Romancing the Category: First Comes Marriage with Shira Anthony – Post + Giveaway

January 15, 2016

Romancing the Category

I’m Shira Anthony, and today is release day for First Comes Marriage, the second book in Dreamspinner Press’s brand new Dreamspun Desires of sweet, tropey, feel-good romances! I can’t tell you how much fun I had writing this story—it took me back to my romance roots and the days when I gobbled up Harlequin romances like they were salt and vinegar potato chips.


First Comes Marriage is a gay romance take on the classic category romance. What is a “category romance”? Honestly, I didn’t know this myself until a few years ago, but a “category romance” is also sometimes called a “series romance.” The term comes from the old tradition of publishing a certain number of books on a monthly basis in a certain category. You remember these. When I was a kid, they were the Harlequin and Silhouette romances that were shipped, 4 books a month, on subscription.

Category romances were sweet, funny, standalone stories that were low on the angst and with a feel-good happy ending. Full of classic romance tropes (millionaires, exotic locations, mistaken identity, arranged marriages, you name it), these babies were shorter than the average novel, all the covers looked alike, and some were numbered like magazines. They became a genre unto themselves.

My contribution to the Dreamspun Desires line grew out of a conversation at the Romantic Times (RT) conference in Dallas of this year, by far the biggest general romance conference in the world. I mean, that baby is HUGE, with hundreds of romance authors from every subgenre you can imagine including, of course, gay romance. I was having something to eat with Poppy Dennison, Dreamspinner Press’s PR guru, and a number of other Dreamspinner writers. With all the amazing and sexy posters of romance book covers plastered all over the hotel, I had that Harlequin vibe going. You know the one: warm and fuzzy, sexy, fun and easy reading. The very definition of a category romance.

So I kvetched to Poppy about how I was getting worn out writing angsty romances (Blue Notes or Blood Series, anyone?). You know those too—books that rip your heart out and put it back together piece by piece. Stories of heroes with deep, dark secrets, horrible childhoods, illnesses, and lots of pain. Happy endings, for sure, but very hard won happiness. Don’t get me wrong. I love angsty romance (and I’ve got plenty more planned), but they do take a lot out of me to write, especially when they deal with issues close to home.

I told Poppy I wished I could write a warm, fuzzy romance like the ones I used to read as a kid. Poppy (love that woman!) asked flat out, “Why don’t you?” She then proceeded to tell me about an idea she had to create a line of gay category romances for Dreamspinner. I took that conversation to heart and started thinking about what tropes I’d like to try writing. And on a three week vacation on our boat, I wrote about 80% of First Comes Marriage. A perfect setting to write that book, by the way. Romantic and relaxing.

My story takes a few familiar romance tropes and turns them on their head. Marriage of convenience? Check. Billionaire playboy? Conniving stepgrandmother? Check.

Jesse Donovan, the billionaire heir to his grandfather’s boat building business, must get married or he’ll lose control of his company under the terms of his grandfather’s will. Chris Valentine is a struggling novelist working as a barista in New York City. When handsome, charming Jesse proposes, Chris thinks it’s a joke! Chris finally gives in and marries Jesse. But the more time they spend together, the more Chris comes to genuinely care for New York’s most eligible “straight” bachelor. But this marriage is just business, isn’t it?

Dreamspun Desire books are available individually in paperback and ebook, and as part of a subscription where you get 2 books a month in ebook or paperback for 30% off the cover price. I’m a subscriber, by the way. Gay romance in the old category romance style? Right up my alley as a reader, too. So you bet I’ll be reading these in between working on my own projects.

What’s your favorite romance trope? Comment with your answer below and you could win your choice of any of my back catalog titles in ebook format (so anything except First Comes Marriage).  I’ll choose a winner after midnight on January 17th.

I’ll leave you with a taste of First Comes Marriage. Chris’s first hint that his pretend marriage to billionaire Jesse might be a bit more of a challenge than he realized. Hope you enjoy it! -Shira



Excerpt from Chapter Six:

Now, standing in the conference room of Windview Enterprises’ corporate headquarters near South Ferry in Manhattan, one of the matching platinum bands Jesse had bought for them in his pants pocket, Chris wondered if he’d wake up from the dream. The floor-to-ceiling windows looked out over Wall Street and the East River through the forest of high-rise buildings.

“Do you, Jesse Chase Donovan, take Christopher James Valentine to be your husband, in love and in friendship, until you are parted by death?” the judge asked.

“I do.” As Jesse slipped the ring on Chris’s finger, he met Chris’s gaze with such intensity that for an instant, Chris could almost forget the entire ceremony was a ruse to ensure the future of Windview remained firmly in Jesse’s control. Damn the man for being so attractive. Damn him for being a nice guy, because that was the worst part of it. And the part that had you agreeing.

“And do you, Christopher James Valentine, take Jesse Chase Donovan to be your husband, in love and in friendship, until you are parted by death?”

Chris swallowed hard and prayed he didn’t look as incredibly nervous as he felt. “I do.” His hand shook as he took Jesse’s hand and put the ring on his finger.

“Congratulations, Chris and Jesse,” the judge said.

Chris caught Val’s eye for a split second, and he half expected her to urge him to kiss Jesse. But it was Jesse who took charge and blindsided Chris with a kiss.

It started sweetly enough, just Jesse’s lips against his, but instead of releasing Chris, Jesse pulled him tighter against him and pressed his tongue into his mouth. Jesse tasted fucking amazing. Chris didn’t hesitate—their tongues tangled and danced. This close, Jesse smelled good and felt even better. Chris was barely aware of slipping his hands around Jesse’s back before resting them on lean hips. He didn’t think twice as his body and Jesse’s responded in kind.

Someone giggled—Chris recognized Val’s voice—and Jesse pulled abruptly away. Their eyes met for a split second, and Chris thought he saw a mixture of desire and surprise in Jesse’s deep blue eyes. The next thing Chris knew, Val had thrown her arms around him and only his racing heart and tingling lips told him he hadn’t imagined the entire thing.

“Oh, Chris,” Val cooed. “You really did it!”

“Yeah” was the only response Chris could manage. He was still thinking about Jesse’s mouth.

“I guess I was wrong about him being straight,” she whispered mischievously.

Chris was thrilled when Terry grabbed him in a bear hug, because he had no idea how to respond to Val’s comment. He also wasn’t sure if he should be pissed off with Jesse for the show. He supposed if this was going to work, Jesse needed to make the marriage look real. Still, how difficult would it have been to warn Chris that he had that up his sleeve?


About Shira: In her last incarnation, Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.

Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children.  When she’s not working, she can be found aboard Land’s Zen, a 35’ catamaran, at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.

Shira can be found on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter (@WriterShira) or on her website, You can also contact her at

Get your copy of First Comes Marriage today! 


17 Responses to “Romancing the Category: First Comes Marriage with Shira Anthony – Post + Giveaway”

  1. H.B. says:

    I loved reading Harlequin and Silhouette as a kid. They were fun easy little reads with a touch of angst that sometimes made me a little teary eyed.

    My favorite tropes are friends to lover. I feel you can never go wrong with that trope.

  2. I love that trope too, H.B. I used a little of that in “First Comes Marriage” where the two MCs really like each other before they enter into the fake marriage. <3 Thanks for commenting!

  3. Trix says:

    I do enjoy friends-to-lovers a lot. I also have a weakness for “reluctant porn performer discovers he’s a natural,” even though I don’t know if it’s an officially recognized trope…

  4. Jillian Too says:

    I’ve always been a big fan of the opposites-attract trope. It makes me think that anything is possible. Thanks for making me crave salt and vinegar chips. :)

  5. Lisa says:

    I love friends-to-lovers as well, but my fave is hurt/comfort. That just gets me in the feelz every time when it’s done right. Especially if it involves a military MC.

  6. Laura Bailo says:

    Congratulations on the release! I have this loaded in my kindle and I’m dying to read it.

    Friends-to-lovers is a favourite of mine, too, as well as hurt/comfort.

  7. Oor Janie says:

    I love gay for you, younger/older!! And many more. Congrats on release! Reading soon.

  8. What a great way to get inspired; there’s something about being around other authors to really motivate. I read some Harlequins when I was 10, but it always felt like the same story. Now I realize many stories are the same, but it’s the characters who draw me in. As for tropes, I have a not-so-secret enjoyment of stories that include alpha males and smaller/non-dominant males. Thanks for the contest!

  9. Patricia Nelson says:

    This book sounds intriguing. My favorite romance trope is arranged marriages. ;)

  10. Helena Stone says:

    Seems like a lot of people love friends to lovers, as do I. But, I think I like enemies to lovers even more, especially if it comes with lots of snarky remarks and some angry ‘love’making :)

  11. Jen CW says:

    I love to read most tropes. Friend to lovers and enemies to lovers are twi of my more favorites though. I used to read Harlequin books as a teen…short, sweet reads you always knew had a happy ending.

  12. Gigi says:

    I really loved this book! Arranged marriage done right!

  13. Juli-Anna Dobson says:

    My favorite is anything with nerds falling in love with alpha males. Also a big fan of GFY when it’s done right

  14. waxapplelover says:

    I love age gap romances.

  15. Jean Reads says:

    Just started your book today, so I won’t comment on it yet. But I love the arranged marriage trope, so I am looking forward to it!! Hmm…favorite trope…there are so many. No one has mentioned adopted or single-parent child finding out true identity yet and meeting the other birth-parent family as an adult. Identity-crisis trope. Or lost/mysterious heir (done well).

  16. Lee Todd says:

    GFY, military, PNR, BDSM are some of my faves

  17. Jillian Too, you’re the winner! Congratulations and thanks, everyone, for your great comments! <3

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