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