Adrienne Vaughan: The Layers and Textures within Romantic Suspense

The celebrations with the Romantic Novelists’ Association continue as they mark their 60th anniversary and I’m delighted to welcome Adrienne Vaughan as my next guest in this series of posts looking at romantic suspense.

Romantic suspense comes in many forms, how would you describe the sort you write?

My stories tend to be multi-generational, so romance takes many forms in my novels. The love aspect – always a rocky road for my characters – laces through the central theme, which usually has a dark mystery at its heart. It’s the trials and tribulations of unravelling the intrigue and seeking justice which help define my characters as the story develops. My books always have a happy ending, so love has to be in there somewhere.

Is it as straightforward as calling it a romance?

I don’t think any romance, or indeed relationship is straightforward and it’s the layers and textures of my characters interaction with one another that I find most intriguing.

I have a vague plan what my books are about when I start writing, but the story unfolds as I write, so I’m finding out what happens as if I’m a reader – I love that process.

What is it about romantic suspense that draws you to write it?

I write multi-layered, fast-paced mysteries with strong female leads – of all ages – who have very real relationships on many levels. Romantic love is just one aspect of love, but it’s a force that moulds us.

Choosing who we build relationships with, how and where we live, what we do for a living is all linked to that one important love interest, the one we chose as our partner.

It’s the bedrock of society, no matter what form it takes, people fall in love and try to make it work despite what’s thrown at them and as humans it’s this very human story that fascinates us, every time.

What sort of balance between the romance element and the suspense element do you have?

Great question but not in my gift, I’m afraid. My characters dictate the balance between romance and suspense in my novels. For instance, in my debut The Hollow Heart,the fiery on-off relationship between investigative journalist Marianne Coltrane and the arrogant actor Ryan O’Gorman really drives the plot. Yet in my latest, That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel, the emerging passion between leading lady Mia Flanagan and the powerful Ross Power is very understated.

And like all good authors, I do what I’m told, it’s their story after all.

Do you come up against any regular misconceptions about the genre and how do you dispel these?

Romance is such a broad genre, with so many sub-genres it can be quite frustrating when people give misguided ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ responses when asking what I write.

It’s up to us as writers to reinforce the message; romantic fiction is one of the best-selling genres in the world, people adore our stories, devour our books and fall in love with our characters.

We’re a force to be reckoned with, because great romantic writing is some of the best in the world. Being a writer of romance is something to be proud of and as a writer of suspense, be careful what you say about romance … I could easily erase you with the flick of my pen!


Mia Flanagan has never been told who her father is and aged ten, stopped asking. Haunted by this, she remains a dutiful daughter who would never do anything to bring scandal or shame on her beautiful and famously single mother. So when Archie Fitzgerald, one of Hollywood’s favourite actors, decides to leave Mia his Irish estate she asks herself – is he her father after all? That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is a tale of passion, jealousy and betrayal – and the ghost of a secret love that binds this colourful cast yet still threatens, after all these years, to tear each of them apart.