Romance and suspense; it’s a powerful combination. Like chocolate and peanut butter. I hate to reduce everything to food analogies, but there you have it. Two great things that are truly great together.
Let’s take a closer look at the individual parts that comprise the whole. A well-written suspense keeps readers in the story. At the heart of that story is the characters’ motivation. What’s the ultimate motivation? Love. Love of family; love of friends; love of country; love of that one special someone. Your soul mate. Love compels you to reach deep inside of yourself and find the hero within. That’s a universal truth, and one that connects readers and characters. We can relate to that motivation. That's what makes us care about the characters. Make me care about your characters and I’ll finish your story. Would you agree?
Romantic suspense offers you a plethora of sub-subgenres starring specialized protagonists: military heroes on a special mission; undercover agents on a secret mission; law enforcement in the ultimate battle of good versus evil; the list continues.
My favorite romantic suspense stories are those featuring ordinary people in extraordinary situations. When I first started writing romantic suspense, those are the characters I wanted to write about. I absolutely love the every woman who trips into a situation from which she has to extricate herself. She can’t fight. She’s not a martial arts specialist. She doesn’t have specialized weapons training. She doesn’t even own a gun. To save her community, her family, herself, and/or her soul mate, she has to reach deep down and find her hero inside. All she has are her wits and her heart. Those – and her truly scrumptious ride-or-die-with-her love interest – are enough to save the day.
Enemies-to-allies is my favorite hook. I enjoy realistic, organic tension between protagonists, at least at the outset of the journey. Then, as the story progresses, the hero and heroine realize that, if they want to stay alive, they have to work together. Yes, I’m a sucker for that setup. What about you?
My first romantic suspense, You Belong to Me, reunites a divorced couple in a race to unmask a serial killer who's targeted them. The ex-wife/heroine is the author of a successful science fiction series. She’s sold the film rights of the first book in her series to her ex-husband’s/hero’s production company. Unknown to either of them, however, one of our heroine’s fans is adamantly opposed to having the book turned into a movie. (I’ve likened the villain to a Stephen King fan who’s endured one too many botched film adaptations of Stephen King’s wonderful books. Now he’s at the end of his rope. Please note: Any similarities between my villain’s feelings and mine are purely coincidental. Really.) The hero and heroine are forced to work together to survive. But they also have to work through the unresolved issues that ended their marriage.
In my second romantic suspense, On Fire, my odd couple is an outspoken investigative reporter and an arson investigator who’s been burnt by the press before. (See what I did there? Ha!) My hero and heroine have to identify the serial-arsonist-turned-serial-murderer, but my hero’s trust issues stymie their cooperation.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but I'm drawn to assertive heroines who refuse to give in or to give up even as they admit to their fears. Likewise, I love heroes who are protective, but also respectful of the heroine’s capabilities. There’s an equal partnership in the relationship.
Those are my preferences regarding romantic suspense stories. What are yours? What types of romantic suspense plots do you prefer? What types of protagonists do you most enjoy?
About the author
Award-winning, bestselling author Patricia Sargeant writes contemporary romances and romantic suspense. She also writes under the pseudonym Regina Hart, and she writes cozy mysteries as Olivia Matthews.