HCI Books, the company that publishes the Chicken Soup books, announced today that they have created a “new subgenre” of romance novels: fantasy meets reality. (When I read about this, I’ll admit that the first thing that popped into my head is a line from David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice: “It’s these real-life dramas that tend to draw a larger audience. Why? I chalk it up to five simple words we use in every print or televised promotion. Five words: ‘Based Upon a True Story.’”)

The idea is that real-life couples can share a “sexy, steamy, bigger-than-life, or just plain worthwhile love story” and romance authors will write a novel based on the truth. The line of books will be called "Vows," and book one, Hard to Hold, comes out in October 2010.

Written by Julie Leto, Hard to Hold is about a woman who falls in love with a man with Tourette’s Syndrome. The pub copy also alludes to a second hurdle in the relationship. My curiosity got the best of me, and I searched the couple’s names online. Turns out they had the lead wedding story in the Sunday New York Times in August, so you can get the juicy details now, if you’d like.

The cheesy factor is certainly amped in the Vows books. (“When fantasy meets reality anything can happen. Believe it. It’s true.”) And as someone who spends hours a week engrossed in fiction, I take issue with the line from HCI’s promotional copy asserting that “the best things in life—and in romance—are real.” (Father Ralph and Meggie are real, too... to me!)

But I can still recognize that this is a very clever concept that’s perfectly suited for the age of Facebook and Google stalking and The Bachelor. When I finish a book, I love to find out everything I possibly can about the author. With the Vows books you’ll be able to do the same with the main characters. Plus, their story will keep on going when you finish the novel, which is an interesting idea.

What do you think, readers? Are you more interested in a romance novel that’s Based Upon a True Story—is truth stranger (or rather, steamier) than fiction? Or are romance plots best developed in a writer’s imagination?

For some traditional romance, check out Christie Ridgway’s February column in BookPage.

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