Wednesday, April 14, 2010

About genres and subgenres -- Romantic Suspense

I read a lot and I read in a variety of genres so I've decided to look at the genres and see what I like and don't like in the books I've read. Romance will be my first and Romantic Suspense is the first subgenre, probably because I don't write in this area. I've done one suspense book, Obsessions, but that's a medical suspense which is a different sort of thing.
Romantic Suspense has two focuses, one is the romance and the other is the suspense. Combining them can be tricky and falling short can happen easily. I'm not going to mention specific books because this isn't a review site. I'm just going to look at what I like in these books and how they fall flat for me.

What I like about Romantic Suspense are villains who are powerful and really evil. I want to see the hero and heroine face someone who is worthy of the fight to the finish. I love to see the sexual tension develop between the hero and heroine as they face adversity. There are a number of kinds of romantic suspense. There can be as the enemy spies both foreign and industrial, criminals of all kinds. There can be bad guys from the past that come to haunt a hero or heroine's present. The ones I enjoy the most are those with tension that carries through the book that keep the pages turning. This is a real talent.

Now on to the things that bother me a lot. The first is figuring who the villain is if this is being kept a secret. I remember reading one romantic suspense and I knew who the bad guy was by page three. Needless to say I didn't finish the book. A second is when the heroine or the hero is "too stupid to live." I've read so many of these where the heroine or hero goes into a situation tha no reasonable person would entertain. A third is when the love scene occurs at a time when no reasonable person would make love. Another is erratic writing. I remember reading one where the suspense elements were riveting and drew me forward, only to come on to a hero/heroine scene with back and forth dialogue that was supposed to be amusing but broke the tone of the book.

Plots are the backbone of good romantic suspense. There are two kind of plots here that drive me to toss the book away. One is the simplistic plot where the suspense is only a vehicle for the romance. The suspense part could be solved too quickly and the romance becomes the major part of the book. The other is a plot so convoluted that the reader has no chance of every decipering it. The convoluted plot often forces the hero, heroine or both to act in ways that make them appear to be fools.


Terri said...

Hmm. I cannot say I really disagree. Although I HAVE read books where either one element or another made me continue on. I think when they are written by FAMOUS AUTHOR, that may push me to keep reading, hoping for the best. I read one this year by one of my favorites, who writes across the romance genres under different names. The romance was pretty much tied up by page 100, so then next couple of hundred was really just a lot of running around. But still. While some of her books are in my all-time fave list and others are just ho-hum, I continued to read b/c she's never let me down so badly I wanted to throw her book at the wall. Another NEW TO ME author whose romantic suspense series I gobbled one after another this year, had a couple of scenes that would have probably had you howling, with the h/h being shot at from all sides and/or otherwise in danger, but having "moments" nevertheless. But the rest of the series had built the hero's character up so much over the course of 6 or 7 books and the heroine was a flame from his past and I was so invested in all of it and the FAMOUS AUTHOR did it so well, it was not going to end up a dent in my wall.
I am in the middle of a rom.susp. novella. I just realized I have done everything in it you don't like. Villain will not be at all beefy and you will know his identity. Characters may be too stupid to live. They will engage in at least one love scene in a place where they shouldn't be making love.
Oh. Woe.
This has been helpful, though.
Maybe I will call my WIP a romance with some running around and not very suspenseful elements.

Donica Covey said...

As a romantic suspense author I have to say you've touched on a nerve. LOL (joking)

In my very early days when I was still trying to find my way in the world, I had a book that the villain was easily discovered--though it was NOT my intention!

I had a heroine in another book I wrote and after reading it through I discovered she WAS TSTL--so I changed the plot and made her a murder victim instead.

The challenge of writing a romantic suspense is very great. That balance you talk of is not easy to find and unfortunately sometimes we do miss the mark. But with any luck we all do get better! (I hope I am better for my readers' sakes!)

Thanks for the interesting blog post and have a FABU rest of the week/weekend!

Zetta Brown said...

I've always said that the reader is smarter than they think they are. They may not be able to explain WHY they don't like something using terms of the literati, but they KNOW something's not right.

I like your analysis. "Too-stupid-to-live"...ewww. For me, that's a sin that may prevent me ever reading another book by that author again. I think Donica's fix is priceless :)

Sometimes a book is miscategorized. It says "romantic suspense" when it should really be something else. What else? Who knows? Anything but "romantic suspense."

kmt1976 said...

I were a writer, I would have beenn able to write that blog. It sounds just like what I say about some books. When I find myself re-reading the first chapter again and again and still not being able to figure out what is going on, I read the end. If I like the end I will skip to chapter 2 or 3 and hope something is hapening there. When it doesn't happen, the book is gone - no matter how much I liked the author in the past. However, I will come back to the author later and try again. Two strikes and you're out, though!

Jennifer Probst said...

I agree with all of your comments, and that is exactly why I cannot write romantic suspense! I had one foray into it because I enjoy reading the genre, but knew immediately I could never pull it off. I think plot is so important, and I suck at plotting!! It is my greatest challenge. Great points.