Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Thursday, May 8, 2008

You Got Romance in My Suspense!

Okay, let's try this again...

What I'd like to talk about this morning is romantic suspense, and how the romance mixes with the suspense to make a great read. Or doesn't.

Truth be told, I didn't even know what romantic suspense was until the last couple years. I'd never heard the phrase, and for me, there were romance novels and suspense novels. What I didn't know is that I've been reading romantic suspense for years. (Decades, now that I think about it.) I just always thought of those books as romance with suspense elements or suspense with romantic elements. (Would you believe: Thrillers with love thrown in for good measure?) *shrug*

Take Allison Brennan (one of my favorite authors, btw), for example. When I first picked up her books, I thought they were suspense novels. Imagine my surprise when I couldn't find her books in Borders by browsing through the 'mystery/suspense' section. Imagine my shock when I asked the gal at the customer service desk, and was pointed toward the 'romance' section. I never would've thought of Brennan's novels as romance. V-8 moment... :thunk:

Romantic suspense. Duh.

I think part of the problem with wrapping my brain around the 'romantic' part of romantic suspense is that I'm an impatient reader. When I'm reading books like Brennan's, I tend to skim the romance parts to get to the action. I'm looking for the payoff, and I don't really need a payoff in the romance area. I already know the characters are going to fall in love, get it on, and live HEA. What I don't know is how they're going to catch the bad guy, and how many more people have to die before that happens.

Don't get me wrong. I love romance novels. I used to gobble them down like potato chips. (You really can't read just one.) I don't read them much any more because I have romance in my life (and that's a whole nother post there), but I still love knowing they're out there when I want one.

It's like that old Reese's commercial... You got suspense in my romance! You got romance in my suspense! Tada, two great tastes that taste great together.

Except I'm the kinda gal who eats the chocolate outside first and then eats the peanut butter middle... but I digress.

Right now, I'm writing a romantic suspense of my own. Except, it's more suspense than romance, and no matter how hard I try to insert the romance, it doesn't seem to be melding together into a big yummy treat. At this point in the game, my MCs don't have time for love. She wants him, but she can't act on it because there's a killer on the loose. He wants her, but he can't go down that road because people are dying. I don't know if they'll have time until after the killer is caught, and then the book's over. Throwing in a final chapter of hot-n-heavy just because I want to label the book 'romantic suspense' wouldn't do justice to the story or its readers.

I think I'm just going to have the write the story as it needs to be written, and if that means the romance never culminates, I'm going to have to live with it. (Provided I don't write it in such a way to give the readers a literary case of sexual frustration. I hate that.)

Time for you to weigh in. What's your take on romantic suspense? Are you more inclined to read the romance and flip past the suspense, or vice versa? Or do you read every word and savor the entire experience? If you write romantic suspense, do you meld well?

Inquiring minds want to know.



JenWriter said...

I like a nice combo. I'm more into the suspense part of things, but I like romance in there if it makes sense. I love the J.D. Robb books which are hot and heavy with the romance but centers in more on the mystery at hand.

For me, anytime I've ever written anything, I've ended up with a romantic subplot whether I wanted it there or if it just appeared out of nowhere.

Basically, I don't try to force anything in. And I don't try to force anything out. Just whatever makes the most sense and works the best within the particular story.

Travis Erwin said...

I've read romance and I've read suspense but I've never read romantic suspense though i do know that such an animal exists.

Jusdging by your comments I'd say you are wanting the novel to be RS when it's really just a suspense. Just let the story roll is my suggestion.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I think the romance is like seasoning while the suspense is like the protein/vitamins part. You need the romance to give it flavour, but if you overdo it you can ruin the whole thing.