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Friday, December 28, 2012

Recipe Tinkering: Christmas Candy & Romantic Suspense

Making candy at Christmas is a family tradition. I was in grade school, when we first added chocolate-covered cherries to our repertoire. Marcia, who rented our upstairs apartment, joined in the fun and shared her recipe. My holiday candy selection still includes chocolate-covered cherries, but not Marcia’s version. My new iteration rolls cherries in a fondant that’s much less sticky.    

I’ve been accused (jokingly) of altering the recipes I contribute to family cookbooks to insure no one can duplicate my dishes. Not true! I’m genetically predisposed to tinkering. What fun is it to follow a recipe by rote year after year without experimenting? And measuring? Only when I’m baking. My same predispositions apply to my romantic suspense manuscripts. We’ll get to that later.

Let’s consider this year’s Oreo/almond ball candy. My starting recipe called for a filling made of crushed chocolate wafers, chopped and toasted almonds, corn syrup, powdered sugar, and chocolate-flavored liqueur. Here’s my most recent modification. The amounts are best estimates because I mix till I get the desired consistency, adding more powdered sugar and/or Amaretto to fit my mood:

1 package double-stuffed Oreos, crushed in the blender
1 cup chopped toasted almonds
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup Amaretto
(Later, you’ll need at least a pound of vanilla-flavored candy coating (probably more) and maybe a cup or so of melted semi-sweet chocolates for decorating.)

I mix filling ingredients, roll them into balls in the palm of my hand, and place them on wax-paper covered cookie sheets. The candy goes into the refrigerator to harden. After the balls chill at least an hour, I melt vanilla-flavored candy coating in the microwave. Then I roll the balls in the coating and plop them back on waxed paper. Next I use a fork to fling (yes, fling) melted semi-sweet chocolate across the candy tray to create interesting patterns.

Will I use this recipe next year? Possibly. But, last year, my liquor of choice was crème de cocoa, and I used regular Oreos, not double-stuffed. Who knows what next year’s cupboard will inspire?

So how does this apply to romantic suspense? I have a very difficult time kowtowing to the conventional wisdom that conflict between the hero and heroine must be sustained throughout the book in order to keep a happy-ever-after (HEA) ending in doubt until the last page. If the heroine and hero are truly smart, why can’t they resolve their conflicts much earlier so they can team up to defeat whatever evil threatens?

That’s one reason I’m a J.D. Robb fan. While her heroine, Eve, and hero, Roarke, occasionally argue/fight, they function as a team. Yet, while Robb’s books couple ample romance with suspense, many genre purists say her novels aren’t romantic suspense. I disagree.

I’d argue the time has passed to insist on precise measurements of ingredients (50% romance/50% suspense). Who cares? Do readers who love thrills with their romance really care how and when the ingredients get mixed, as long as a book delivers both? Changing recipe can add new flavors, deliver surprising twists.

Now that my Christmas candies are all made, I’m off to tinker with my work-in-progress, a romantic suspense (by my definition) set in 1938—another era no-no.

So how do you feel about altering recipes for candy or romantic suspense? Do you feel deprived if a book doesn’t keep the hero and heroine in conflict until the very end? 

11 comments:

Robin Weaver said...

Good post, but now I want candy. :-) Happy Holidays!

Judith Ashley said...

Thank you, Linda! I do read Nora Roberts but not J.D. Robb because I'm not a fan of romantic suspense, thrillers, psychological thrillers, sci-fi, etc. It isn't that I don't like Any suspense in a story - but I do not like 'page-turners'.

A story can be compelling because of who the characters are and how they deal with the challenges in their lives. I don't even think they need to be challenged with Evil, Demons, etc.

I like the idea of the hero and heroine joining together before the last page to solve the problem. Maybe I'll take another look at Romantic Suspense.

Linda Lovely said...

Robin, I've saved some candy just for you. Judith, I understand romantic suspense isn't for everyone--though it's my favorite. But I do think the strict genre definitions are going by the wayside as authors and readers decide the story and relationships are more important than formulas.

Judith Ashley said...

Do you think the shift from strict genre-definitions is due in part to indie-self publishing or the increase in digital publishing?

If I lived closer,would you have saved some candy for me? (I have a sweet, charming smile on my face and a twinkle in my eyes as I ask).

Jacqueline Seewald said...

The candy sounds great. And I love your mixed metaphor too. As someone who writes romantic mysteries (the Kim Reynolds series: The Inferno Collection, The Drowning Pool and The Truth Sleuth) as well as romantic suspense: Death Legacy, I have to say I do observe differences. Romantic mysteries are more mystery than romance although you can have a generous dollop of romance combined with the mystery. Romantic suspense needs the ingredients of suspense thriller, mystery, and most important romance. Telltale differences: romantic mysteries end with the resolution of the mystery while romantic suspense ends with the big clinch.

Linda Lovely said...

Judith, I do think the shift is the result of authors having more options--small presses, digital only presses, self-publishing. No one is straight-jacketed.

Linda Lovely said...

Jacqueline--I agree there's a difference between romantic suspense and romantic mysteries. However, I don't think it's necessary for the hero and heroine to have their relationship see-saw back and forth for the entire book.

D. McCollum D. McCollum said...

Great post! And now I want some candy too! You'd think I'd had enough,as we received two 1 lb boxes of candy, peanut brittle and several bags of home made candy. But your recipe sounds awesome!! Happy Holidays!!

Ellis Vidler said...

I'm not wedded to the 50-50 requirement, one reason I've gone to indie publishing. I don't want the romance part to be all roses, but this insistence on internal conflict doesn't work for me. I've read Final Accounting and think you got it just right--same as your candy recipes. Now I want some!
Good post, Ms. Lovely!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Linda, my butt got bigger just reading the ingredients to that very scrumptious sounding recipe. Thanks a whole bunch. I'm with you and the 50/50 stuff. The worst thing that can happen is to deliberately keep people apart because of a rule. If it works for your plot, fine, but needless bickering is never fun to read.

Happy New Year!

Cindy Sample said...

I agree with you, Linda. The author/chef should play with the ingredients until they've achieved their desired result. You've definitely done that with your books and evidently with your recipes too!

I'm going for the creme de cacao version right after I finish 200 crunches.

See how well I write fiction!