Rumors of Death Greatly Exaggerated?

graveyard Lately (as in during portions of the past few years when I haven’t been too dazed from work to notice), I’ve been seeing fewer and fewer actual romantic suspense books out there. I see urban fantasy and paranormal romance with suspense plots worked in, and historicals with their suspensey and/or spy-related subplots, but not a lot of actual romantic suspense that takes place among humans. I read across a variety of genres, so I almost didn’t notice it at first. However, as I scanned my bookshelves recently, I noticed that I’d been reading plenty of straight mysteries and thrillers, including some with romantic subplots, but I wasn’t seeing a lot of romantic suspense.

I have some relatives who have been big romantic suspense readers since back in the days of gothics, so I figured if anyone knew where the books were, they would. When I spoke to my older cousin, she told me romantic suspense was “dead”. I must have seemed a tad skeptical because she then swore that she knew it was true because she’d read it in an article somewhere. Eventually, we tracked down the mystery article in the current(August 2010) issue of Romantic Times at my great-aunt’s house. The article is called “Romantic Suspense’s Dark Days,” but after reading it, I’m hoping the situation isn’t so dire.

The article confirmed my suspicions that fewer romantic suspense books were finding their way to shelves, but given that the magazine also includes profiles of up and coming new authors in the subgenre, I hardly read it as a death knell. It really sounded more like the horrible rumors of the demise of historical romance that were circulating back in 2003/04 when I was starting to review for AAR. And I seem to recall hearing about the renaissance of historical romance from more than one source lately. Funny how that works.

Looking back over books I’ve read lately, I have to say that the romantic suspense I’ve read recently has primarily been very strong overall. Leslie Parrish, Kate Brady, Karen Rose, Brenda Novak, and others have all been delivering solid, good reads. The inspirational authors deserve a shoutout, too. Inspirational in general has progressed A LOT from what I recall reading as a child in the 80s and early 90s, and suspense in this subgenre has really come into its own. And inspirational romantic suspense from the likes of Kristin Heitzmann, Dee Henderson, among others, has delivered some wonderful tales of inspiration, adventure and emotion. As erotic romance and m/m romance have grown in readership, strong romantic suspense authors have emerged there as well.

For that reason, I feel hopeful rather than discouraged. I sometimes grow frustrated at not being able to find more suspense titles. However, I also keep hoping that just as the historical market came back with some truly phenomenal talented authors, romantic suspense will witness the same rebirth. In addition, I’m seeing plenty of books in other subgenres coming out with elements of romantic suspense mixed in. For example, in paranormal we have Nancy Gideon’s most recent Moonlight trilogy which is definitely heavy on both romance and suspense, and in historicals Stephanie Lauren’s Bride books have delivered fun(and mystery-filled) romantic adventures.

For these reasons, I can’t help thinking that this may just be a time of transition rather than romantic suspense’s last gasp. I keep looking over new release lists in search of good romantic suspense books and I certainly would love to keep finding them.

And now, since new romantic suspense releases are a little bit harder to find these days, let’s help each other out. Who do you think is writing good romantic suspense? Grow those TBRs!

– Lynn Spencer

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17 Responses to “Rumors of Death Greatly Exaggerated?”

  1. Tee says:

    Actually, I sort of agree that there are not a lot of “good” romantic suspense books out there. They’re out there, but not all are good. I do enjoy the suspense novels that may have a relationship or some romantic involvement, but I don’t mind that it’s played down if the rest of the story is handled well. I would include Jilliane Hoffman, Karin Slaughter, Chelsea Cain, Tess Gerritsen, Lisa Gardner, Linda Castillo, Cody McFadyen and Tami Hoag (sometimes) in this particular area. There are more, I’m sure, but those are whom I remember presently.

    The true romance suspense authors probably would be (for me) Karen Rose and Mariah Stewart. There are not that many that do it for me in this field. Those authors that concentrate too much on the romance usually fail in the suspense part. So, I’m looking for the suspense primarily, but enjoy a relationship thrown in, but not necessarily concentrating heavily in it. The two authors I mentioned seem to balance both very well. There are probably a few others whom I can’t recall just now, but not many more.

  2. Kathy P. says:

    I just finished reading Cynthia Eden’s new romantic suspense book, Deadly Fear, which is about an FBI unit that specializes in serial crimes. It’s the first book in her new “Deadly Series”. There was a definite romance between the hero and heroine plus the suspense was also a major part of the storyline.

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  4. Jane AAR says:

    I have noticed fewer and fewer non-paranormals/urban fantasy books to choose from. As someone who doesn’t like those, pickings can be a bit slim. But I haven’t had much of a problem finding romantic suspense– at least not so that I noticed anything has changed in the past few years. Not many really great ones, though– a lot I’d grade as low Bs/high Cs. Decent, but nothing special.

  5. Luci says:

    I am not a fan of paranormal/fantasy books too so i have been somewhat disappointed to see so many authors move away from plain romantic suspense or even historical romance into that direction. Having said that I really really hope romantic suspense is not dead although i recently went on a desperate search and ended up reading quite a few duds.

    I did make a couple of interesting discoveries too! First off, Karen Rose for me is the Queen of romantic suspense. Her books are great. I also enjoy Beverly Barton – most of her latest ones are very good. I recently discovered Christy Reece and she is fantastic as is Pamela Clare (in any genre she writes).

    I have my first Leslie Parrish at home and a couple of Mariah Stewarts I haven’t read yet. I have heard good things about Dee Davis but haven’t read her yet.

    I read a few other books that aimed high and fell flat unfortunately. Hopefully there will be a revivial in this genre with mor authors dishing out more fantastic romantic suspense.

    I love Karin Slaughter but i would list her as a thriller/crime author.

  6. I’m looking forward to Cynthia Eden’s new RS trilogy as well.

    As for who else I’m enjoying, I think Laura Griffin writes great RS. And she’s under-appreciated I think. (Though not by me.) Her latest is UNSPEAKABLE. It’s the second in a new series centered around an independent Forensics Lab. I did a glom of all her books last summer and found all of her books to be thoughtful with genuinely puzzling cases and realistic, but sexy, romances.

    I also am a fan of Roxanne St. Clair. She’s got a new series coming out soon that’s an offshoot of her Bullet Catchers. What I liked about the Bullet Catchers was that they were all different in their way. She doesn’t write the same kind of hero/heroine in every book.

    It does seem that we’re losing some RS authors to the small town romance phenomenon, like JoAnn Ross and Mariah Stewart (though I hope Stewart will continue with her Mercy Street series). But I’m hoping it will come back with this new crop of authors.

  7. maggie b. says:

    Just my .02 but I think part of the problem is that many rs authors use it as a stepping stone to straight suspense. Tami Hoag, Tess Gerritsen and Lisa Gardner are all examples of this. Tami Hoag’s newest did contain a relationship (one I didn’t like) but Gerritsen’s newest did not. Gardner’s had two, both of them in the early stages. I honestly expect Karen Rose to go straight suspense some day, though maybe she will stay. Linda Howard has :-)

  8. I’ll admit, I was really worried when RT contacted me to interview me for that article. If romantic suspense is dead, nobody told me. Reminds me a little too much of s.t. romantic comedy dying…right in the midst of my s.t. romantic comedy career at HQN. Sigh.

    But I’m not giving up. I love reading them, I have to think other readers do, too. So I’ll keep plugging along! I started writing in 98 and at that time, everybody just KNEW paranormal was entirely, totally, completely dead and nobody was buying it.

    Hmm…

    FWIW: Karen Rose, Alison Brennan and Lisa Jackson are my three faves in dark romantic suspense. Roxanne St. Claire in lighter r.s.

  9. PS: Lynn–thank you so much for the great review of Cold Sight today. I’m really happy you liked it.

  10. Barb in Maryland says:

    Hmmm, I notice people not mentioning Nora–most of her stand alones (like Northern Lights, Blue Smoke, etc, etc) have a strong suspense storyline as well a really good romance (though the suspense is not as taut in The Search as in others, but it is still an important part of the story). And no one has yet mentioned Elizabeth Lowell–her latest (Death Echo) has a really good romance in with a really good thriller. JAK’s usually have a mystery element, no matter which genre (or name) she’s writing in. And those three authors are just the tip-top of my go-to list for when I want romantic-suspense.
    Like all other subsets of romance it is hard to do well and so easy to mess up–the authors already mentioned are the ones who do it well.

  11. Ida R. says:

    While I do agree that there may be less romantic suspense being released or publicized, there are still some great books and authors being published. Some more knew authors that have debuted only in the last few years are Stephanie Tyler and Christy Reece, both good writers. And Roxanne St. Claire and Pamela Clare are both fantastic romantic suspense writers. For me, it helps that I have never just read one romance genre, I have auto buy authors within the paranormal, fantasy, historical, contemporary, and romantic suspense subgenre of romance, so I never have to wait for something to read.

  12. marcella says:

    I know it might not be considered RS as such, but there are/were some great authors writing for Harlequin. My favorites are Kylie Brant and Diana Duncan. I hope DD gets a new contract somewhere soon.

  13. Carrie says:

    Romantic suspense may be my favorite genre, although I don’t like them too dark or grisly. I second the recommendation for Laura Griffin. I also like Debra Webb, especially Traceless, Nameless and Faceless.

    Jill Sorenson is a fairly new author that has a lot of potential, and I think Colleen Thompson is still writing R.S. Elizabeth Naughton’s Stolen Fury was great, but I think she’s just released a paranormal! ;-)

    I’ve enjoyed several Cindy Gerard books, and recently bought a book by Dee Davis, who is new to me.

  14. Anne W says:

    Romantic suspense tops my list as favorite romance subgenre. I do, however, read other genres quite often, including many, many historicals. I’m a fan of the deep and dark suspense as well as the lighter romantic suspense. There may be fewer readers choosing the romantic suspense genre but I don’t agree that there are any less romantic suspense books from which to choose. I read between 3 and 5 books a week and I’ve yet to have a problem finding a book to keep my interest. I read with an open mind and although there are certainly authors whose books I enjoy more than others, I’m certainly finding plenty to keep me entertained. I must admit that I am enjoying the newer authors and their fresh new ideas and material at the present time.

    Among my very favorites are Christy Reece, Pamela Clare, Karen Rose, Lisa Castillo, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Cindy Gerard, Stephanie Tyler, Nina Bruhns, Elisabeth Naughton, Kate Brady, Roxanne St. Claire, Beverly Barton, Shiloh Walker, Leslie Parrish, Colleen Thompson and Jaci Burton. A relatively new author to me who is making her mark is Jill Sorenson, whose books I have enjoyed very much.

    Other favorites that I read often are Kylie Brant, Joyce Lamb, Shannon McKenna, Sandra Brown, Linda Howard, Carla Neggers, Lisa Jackson, Amy Fetzer, Lauren Dane, Meryl Sawyer, Debra Webb, Cherry Adair, Lisa Gardner, Karen Robards, Carla Cassidy, HelenKay Dimon, Ava Gray, Suzanne Brockmann, Cynthia Eden, and Marliss Melton.

    I stuck my toe in the waters of the paranormal and urban fantasy and decided it just wasn’t for me. I’m willing to give most any genre a chance but I find that I always return to my first love — romantic suspense!

  15. Mary G says:

    I a huge rom. susp. fan & that’s probably the genre I read the most. The rest are contemps & erotica. I read very few historicals & paranormals unless my fave writers are writing them & then I will try. I think historicals have taken over because that’s what is out there. What choices are there after I’ve read all the ones listed by Anne & Ida above who’ve mentioned all my faves. If you look at the book awards out there only historicals are broken down into Regency, Gothic, Victorian, etc. There are so many categories for historicals. Who decides the trends, the editors, the publishers? Since it takes months & longer to get a book to market who decides what I will buy? Is this a chicken or egg thing? We buy what’s on the shelves – what is fed to us? If I don’t find what I want I’ll just reread my faves.

  16. elainec says:

    I prefer historical romance, but sometimes I’ve gotten some connected books that were romantic suspense. One problem I see is that most of the R.S. books I’ve read came out in hardback. Even discounted, that is a chuck of change. I will buy Mary Balogh’s books in hardback because I love them and reread them.
    Does anyone know why these R.S. books so often come out in hardback?
    Books in general are taking up most all of my discretionary funds with authors writing 2, 3, and even four books in year!!!
    I used to have very organized library shelves, but now I have piles of them on the floor next to chairs and in corners. I am overwhelmed by them. I read a lot, but can’t keep up. Of course, there are worse problems. :-)

  17. I think romantic suspense is a larger subgenre than it appears because so much of it is labeled suspense or romance or contemporary or even “novel” by the publishers’ marketing/sales teams as they strive to figure out in which section of the bookstore these titles sell best. I know that mine, like many others, can be found either in romance or mystery/suspense, depending on the store/chain, the individual book’s cover art and whether the word “bad boy” describes the hero in the book’s blurb. (Just kidding about that last one. I think.) Depending on the degree of romance, grittiness, and each author’s voice, her works’ audience may include a large percentage of men, hard-core mystery/suspense readers, and a lot of folks who don’t think of themselves as romance readers. (Although we know they secretly love it!)

    I think it’s tough to measure the impact and success of a less-cohesively-marketed subgenre, but the authors are still out there.

    I’m very happy to still be writing romantic suspense. Since Carrie wasn’t sure, I’ll put in that I’m excited to have a new one coming in November, a 2-in-1 called Deadlier than the Male, written with Sharon Sala (whom I greatly admire as a writer and adore as a person) from Silhouette Romantic Suspense and have other irons in the fire, though I have no further books in the works with Dorchester.

    Thanks to everyone out there who still loves and buys romantic suspense. It’s still my favorite thing to read and write, and I hope to have the opportunity to do so for many years to come.

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