Friday, March 4, 2016

Romantic Suspense Is A Dangerous Balance

I honestly have to say, the one genre I am pretty pick about is romantic suspense. The biggest reason I say this is that this is one of the toughest genres to write. At the most basic level, you have two genres that really don't fit well together, and to be successful with this type of story requires a huge focus on the part of the author to keep that balance working.

When I read romantic suspense submissions, I generally see one of two huge flaws. The first is a lack of a romantic story arc. The second is a romantic element that looks like the author simply stuck it in to make it fit in the genre. Let me explain both.

In the first case, because the suspense element needs to be central to the story, the author will often completely forget that we need to see a building romance. Instead, the story keeps the reader going with the suspense and we are caught up in the mystery and the thrill of the bad guys, but that romance simply doesn't show up. It isn't until the end of the story that the author mentions that they have somehow fallen for each other.

Most likely, the author saw the relationship building in his or her head, but the words just didn't make it on to the page. This is really and easy mistake. In fact, one of my authors just did this with her latest work in progress. The story was great and as I read it, I was drawn right along with the suspense and the intrigue. It wasn't until I hit the end when it struck me we had forgotten the darn romance.

Now, the extension of this is the second huge flaw authors make. Instead of building on the romance, the author just starts having the characters fall into these sudden romantic scenes. In the middle of a chase scene, the author will throw in a romantic moment. These are bolts from the blue for the reader and seem to come across as the most unnatural moments.

I have written about this in the past when we talk about realism in stories. If you look at normal human behavior, if people are in the middle of a stressful situation, the odds are the characters are not going to start thinking about building a romance.

I get that this is a tough balance and no, there is not one easy solution for an author. This really comes down to the author having to really pay attention to what he or she types. It is also going to be one of those cases where the author needs to seriously consider plotting out the story. More advance thought will always help on this one.

For those of you who don't write in this genre, I do encourage you to pick one up and admire the craftsmanship the author has put into the story.


  1. Do you recommend any particular title that epitomizes the best?

  2. Years ago, through a weird set of circumstances, two editors at Harlequin Intrigue saw GUARDIAN ANGEL at the same time. One rejected it with "too much romance, not enough plot." The second said, "too much plot, not enough romance." This is why this genre is so hard to write.

    I sold it later to a publisher who thought it was just right.