot love scenes, but my tone is generally light and the subject matter sassy and fun. In my first Blaze, Exposed, I took the concept of exhibitionism and worked it into the plot. My hero and heroine make love the first time outside and the thrill is so intense, they decide to try it again--not knowing that someone was not only watching them, but taking pictures that could ruin my hero's career. In my second Blaze, Just Watch Me, I took the concept of voyeurism and worked with it. It's all tied to the plot, to the sex, to the characters. That, for me, is the right combination to create a sizzling Blaze."
- Nancy Warren, Live a Little: :Hot. Hotter. Hottest. This is what I do when I start a Blaze; I keep turning up the heat on my ideas, going from simmer to boil. I'll dream up a hot and sexy premise: a woman's handcuffed naked to her bed in an effort to spice up her sex life (Live a Little). Now I make it hotter - her dull fiancÚ gets called away and forgets all about her and she gets rescued by her fantasy man - an incredibly sexy stranger. Hottest: when the hero and heroine do make love, he'll get her back in those handcuffs and he'll give her the night of her life. From there this book has no choice but to be both fun and sexy as these two fall in love.
"Here's another example. Hot: In Whisper, I played with the fantasy of sex with a stranger when I had the heroine overhear a man whispering to a woman exactly what he was going to do to her as they began to make love. The heroine becomes obsessed with this stranger - who isn't a stranger at all but her best buddy at work. Hotter: When she admits her crazy obsession to her 'friend' he sets about seducing her from behind a mask. Hottest: To preserve the anonymity, which is a turn-on for both of them, their affair is conducted in utter darkness. It made for some very sensual scenes as the other senses are so much more heightened when sight is gone. For me, the trick to writing Blaze is to let myself go, indulging in sensual fantasies that are exciting for me and, I hope, the reader."
And for the ultimate explanation in the differences between Temptation and Blaze!
Carrie Alexander, Playing with Fire:
"Temptation is 4th of July sparklers...Blaze is fireworks at midnight
Temptation is a shimmer of red silk...Blaze is the rustle of black satin
Temptation is a chocolate cupcake with sprinkles...Blaze is decadent Devil's Food
Temptation is smooth like Sade...Blaze is Billie Holliday in a smoky night club
Temptation is a sip of champagne...Blaze is a shot of Tequila
Temptation is fire...Blaze is the inferno"
Please consider these questions and then post to our Potpourri Message Board:
- Is this article too close to advertising for comfort or did it answer your questions about this new line? Should it have been rejected it or did it provide you with information you've been wanting about Blaze and the distinctions between Temptation and Blaze?
- Do you like all the open emphasis on sex, more sex, and hot sex? Does this signal a change in the right direction for what some consider a rather staid publishing image for Harlequin or does it make you uncomfortable and add fuel to the romance as "women's porn" fire?