The Story Behind Ruthless Love by Penelope Bloom
07 Jan 2020
By Penelope Bloom
My newest book, Ruthless Love, is what’s called a “bully romance”. Even if you’ve never heard of a bully romance, it probably seems like a pretty wild jump to go from romantic comedies about bananas and cherry pies to writing about bullies falling for the girls they pick on. But hear me out!
As much as I love writing goofy, wild books that are designed to make you laugh while you fall for the characters, there’s a catch to rom com: the humor comes with a cost.
I always think of it in terms of old sitcoms. It was really common for shows in the 90s and 80s to be filled with laugh track moments, but they would always try to get serious near the end and teach a lesson. Or there would even be “special” episodes that tackled a serious problem like a character’s alcoholism or abuse. To me, it always felt jarring. I didn’t usually turn on The Fresh Prince for an emotional rollercoaster like the episode where someone gets shot.
Those memories have stuck with me, and I always keep it in the back of my head when I’m writing. With my rom coms, I know why readers are in my book. They’re looking for light-hearted fun and laughs. That means every time I get tempted to turn a plot arc more serious or darker, I have to ask myself if I’m wanting to do that selfishly or if it serves the purpose of the book. Almost always, it’s just selfishness. It would be satisfying for me as a writer to explore something more deeply, but I have to admit it’s not best for the book and let the opportunity slip away.
That brings me to this book. After over a year of exclusively writing romantic comedies, I’ve had a lot of built up desire to write something more serious and with a little more edge. Ruthless Love is the start of that series of books. As I hoped, it felt so therapeutic to write this, and it was one of the fastest books I’ve written in a long time for that reason. Back when I first switched from standard contemporary romance to romantic comedy, the same thing happened. I had this burst of excited energy when I jumped into the Objects of Attraction series that made the first three or four books fly by.
Back then, I had convinced myself that I needed to get over it. The Objects series did so well that I felt obligated to stay in the romantic comedy arena. I knew a bunch of new readers had discovered me because of those books, and it felt like I’d be confusing them and irritating them by writing something with a different tone.
Over time, I realized it was worse to keep forcing myself to chug away aht something that didn’t feel natural. The books wouldn’t be as good, because I didn’t have that excited energy.
So that brings me here. Maybe it’s not the wisest business decision from a “branding” perspective, but I’m going to keep chasing what makes me energized as an author. I’ve always had one belief as an author that I try to hold above anything else: Write the best books I can, improve and learn from my mistakes, and the rest will follow.
In that spirit, I’m so excited to bring my newest release to you all: Ruthless Love. If you’ve never read a bully romance or heard of it, the trope is pretty interesting. There’s a pretty wide spectrum as far as how dark the books trend. Mine is definitely on the lighter side, but the main characteristic of these books is the characters tend to be younger, like in high school or college. Beyond that, the hero in the book is more of an anti-hero, and he bullies or enables bullying of the heroine to start the book. As in all romances, he ends up changing his ways and falling for her, but (to me) the thing that makes this trope so fun is how impossible it can seem to imagine the characters getting together at first. So it’s all about creating that insanely thick wall between them and then watching them find ways to overcome it for the rest of the book.
I’m super thrilled with how this book turned out, and I hope you’ll check it out. Thanks so much!
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