Dear Mr Birmingham
Thank you so much for giving Harlequin Romance the opportunity to consider your manuscript DEATH CAME WITH TENTACLES. While I really enjoyed reading about Dave Hooper’s fight with an army of demonic squids, I'm sorry to say I can't offer you a contract with Harlequin Romance at this time. Dave is an engaging character and you have a compelling writing style, but neither Dave nor this particular story are quite right for our readers. May we explain why?
Harlequin Romance, as implied by our name, is a long time publisher of romantic fiction, mostly for women. Over the years our most beloved stories have been told by our most relatable heroines. Dave, while no doubt relatable to a number of men, is not by the strict dictionary definition, a heroine—what you might call a lady hero. He is arguably not even much of a hero. His character arc does not so much progress along a hero’s journey as it aimlessly weaves from one drunken encounter to the next, behind the wheel of a stolen pickup truck, which is filled with unstable explosives.
While Dave’s unexplained sexual magnetism does mean that a great many of these ‘encounters’ are with ‘super hot bitches’, the ensuing relationships are, to be honest, rather too numerous, random and short in duration to really qualify as ‘romance’; at least as far as our readership understands the word. As the only other encounters in DEATH CAME WITH TENTACLES tend to involve Dave wrestling with gigantic evil calamari monsters, there does not appear to be much room for his character to grow or for the story to unfold as a traditional Harlequin Romance reader might expect.
It is true that even in romance, story and character cannot evolve and advance without conflict, but our most successful authors tend to define such conflict in terms of emotional disconnect between a relatable heroine and the man of her dreams. Whilst you do briefly mention Dave’s one serious emotional issue—his love for Sparky, his morbidly obese hunting dog, and Dave’s distress when Sparky is eaten by a demon squid—we felt that this issue lacked depth and nuance. Dave’s response to the loss of his one true love (pulling all of the tentacles off the demon squid that ate poor Sparky, tying them into a giant calamari ball, and throwing it into an exploding oil refinery, which previously had not been mentioned anywhere in the text) did quite deftly reveal character through action, but we did not feel it was the sort of character which would appeal to our readers.
We are sorry to disappoint you on this occasion, but it is always possible that future manuscripts not involving Dave, Sparky, horror squids and quite so many super hot bitches, may find a home with us, and we hope you'll consider us for future submissions.
Joanne St. Lucia.