Eleanor Harkstead : The Dangerous Path in Romance

As the Romantic Novelists’ Association celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, I’ve been running a series of posts on the topic of romantic suspense. I’m delighted to welcome Eleanor Harkstead as my guest today to not only talk about the genre, but to celebrate publication day!

Eleanor has co-written The Colour of Mermaids with Catherine Curzon.

 

Romance and romantic suspense comes in many forms, not just the hearts and flowers relationships but the toxic and damaging ones too, how would you describe the romance included within your novels?

The Colour of Mermaidsand The Man in Room 423are about relationships between people who start off as strangers to each other. Both novels explore that “should I, shouldn’t I?” moment when a woman is faced with the choice of being intimate with a man she’s only just met. The novels ask, too, “How well can I ever know my partner?” So although the relationships aren’t toxic, they’re not hearts and flowers — at least not to begin with.

Our m/m romantic suspense, which will be out in a few months’ time, contains a rather more hearts and flowers romance. It’s called The Reluctant Royal and is about a royal bodyguard and the man he’s protecting. Risk and suspense come from outside the novel’s central relationship. The couple aren’t strangers, but are forced to live in close quarters. Faced with their mutual attraction, and peril all around them, it should be no surprise that romance blossoms.

Is it as straightforward as calling it romance?

I think it’s important to flag up the suspense elements in the stories because for some romance readers, risk and peril might not be their cup of tea. For fans of the genre, though, that’s the appeal: a story that combines suspense as well as romance. It’s romance with bells on! And of course, having romancein the title suggests the ending will be a happy ever after, or at least a happy for now. But it’s a dangerous path to the finish line.

What is it about romantic suspense that draws you to write it or include it in your books?

We write romance without suspense, too (we’ve written historicals, romcoms, gothics, you name it!), but it’s fun to write suspense sometimes because you’re laying out clues, building tension, creating and resolving a mystery. Of course, a story that doesn’t have suspense elements needs tension and often clues that lead towards some sort of truth that the protagonists are reaching for, but suspense and crime push those aspects of storytelling to the foreground.

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

We have about an equal balance between the two. I suppose the difference between romantic suspense and a straightforward crime novel is that romance is an important strand in the story. Crime novels can have romantic elements — many of them have sensual scenes, or implied ones, but it can’t be a major theme. I’ve heard crime readers complain if they discover too much relationship business in novels sold as a straight crime novel. They want bad deeds and someone to resolve them, but romance only as a side dish, if at all.

But the thing is that a lot of crime fiction doescontain romance, of a kind. It is, after all, part of being human. Even in classic crime fiction like the Maigret novels, Maigret’s wife and their relationship is important to the stories because she anchors him in a “normal” world, while his job as a detective takes him to dark places.

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

I’m sure other romantic suspense authors will say the same, but there’s an assumption that the romance element in romantic suspense distracts from the suspense and makes them less crime-y, and not to be taken all that seriously.

It’s a shame, because a great deal of care is required when plotting and writing romantic suspense. You have to maintain the balance between solving the mystery and developing the protagonists’ relationship, and I personally like the kind of romantic suspense that casts doubt on the person the protagonist is on the verge of falling in love with. So you have to show whythe character is falling for them, and at the same time entertaining doubts. Why do they doubt them? How — if at all — do they overcome those doubts?

 Can I trust this person?

It’s a fundamental question people ask in real life when they’re opening themselves up to a relationship, and I think those very real anxieties need to be clear to the readers for these kinds of stories to work. And fiction is the perfect place for us to explore our fears, as well as our desires. Which is why romantic suspense works.

The Colour of Mermaidsby Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead is published on 24th March by Totally Bound in ebook and paperback. https://mybook.to/thecolourofmermaids

Blurb:

When artist Eva Catesby is invited to an exhibition in honour of art world enfant terrible Daniel Scott, she’s expected to follow the crowd and sing his praises. Instead she tells him what she really thinks and sparks fly. As they plunge headlong into a wild affair, Eva becomes the target of unwanted attention from an unseen enemy.

Daniel Scott is famous for his paintings. Filled with darkness and tormented imagery, his canvases are as mysterious as his background. Until he meets Eva, Daniel is a stranger to criticism and doesn’t know what it means to fall in love.

Can Eva help Daniel overcome his childhood demons or will a fatal secret from the past destroy their future?

The Man in Room 423 will be published on 5th May.

Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead began writing together in the spring of 2017 and swiftly discovered a shared love of sauce, well-dressed gents and a uniquely British sort of romance. They drink gallons of tea, spend hours discussing the importance of good tailoring and are never at a loss for a double entendre.

They are the authors of numerous  short stories and two novel series, the de Chastelaine Chronicles, and the Captivating Captains, published by Totally Bound and Pride. Their novel The Ghost Gardenhas been shortlisted for the 2020 Romantic Novel Awards.

Follow Catherine at: Facebook, Twitter, Instagramand Bookbub

Follow Eleanor at: Facebook, Twitter, Instagramand Bookbub.

Sign up to our newsletter and receive our free, exclusive short story “Brighton Beaux”. https://curzonharkstead.co.uk/newsletter

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, amzn.to/2rP6nxb 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!

Blurb

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.

 

Rosie Travers : Crossing Genres

Continuing on with the romantic suspense guests post to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, today I’m pleased to welcome Rosie Travers  who talks about how her books are difficult to pin down into one genre …

Romance and romantic suspense comes in many forms, not just the hearts and flowers relationships but the toxic and damaging ones too, how would you describe the romance included within your novels?

A complication.  As a reader the most important element of any novel for me has to a gripping storyline, so in my writing I would describe the romance between my characters as a subplot, as opposed to the main focus of the story.  I like to create feisty female lead characters – these women aren’t necessary looking for, or indeed need, a romance in their lives, and when it comes along it brings added complications, more hurdles to jump in their emotional journeys.

Is it as straightforward as calling it romance?

I wouldn’t describe either of the novels I’ve had published so far as ‘romance’. The Theatre of Dreams crosses many genres, the main focus of the story is the relationship between two actresses, united in their desire to save an historic seaside theatre. The novel was written with the intention of being essentially fun and uplifting, as well as a tribute and a lament to the loss of a traditional part of the entertainment industry – the seaside pavilion.  The big question is will the plot to save the pavilion succeed? The romance is an added bonus.

In Your Secret’s Safe With Me, again the romance is not paramount to the main plotline which focusses on the changing family dynamic between Becca, her mother Pearl, and younger brother Freddy, following Pearl’s surprise engagement. The family uproot from their London home to a tightknit coastal community. When Becca encounters Nick, an old flame, he warns her the family are in danger, but she has no reason to trust him. As she becomes aware of some illicit activities on the waterfront, she faces a dilemma. Is he warning her away because he’s actually embroiled in the illegal activities himself?

What is it about romantic suspense that draws you to write it or include it in your books?

I write the type of books I like to read – a story that will keep me guessing with unpredictable plot twists and turns. When a reader tells me they ‘didn’t see that coming’ I know I’ve hit the right note.  In both books I’ve published so far, my heroines have a lot at stake if their course of action goes wrong. It’s important to keep readers on tenterhooks.

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

There always has to be an element of ‘not knowing’ to make a reader want to turn the page.  I like creating that element of intrigue, whether it’s a battle against external forces, the villians of the piece, or a will-they-wont-they romantic interlude. I am a romantic at heart and I like a HEA, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be tears, or some heart in the mouth moments along the way.

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

I dislike genres because my books just don’t seem to fit into an easy pigeonhole. I was once at a book fair and a browsing customer asked me what type of books I wrote. When I said ‘romantic comedy’ she moved swiftly on! We can’t please all the people all of the time, but I do now generalise my novels as ‘women’s fiction’ because they encompass so many different themes – family drama, romance, suspense, all served up with a good dose of humour. It does sound like a bit of a hotchpotch so I’m always glad when people tell me it’s worked for them!

Blurb

Career girl Becca Gates’ organised life is thrown into chaos with her mother, romantic novelist Pearl, announces her surprise engagement to Jack, a man she has only just met. Worse news follows when Pear tells Becca she intends to leave London, quit writing and retire to her new finance’s idyllic waterside home on the south coast. Becca is determined to prevent Pearl from making a disastrous mistake, but when she arrives at Rivermede, more shocks await when she stumbles upon a familiar yet unwelcome face from her past. As Pearl embraces her new life amongst the local sailing fraternity, Becca receives a grim warning that all is not as calm as it seems at picturesque Rivermede, and if she wants to keep her family safe, she should keep them away. But why should Becca trust the man who has betrayed her before, the man who broke her heart, the man who thinks he knows all her secrets?

Jane Cable : How Mystery and Issues Make a Romantic Suspense

The Romantic Novelists’ Association are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year and I’m delighted to have Jane Cable on the blog today to talk about romantic suspense.

Romance and romantic suspense comes in many forms, not just the hearts and flowers relationships but the toxic and damaging ones too, how would you describe the romance included within your novels?

The relationships themselves may or may not be damaging, but my main characters almost always bear some pretty serious scars. When I first started writing ten years ago I was told numerous times that people with mental health issues couldn’t be romantic heroes (or heroines) but I stuck to my guns and thankfully that’s changed. With The Faerie Tree in particular, a book about fractured memory, I wanted to show someone who’d had a pretty major breakdown could turn their life around and then find love.

Is it as straightforward as calling it romance?

Romance is rarely straightforward in real life so I’m not comfortable when it is in fiction. My author brand can be summed up by the phrase ‘the past is never dead’, and that can either mean the characters’ own pasts or the past in general, because although so far my books have all been contemporary I love a nod back over my shoulder at history. And also a touch of ghostliness.

All those elements are present in Another You: Marie, who is scarred by her poisonous marriage, meets a charming American soldier during a D-Day re-enactment but it soon becomes clear nothing is quite as it seems. Is he an echo from the past, or is something altogether more sinister going on? The romance and the mystery are inextricably tied together so unfold together, which is the way I like it best.

What is it about romantic suspense that draws you to write it or include it in your books?

It’s a purely personal thing, but I like a book to have more to it than a boy-meets-girl story as very few of those hold my attention. I also love writing a mystery; working out how and when to drop the clues and the various alternative explanations for what the reader sees on the page. The really odd thing is never knowing how well you’ve pulled it off until someone else reads the book – it’s a fine balance to strike between being too subtle and altogether too obvious and I love a challenge.

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

My books are definitely relationship led. I love exploring characters and finding out what makes them tick and how they react to in different situations. But a big part of that is how they deal with the unusual – or down right inexplicable – in their lives, and how they explain it to themselves. When you’re asking readers to step into the unknown I think it’s very important for the characters’ reactions to be realistic and credible.

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

Sometimes I’m not always sure what it means myself! I think the main problem is readers don’t realise how broad a church romantic suspense is, and think of it as solely crime or thriller based. Family mysteries are very popular too, crossing over with psychological fiction or noir, but there are also ghostly books, erotica and titles which are largely romance with just a twist of mystery thrown in. As a genre it’s really quite baffling and I wish there were better ways to describe it.

Blurb

Sometimes the hardest person to save is yourself…

Marie Johnson fell in love with The Smugglers pub when she first moved to Dorset with her husband, Stephen.

But when Stephen’s wandering eye caused the breakdown of their marriage, and the costs of running the pub started to mount, Marie felt her dreams crashing down around her.

With local celebrations planned for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Marie is hopeful things will turn around.

But she could never have predicted the ways her life will soon be changed forever.

A charming American soldier walks into Marie’s life, but it becomes clear nothing is really as it seems…

Why is Marie suddenly plagued by headaches? Is her American soldier everything he seems to be?

Or could the D-Day re-enactments be stirring up something from the past…?

ANOTHER YOU is a moving saga of family life in the 21st century which draws on the horrors of combat, both in modern times and the Second World War. It is a heart-warming tale of one woman’s fight to reclaim her identity and discover what really matters to her.

L J Ross: Broader Relationships Within The Crime Genre

To continue with the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s 60th anniversary celebrations and with the romantic suspense theme on my blog, today I have the amazing L J Ross talking about the broader aspects of ‘romance’ in her best selling DCI Ryan books.

Romance and romantic suspense comes in many forms, not just the hearts and flowers relationships but the toxic and damaging ones too, how would you describe the romance included within your novels?

I’d say the romance included within my novels is both aspirational and real. It ranges from quiet chats beside the television in old flannel bath robes, to excitinglife-or-death rescues in some of the most atmospheric parts of the North-East. Often, though, my readers tell me the most heart-warming moments are the everyday ones, where there’s real thought and emotion behind the many small acts of kindness one person can show to another.

Is it as straightforward as calling it romance?

I think there’s definitely ‘romance’, including the ‘meet-cute’ moments when one character first meets another, but I’d say my books are really about broader relationships: friendships, romantic partnerships, toxic partnerships of all kinds and, of course, the ultimate antithesis to romance in the form of antagonists we all love to hate.

What is it about romantic suspense that draws you to write it or include it in your books?

I think there’s something uplifting about taking the reader on a journey of discovery – and there’s no greater discovery than when one person falls in love with another, or learns to be kind to one another.

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

I’d say my books are evenly split. On the face of it, my DCI Ryan books are crime fiction, but the more readers delve into the series they often find that the thing that most draws them into the stories are the developing relationships between the six main characters.

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

I think there will always be readers who have strong polarised preferences for either suspense or romance, and they will never enjoy books which balance the two as much as ones that reflect their own preference. However, I’ve found that many readers who came to my series by reading ‘Holy Island’ have found themselves surprised that they rather like romantic suspense fiction after all!

Blurb

Detective Chief Inspector Ryan retreats to Holy Island seeking sanctuary when he is forced to take sabbatical leave from his duties as a homicide detective. A few days before Christmas, his peace is shattered and he is thrust back into the murky world of murder when a young woman is found dead amongst the ancient ruins of the nearby Priory.

When former local girl Dr Anna Taylor arrives back on the island as a police consultant, old memories swim to the surface making her confront her difficult past. She and Ryan struggle to work together to hunt a killer who hides in plain sight, while pagan ritual and small-town politics muddy the waters of their investigation.

Murder and mystery are peppered with a sprinkling of romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit set on the spectacular Northumbrian island of Lindisfarne, cut off from the English mainland by a tidal causeway.

Wendy Clarke : The Balancing Act of Suspense and Romantic Suspense

So, helping me celebrate the Romantic Novelists’ Association‘s 60th anniversary this week is suspense writer Wendy Clarke who explains how the romantic suspense tips into the suspense of her writing.

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

Depending on how you look at it, my debut novel, What She Saw, could either be described as a psychological thriller or a romantic suspense. I think this would depend on whether it’s the relationship between the characters that’s important to you as a reader or the plot. I would say that the novel is primarily a suspense but has romance woven through it in the sub-plot.

Is it as straightforward as calling it a romance?

I would say romantic suspense is definitely not as straightforward as calling it a romance. In a romance, you would usually look for two things, a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. There is a lot more leeway for shades of grey (forgive the comparison) in a romantic suspense novel. The romance may or may not be the central theme (in my novel it isn’t) and there might not be a happy ending for your lovers. Because romance isn’t the main theme, it can be difficult to tell the point when a thriller tips into a romantic suspense.

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

Although my intention had never been to write a straightforward romance as my first novel, when I wrote my debut thriller, it was impossible not to be influenced by the hundreds of romantic short stories I’d had published in magazines in the years before. For me, this merging of elements was a perfect way to start my novel-writing journey.

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

Although romance in What She Saw is integral to my story, the novel is weighted more heavily towards the thriller element. I would say 70-30 in favour of the suspense. I am moving away from the romance element though and my second suspense, We Were Sisters, contains very little.

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

I haven’t come across any misconceptions, as What She Saw is marketed as a psychological thriller rather than a romantic suspense. Luckily, readers of my novel seem to have embraced the slightly slower build-up and higher emotion stakes that the hidden romantic suspense genre gives to my writing. I hope it’s because I’ve managed to deliver the right amount of relationship development while filling the plot with danger and intrigue. What ever it is, I loved writing What She saw.

Blurb

We Were Sisters and is about an over-protective young mother, Kelly, who is struggling after the birth of her third child. One day, she finds a locket in her baby’s pushchair. It was the one her foster-sister Freya had been wearing when she died. The find brings back haunting memories of Kelly’s lonely childhood and she fears someone from her past wants to harm her family. Slowly but surely, her well-ordered life begins to unravel.

Georgia Hill : Darker Elements of Romance

The Romantic Novelists’ Association are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year and I’m delighted to welcome Georgia Hill onto the blog to talk about her latest novel and how this tie in with romantic suspense.

Romance and romantic suspense comes in many forms, not just the hearts and flowers relationships but the toxic and damaging ones too, how would you describe the romance included within your novels?

I’m primarily a romance writer rather than a romantic suspense novelist but I’ve written about all sorts of relationships, including one in The Little Book Caféwhich was abusive. It was inspired by a storyline in, of all things, The Archers. Like many I was drawn in by the compulsive saga of Helen and Rob. It aired about the time coercive control was recognised as an offence and I became fascinated. When people do terrible things in the name of love it’s truly horrifying. If you asked Adrian in The Little Book Café  why he was being so abusive to Tash, he’d be astonished. He truly believed he loved her.  I’ve been in a relationship which, looking back, had a certain amount of coercive control and extrapolated from that. My editor was shocked when she read it, claiming it was a little darker than my usual stuff. Don’t write off romance novels as being light and fluffy! I loved writing Adrian because he was so vile but I refuse to say who he was based on. Readers said I got it right which was a relief. It’s a responsibility when writing about issues like that. Most of the romantic relationships I write about are far healthier. A common theme is people finding that, as a couple, they are stronger together than as an individual. I’m a firm believer that, with the right person, you can go on to be the better version of yourself, that they complete you.

Is it as straightforward as calling it romance?

I’m not sure there’s anything straightforward about romance – or about romance novels. Messy, frustrating, accompanied by a whole airport carousel of emotional baggage. I always write a happy ending though. However much I make my characters suffer (poor Charity in my latest book On a Falling Tidesuffered terribly!) I will give them their happy ending, or at least hint that there will be one. The world is too miserable and uncertain at the moment to cope with a devastating ending to a book as well. My novels are aimed at those who want to escape.

What is it about romantic suspense that draws you to write it or include it in your books?

I didn’t think I wrote romantic suspense but the first part of The Little Book Café certainly had elements and On a Falling Tidehas lots. In The Little Book CaféTash attempts to escape Adrian. While writing it, I had the Mary Stewart classic novel, Madam, Will You Talk?in my head. She was a master in the art of romantic suspense and wrote a fabulous, exhausting-to-read chase sequence in that book. Edge of the seat stuff. I think the draw, whether reading or writing romantic suspense, are the questions, ‘What’s going to happen next? How will the characters get out of the peril they find themselves in?’ In order to make your reader read on, you have to create characters they really care about and they believe in.

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

I’m a romance writer first but I like to play with the genre. I can’t resist putting in some suspense or a little spookiness. The beauty and fun of the romance genre is that it’s all-encompassing.

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

The usual, ‘It’s all Mills and Boon.’ I only wish I could write a Mills and Boon, I’d love to write for them! Then there’s, ‘Oh you write Fifty Shades stuff?’ I’ve also been on the receiving end of, ‘When are you going to write a proper book?’ The implication being a romance novel isn’t. Nowadays that makes me laugh. You develop a thick skin by being a romance writer. I just tell them, even though my books aren’t real, the royalties pay the bills nicely thank you and change the subject!

Blurb

Two women. Connected by heartbreak, separated in time. Can Charity save the man she loves, or will Lydia’s vengeful spirit prove too strong?

Two haunting love stories and a hundred and fifty-year-old curse…

When the beloved grandfather who brought her up dies, Charity is left struggling to cope. Alone and rootless, she’s drawn to the sleepy fishing village of Beaumouth near Lyme Regis and begins to research her family tree.

A chance encounter with attractive boat-builder Matt sparks a chain of mysterious and unsettling events and leads Charity to uncover the story of a young girl who lived in the village over a hundred years before.

In 1863 all Lydia Pavey wants to do is follow in Mary Anning’s footsteps and become a ‘fossilist.’ Instead, she is being forced into marriage to a man she barely knows.

Charity’s obsession with Lydia becomes all-consuming and she risks losing everything. With a longed-for family tantalisingly in reach, will Charity find the happy ever after she’s yearned for and, most importantly, can she save the man she loves?

Patricia Dixon : The Gritty Side of Romance and Relationships

It’s week three of the Romantic Novelists’ Association‘s February celebrations for their 60th year and today I have Patricia Dixon talking about her writing …

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

I would describe it as more gritty subjects that either interest or mean something to me. Situations and subjects that are perhaps at the route of troubled relationships or have a sinister and secret side. 

Is it as straightforward as calling it romance?

I don’t think so, probably for the reasons above. Maybe love is a more apt word because it comes in many forms, it’s not all hearts and flowers which romance suggests. 

What is it about romantic suspense that draws you to write it or include it in your books?

Most people have been in love or I hope they have and it’s something that a reader can connect with, plus a sprinkling of suspense for added interest to the story. 

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

I try to focus on the relationship more and have suspense as a by-product. 

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

Just that word romance, I think it’s an instant turn-off for anyone who considers themselves a hardened crime, mystery, thriller suspense reader. Maybe they don’t want to admit to enjoying the genre or even give it a go. It’s a shame because some of my best reviews have come from readers of my books in the psychological genre who I coerced into giving my women’s fiction a try. Now I know they’d take a chance on romantic suspense because they enjoyed a bit of a change. 

Blurb

When Freya falls for the manipulative Kane, her life changes beyond her wildest imagination. When the luxurious life she craves gradually becomes intolerable she realises escape is out of reach. Her life has changed and so has she.

She knows that when she least expects it, he will return and make good his promise to exact revenge and ensure she pays the price he felt he is owed.

Can Freya ever be free?

Whoever knew love could be so dangerous?

Following Freya from her carefree twenties up to the present day, Over My Shoulder is an intricate tale of blinkered love and obsession.

Helena Fairfax : Conflicts Within Romantic Suspense

It’s week three of the Romantic Novelists’ Association‘s February celebrations for their 60th year and today I have romantic suspense writer Helena Fairfax with me talking about her views on romantic suspense.

Romance and romantic suspense comes in many forms, not just the hearts and flowers relationships but the toxic and damaging ones too, how would you describe the romance included within your novels?

Most of my novels are contemporary romances and are on the ‘heartwarming’ side. For In the Mouth of the Wolf, I had to take a different approach to building the relationship. In order to do this, I created a lot of mystery around the character of the hero, Léon. This mystery tests the heroine’s trust in him. The relationship itself isn’t toxic – it’s the people around Léon who introduce doubt.

Is it as straightforward as calling it romance?

In a romance novel, the conflict lies within the characters themselves – that is, what is it that is keeping the hero and heroine apart, even though they are made for one another? In a romantic suspense, there is an extra layer of conflict in the mystery or thriller element. The hero and heroine are doing battle, not just with themselves, but with outside forces. This makes it not as straightforward as calling it romance.

What is it about romantic suspense that draws you to write it or include it in your books?

I had enormous fun writing In the Mouth of the Wolf. The rest of my novels are ‘straightforward’ contemporary romances. In some ways contemporary romance is a lot more difficult to write. As I mentioned above, the tension has to come from within the characters, and the narrative is character-driven. Finding a credible reason to keep two people who are attracted to one another apart in the 21st century is extremely difficult to do, as is keeping up a page-turning quality. Readers know how a romance will end. Keeping them guessing on howit will end requires a lot of skill.

In a romantic suspense, the tension comes not just from within the characters but also through outside forces, which means the story is more plot-driven. In some ways this is easier to write – and in other ways, much harder. You have to make sure you are giving equal balance to the developing love story and the battle against ‘dark forces’.

I enjoy writing contemporary romance and romantic suspense equally. They both have their attractions.

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

Because I write mainly contemporary romance, In the Mouth of the Wolfis probably weighted more towards the romance element than the suspense. The ending feels more like that of a romance than of a thriller. This may be because the hero, Léon, became my favourite of all my heroes as I was writing the book. After all the suspense, I wanted to give both hero and heroine the ending they deserved!

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

I come up against misconceptions about the romance genre as a whole. When it comes to romantic suspense, some people seem to think the genre can’t be taken as seriously as ‘proper’ crime novels. I don’t understand why this is. There are some highly romantic heroes in crime novels – e.g. Adam Dalgliesh, in the P.D. James books, whose romantic relationship with Cordelia Gray is strongly hinted at.

To dispel misconceptions, I’d recommend people read some of the great romantic suspense writers. There are many, but two of my favourites are Mary Stewart and Janet Evanovich.

Blurb

When actress Lizzie Smith is asked to stand in for a real Mediterranean princess, she’s thrust into a world of intrigue and danger. Alone in a palace by the sea, isolated from her friends, Lizzie is forced to rely on her quiet bodyguard, Léon, to guide her. But who is Léon really protecting? Lizzie … or the princess?
On her return to Scotland, Lizzie begins rehearsals for Macbeth … and finds danger is stalking her through the streets of Edinburgh. Lizzie is once again forced to turn to Léon, for help – and discovers a secret he’d do anything not to reveal.
From the heat of the Mediterranean to the atmospheric, winding streets of Edinburgh, In the Mouth of the Wolf will take you on a journey of mystery and romance. Perfect for fans of Mary Stewart.

Tanya Jean Russell : Intrigue, Drama and Tension in Romance

This year sees the 60th anniversary for the Romantic Novelists’ Association and I’m running a series of blog posts about the romantic suspense genre. Today, I have Tanya Jean Russell  with me to talk about the genre.

Romance and romantic suspense comes in many forms, not just the hearts and flowers relationships but the toxic and damaging ones too, how would you describe the romance included within your novels?

I am passionate about love being based on respect, trust and partnership. To me, the most powerful love comes from valuing each other. The romance I write tends to focus on couples bringing out the best in each other, even if it takes a little while for them to see, or accept, that that’s what’s happening!

Is it as straightforward as calling it romance?

In some ways it is that simple, love and romance are at the heart of my novels, calling it romance is the promise writers make to readers that their hopes and expectations will be fulfilled when they invest their precious time, and money, in reading something we have written.

In other ways the very best romance novels are much richer than calling them by a single genre name suggests. They draw readers into the lives of the main characters, their families and friendships, making us, as readers, feel as though we are a part of their world.

What is it about romantic suspense that draws you to write it or include it in your books?

I love reading about human interaction and relationships. The way romance novels place the relationship at the heart of the fictional journey is really powerful. I am drawn to the romantic suspense genre as a way of experiencing the drama, tension and intrigue of events and lives I will never live (and probably wouldn’t want to if it came down to it!). The unique settings and challenges my hero’s and heroines face always feel as exciting to write as their developing relationship does, and hopefully they are exciting to read!

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

I’m not much of a planner when I write, so the balance between the romance and suspense elements tends to be dictated by my characters. I find my hero and heroines tend to be pretty noisy, and determined to tell their own stories, I just get to come along for the ride!

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

I have been really lucky that people have been overwhelmingly positive about my writing, and the genre. I feel like it’s a reality that any genre comes with certain expectations, and as a writer, its up to me whether I meet those expectations or not.

Blurb

Jake Williams has been undercover as a captain at Great Britain Air for months and he’s beyond frustrated. Tasked with finding the airline insiders who are smuggling chemical weapons into the country, he’s getting nowhere fast.

Bree Phillips has spent her whole life wanting to travel and experience life outside of the small village she grew up in, but her family needed her. Now, years later than planned, she is finally joining her best friend to work for Great Britain Air, and her adventure is beginning.

Jake knows he is better off alone, it keeps him sharp and focused, but despite his efforts to keep Bree at a distance, she is drawn further and further into his world. Both have to ask themselves whether some risks are worth taking.