Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Fine Romance

I have a confession to make.

I once disliked romance novels.

Not because I didn’t think they were good enough books, but I just felt the plots weren’t the kind to get me on the edge of my seat. Or the stories that made me bite my nails wondering what was going to happen next.

So, when I was growing up mystery was my genre. I’d sit for hours reading Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton novels. I wanted to be like the sleuths within the pages, finding the bad guys, solving the mystery and making the world safe again. I along with Miss Marple and The Secret Five would figure out who committed the crime. These plots kept me spellbound and entertained for hours.

I’ll be fair, I’d never read a romance book but I’d seen the covers read and the blurbs on the Mills and Boon books my grandmother would consume by the dozen.

I remember picking one up, paging through it, and asking her how could waste her time reading a romance when there were so many great mysteries to out there. Her reply was always the same, ‘they keep you on the edge of your seat. You’re on tender hooks wondering how these two people are going to work out their conflict.’

Did she say ‘conflict’ and ‘keep you on the edge of your seat’? Was she getting here genres mixed up?

I was never willing to find out what she was talking about until one day I picked up a book by Mary Stewart. I saw the word suspense written on and thought it was a mystery. I soon found out, yes, it was a mystery and a whole lot more. It was suspenseful, who were the bad guys, was the heroine going to be safe? But what was just as intriguing to me was the hero. This really nice guy was perfect for the heroine, but was he really in love with her, or was he going to kill her? I finally figured out what my grandmother had been talking about.

And so I found a subgenre called romantic suspense and I was slowly drawn into the world of romance novels. At first I insisted they had the word ‘suspense’ stamped on them or I wouldn’t touch them. However, I slowly I began to see what my grandmother had seen all those years in her Mills and Boon novels. You began the book knowing the hero and heroine were perfect for one another. You wanted them to be together, you knew they were going to end up together. However, the suspense, the mystery if you like, was how they could arrive there. After all, he’d supposedly killed her father, and she slept with his best friend. He’d stolen the plans for her new invention. He’s a tortured soul and she never wants to see another man again as long as she lives.

I’m still a huge mystery fan, and yes, I wrote both mysteries and romances. But I now I realize that a fine romance, one written well, often has some of the best conflicts you’ll ever find in the pages of a book. So this being February… and even if you’re a mystery fan, pick up a romance novel and you’ll see what I’m talking about.


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