Not too long ago, Sandy Coleman blogged about romance cliches she would love to see die. That got me to thinking about the plotlines and features I just love in a romance. I’m sick of small-town sheriffs and I never really went for the obligatory baby-studded epilogues, but there are some recurring plot features(and at least 1 not recurring enough) that make me such a happy camper, and they are:
1. Unusual characters and settings – Okay, it’s not a real plotline, but I never miss a chance to make a plug for variety. Sure, I’ll read the paranormal shapeshifters and the historical lords and ladies, and if we’re talking Westerns, I can deal with cowboys, too. But give me characters a little bit different and you’ll get my attention for sure. And if you set your book outside of Regency or Victorian England? And it’s not part of a series focused on a secret government unit or gang of spies? Now THAT gets my book-buying bucks!
2. Second chances – As long as it’s nothing too ridiculous, I don’t care how the couple separated or who may have done whom wrong, I believe in second chances. Somehow love just seems like the ultimate redemption. So I love a good book that gives the leads a second chance to get together.
3. Friends turned lovers – Maybe it’s because I seem to make a habit of dating my friends and it actually worked out well for me, or maybe it’s because the combination of friendship and romance adds a certain richness to the story. Still, there’s a certain sort of chemistry to these plots that I like. The combination of the comfortable depth of the friendship combined with the feelings and communication issues related to the romantic relationship just pull at my heartstrings. I’ve read several good books with this plot, but Separation Anxiety by Karen Brichoux is one that does it especially well.
4. A good beta hero – First of all, let me be clear: It’s not that I don’t like alphas. Many an alpha hero has struck my fancy. However, beta heroes just make me smile. A good beta is not a wuss, and many of them have a certain quiet strength that I find reassuring and appealing. Also, I like tender, sweet emotional moments in my romances, and betas seem to deliver well on these. Lately, Nev from In for a Penny is one of my very favorite beta heroes.
5. Road romances – The chemistry, good or bad, that crops up within a party of travellers fascinates me as an observer. Also, I love travel and love reading about it. It’s a win-win. I have a personal belief that you don’t really know someone until you’ve spent at least a few hours in a car with them – seeing how that plays out in a romance just works for me. The Cockermouth Mail by Dinah Dean and For my Lady’s Heart by Laura Kinsale are two of my favorites, but there are gazillions of good road romances out there. And if you like historical fiction, The Temple Dancer by John Speed is quite the interesting travelling tale.
6. Marriage of convenience – I don’t go for the wacky will stipuations, but something about the marriage of convenience that heats up into something else just works for me. This is a plot that seems to do better with Westerns I read than many other settings. Perhaps it’s the harsh life of the frontier that just seems to lend itself to a believable arrangement.
7.May/December romances – It depends on the context, but I do tend to like books with a significant difference in age between the lead characters – as long as the characters deal with it. I’ve read the occasional book (mostly rather old school romances) where the issue is handled in rather creepy fashion, with the older hero fetishizing the nubile young body of the heroine. However, there have been some books where the characters don’t ignore the issue and it actually gets handled well. Of books I’ve read most recently, Russ and Clare from Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Millers Kill series come to mind(granted, they have more issues to tackle than just the age thing) or for something a little more old school, I’ve always really liked the Venetian-set Lord of the Night by Susan Wiggs.
So, what about you? What are a few of your favorite plots?
– Lynn Spencer