Maybe the sultry heat of the mainland — or perhaps the sensual offshore breezes — have served to nurture the abundance of successful romance novelists who call the Space Coast home, because there certainly is no shortage of locals delighting readers with the make-believe story-telling that love conquers all. Even aliens.

Like every bon bon in a box of Godiva chocolates, each of these authors brings a luscious and unique taste to the extremely popular genre of romance, a billion-dollar market that represents a third of all mass-market fiction.

From Melbourne

Maria Geraci

author of 19 books, specializes in lighthearted romances and cozy mysteries.

T.J. Logan

prefers military and special operations romantic suspense.

Fiona Roarke

is a multi-published author who writes about bad boy aliens.

From Palm Bay

Rachel Hauck

has written more than 33 inspirational and contemporary romances that often feature a touch of the supernatural.

From the Barrier Islands

Melinda Leigh

a “Wall Street Journal” No. 1 best-selling author of more than 35 books and an Indialantic resident, pens romantic suspense and thrillers.

Leigh Duncan

In Rockledge, National Readers’ Choice Award winner Leigh Duncan is deep into her Heart’s Landing series for Hallmark Publishing. The prolific Duncan long ago was able to attract the attention of the crème de la crème of romance publishers, Harlequin.

Yes, there must be something in the air around here to inspire so much romance, although writing romances is anything but romantic, wherever you happen to be. Rather, it is hard work, demands plenty of perspiration, persistence and a thick skin, coupled (see what I did there?) with creativity and inspiration. Dabblers need not apply.

An avowed book lover, Melinda Leigh began writing as a hobby and way to preserve her sanity while raising a family. When she realized she preferred writing better to analyzing financial statements, she pivoted and now works on multi-book contracts, currently focusing on an eight-book police procedural romance series.

Leigh’s debut novel, “She Can Run,” was aptly named since right off the bat it was nominated by Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers. Her books have sold approximately 10 million copies, earning her three Daphne du Maurier Award nominations and three Golden Leaf Awards.

Another romance-writing Leigh, Leigh Duncan, is equally as serious about her writing.

Duncan writes with a strict code of discipline, typically beginning at 8 a.m. six days a week and only quitting when her ambitious daily word count goal has been met, often well into the evening.

It is not surprising that the pandemic has proven a boon of sorts for romance authors. While “Publishers’ Weekly” recently reported a drop in bookstore foot traffic, it also noted that online sales have gone through the roof.

“Digital sales numbers have made up for the drop in print sales, but whether numbers are up or not I continue to write stories aimed at transporting readers to a world where COVID doesn’t exist and where love and romance carry the day,” said Duncan.

Some writers, such as Fiona Roarke (a fictitious pen name), get “into the biz” almost entirely out of necessity. “I got started with romance writing when I was looking for a book to read and couldn’t find exactly what I wanted so I decided I’d write one myself,” she said.

The road to true love in the world of romance writing is rarely a straight path. As a deployment management specialist for a large defense contractor, T.J. Logan was tasked with relocating civilian personnel into Iraq and Afghanistan, which sounds about as a romantic as a dental checkup. But it was this background that helped shape her cloak-and-dagger romantic suspense focusing on family, honor and loyalty. Such is the stuff of creativity.

After marriage, Rachel Hauck quit her job and sat down to write and write and write. Several of her books, including her newest, “To Love a Prince,” are set in Brevard.

“A coastal community creates a great setting,” she said.

Maria Geraci started writing on a whim and didn’t look back. Although many authors create a lovely Neverland as the background, Geraci sets her stories in Florida beach towns suspiciously similar to Brevard’s, possibly because she grew up here after her parents fled Cuba for Florida. “Living in Brevard definitely inspired me,” she said.

Writing is a solitary endeavor, but these writers gain the energy to continue through cherished connections with kindred spirits, usually forged through membership in groups such as the Romance Writers of America and, locally, Florida Star Fiction Writers, which is currently offering Zoom-based workshops to keep writers in touch during the pandemic.

“Being surrounded by authors with varying degrees of knowledge about writing and the business of writing is very beneficial to anyone interest in pursuing [this] career,” said Logan.

Maria Sonnenberg
professor at Florida Institute of Technology |

Maria is a prolific writer and proofer for Space Coast Living and an adjunct professor at Florida Institute of Technology’s Nathan M. Bisk College of Business. When not writing, teaching or traveling, she can be found waging a one-woman war against her lawn and futilely attempting to maintain order among the chaos of a pack of extremely clueless wirehair dachshunds and an angst-driven basset hound.