In the 1996 film, Mother, sci-fi author John Henderson (played by Albert Brooks) is constantly compared to Stephen King. Although he smiles through the comments from well-meaning but ignorant strangers (and his mother, played by a feisty and acerbic Debbie Reynolds), it’s obvious from the way his posture changes and the way he rolls his eyes that he hates the comparison–not because he’s insulted, but because his books are nothing like Stephen King’s. Yet, the minute someone hears he writes science fiction, those who don’t know the difference automatically come up with the most popular author in an entirely different sub-genre.

I think I know how he feels. Last night, I participated in a Readers’ Night Out event at a local library. During the event, a photo was taken of me holding one of my books. This one———————>

Within minutes of the photo hitting social media, the snark began with someone implying that I was confusing sex toys with romance.

I’m very proud of The Bonds of Matri-money. It was my first romantic comedy, as well as my first published book. The handcuffs on the book cover refer to the plot: two virtual strangers agree to marry to participate in a Survivor-style game show for newlyweds. The catch? They’ll be handcuffed together the entire time they’re competing on the show! 

Because this book was published by Avalon Books, it’s what we call in the biz, “a sweet romance.” There are no swear words, no sexual situations, no adult content. It’s a story that can be read by an eight-year-old or an eighty-year-old. And yet, the cover seems to draw comparisons to the very adult, very sexual, “Fifty Shades of Gray.” Often, these comparisons are drawn by people who, like those in the film, Mother, don’t understand the different nuances of genre fiction. 

And honestly, I don’t mind explaining to readers that, no, my book is not erotic, despite the cover. What I do mind is having to smile and nod through the ignorant backhanded insults from those who don’t read my genre, making snap judgments based on the cover. Fifty Shades renewed interest in reading, as the Harry Potter series, the Stieg Larsen books, and other successful books have done in the past. Anything that increases interest in books is a great thing, as far as I’m concerned. 

But please, don’t compare my works to someone else’s (or comment on how the handcuffs on my cover give you permission to abuse a woman and call it “sweet romance”) unless you’ve read the books and understand the difference. I’m not really good at the smile-and-nod reaction.

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