I write Romantic Suspense. I love the genre. Who wouldn’t? At its best, it combines spine-tingling suspense with hot romance. However, I believe two accepted “conventions” associated with the Romantic Suspense genre are overworked by authors in their efforts to earn acceptance from agents/editors, who say these elements are key.
Convention #1: When the hero first appears on the scene (preferable in the first couple of pages), the heroine must find him so sexy and exciting her heart goes into overdrive—even if she’s in shock and initially thinks he’s a despicable human being with the personality of Attila the Hun.
Convention #2: For the romantic arc to succeed, Convention #2 argues that each time it looks as if the hero and heroine will find bliss in each other’s arms an internal conflict must arise to pull them apart. This push-pull aspect of the relationship is credited with building tension and keeping the reader flipping pages to see if the star-crossed lovers will overcome these roadblocks. Of course, all these horrendous conflicts disappear like magic at the end of the book with the happy-ever-after ending.
Okay, what’s my problem with Convention #1? In Romantic Suspense, the book often opens with the heroine in great danger and/or scared out of her wits. Someone’s just tried to murder her…or kidnap her child…or rape her. You get the picture.
Now I ask you would a woman who’s just been used for target practice by a madman with a sniper rifle waste any brain cells cataloguing the physical assets of the hunky policeman interviewing her? I don’t think so.
She might find the cop’s size frightening or his brusque tone intimidating, but I doubt her frazzled mind would let her notice the officer had chocolate brown eyes, a strong jaw or a firm butt.
I’m much more apt to buy into a story premise if the author doesn’t stretch/abuse the heroine’s point of view in order to establish that the man who’s just come on stage is, in fact, the hero. Let the reader discover the man’s heroic qualities when it’s logical that the heroine would start to appreciate his physical and/or mental attributes.
Convention #2: I get it. Internal conflicts up the stakes and build tension. Yet I find it difficult to swallow that a heroine and hero will squander time squabbling if they’re fighting for their lives. Once the hero and heroine join forces and begin working as a team against the exterior threat, I think all their energies would be directed toward eliminating the threat not nitpicking their relationship.
Yes, the couple might be allowed to have private reservations about their long-term relationship because (fill in the blank). However, too often it seems that stupid misunderstandings are used to pry the heroine and hero apart at a crucial moment simply because it’s “time” for a breakup.
I think author J.D. Robb has aptly demonstrated that a couple (Eve and Rourke) can have a hot romance, fight bad guys and treat the reader to lots of tension without wasting time on quarrels that make a reader want to scream “You idiot!” at the hero or heroine or both.
What do you think? Let’s hear it from you readers of Romantic Suspense. How do you feel about these conventions? Are they overdone?
About the Author
Linda Lovely is the author of DEAR KILLER, a mystery with strong romantic elements that’s set in the South Carolina Lowcountry. The heroine is a 52-year-old retired military intelligence officer who works part-time as a security officer on a private island.
Despite the author’s objections to Convention #1, Lovely freely admits that Marley Clark, DEAR KILLER’s heroine, notices plenty of appealing aspects about the hero—Braden Mann, a 40-year-old homicide detective—the minute she meets him. However, Marley has just discovered a body and she’s not in personal danger.
Once the duo forms a partnership, Marley and Braden may debate tactics and strategies but they don’t waste a lot of mental energy on imaginary slights. When they’re not chasing the killer, Marley and Braden savor the opportunity to rediscover the joy that comes with a new romance.