By Linda Lovely
I write Romantic Suspense-Romantic Thrillers. The genre marries spine-tingling suspense with romance—the degree of heat ranging from tepid to wildfire. However, one romance cliché seems to thrive in every segment of the genre, and it makes me grind my teeth.
What’s the cliché? Each time it appears the hero and heroine might find eternal love an internal conflict arises to tear them apart. This relationship yo-yo is credited with building tension and prompting readers to eagerly flip pages to see if the (IMHO often quarrelsome) lovers will eventually hurdle over their emotional roadblocks and/or stupidity. Of course, since a happy ending is mandatory, the novel ends with the hero and heroine—who have fought like gamecocks throughout the book—pledging undying love. Given their prior habits, I always wonder what would happen if there were more chapters. Would another imaginary insult pop up and lead to divorce?
Based on conversations with other authors, I suspect writers knowingly incorporate this yo-yo cliché in their novels because they believe agents and editors consider it essential for the romantic story arc to succeed. I’m not buying. Romance readers are more savvy/intelligent than that.
I do understand that internal conflicts up the emotional stakes and build tension. Yet I find it difficult to swallow that a heroine and hero will squander time squabbling if they’re fighting for their lives. Once the hero and heroine join forces and begin working as a team against the exterior threat, I think all their energies would be directed toward eliminating the threat not nitpicking their relationship.
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RYes, the couple might have private reservations about their long-term relationship because (fill in the blank). In my newest romantic thriller, DEAD HUNT, those “blanks” include a past romantic interlude that ended badly, feuding families, professional conflicts, planted evidence, and, yes, a few impetuous mistakes.
However, I tried hard to avoid conjuring stupid misunderstandings to pry the heroine and hero apart at a crucial moment simply because it was “time” for another breakup. For instance, when the heroine in DEAD HUNT is presented with “evidence” of her lover’s deceit, she does not accept it on face value. She investigates.
I think author J.D. Robb has aptly demonstrated that a couple (Eve and Roarke) can have a hot romance, fight bad guys, and treat the reader to lots of tension without wasting time on meaningless quarrels that make a reader want to scream “You idiot!” at the hero or heroine or both.
Okay, romance readers, do you agree?