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A recalcitrant hybrid

 
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2475

PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 12:45 pm    Post subject: A recalcitrant hybrid Reply with quote

Some time ago, I began reading romantic suspense, primarily because few historicals were coming out of the chute. And, having read quite a number of them now, I've come to the conclusion that there are far fewer good or better romantic suspense novels than there are good or better straight romances and thus there must be fewer good or better romantic suspense authors.

Perhaps it's something to do with having to meld two story lines into one, or perhaps it's the difficulty of keeping those two story lines balanced, but, for the most part, I've not encountered very many authors who more or less consistently write good or better romantic suspense. In too many, the suspense part is "tacked" onto the romance; in too many others, the romance is an afterthought. In many, the "suspense" part is a joke. Few readers actually get "suspended" by fright in that half of the category; in those which, belying the label to actually better be called mystery-romances, the villain is easily spotted long before the denouement/HEA; in those which are actually swashbuckling adventure-romance, the swashbuckling too readily leaps into the unbelievable.

Sorta like the mule I guess--a recalcitrant hybrid.
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LLB



Joined: 21 Mar 2007
Posts: 869
Location: Dallas, Texas

PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 1:53 pm    Post subject: Re: A recalcitrant hybrid Reply with quote

dick wrote:
Some time ago, I began reading romantic suspense, primarily because few historicals were coming out of the chute. And, having read quite a number of them now, I've come to the conclusion that there are far fewer good or better romantic suspense novels than there are good or better straight romances and thus there must be fewer good or better romantic suspense authors.

Perhaps it's something to do with having to meld two story lines into one, or perhaps it's the difficulty of keeping those two story lines balanced, but, for the most part, I've not encountered very many authors who more or less consistently write good or better romantic suspense. In too many, the suspense part is "tacked" onto the romance; in too many others, the romance is an afterthought. In many, the "suspense" part is a joke. Few readers actually get "suspended" by fright in that half of the category; in those which, belying the label to actually better be called mystery-romances, the villain is easily spotted long before the denouement/HEA; in those which are actually swashbuckling adventure-romance, the swashbuckling too readily leaps into the unbelievable.

Sorta like the mule I guess--a recalcitrant hybrid.


Dick -

The reason my romantic suspense reading is so limited is because either the romance or the suspense often gets short shrift. But there some authors who manage to get the blend correct; Anne Stuart and J.D. Robb are those who come to mind right off the bat. Since you primarily read historicals, the blend really IS romance/mystery.
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Manda



Joined: 23 Apr 2007
Posts: 578

PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dick, I completely agree with you. It is very hard, I think, for authors to do both romance and suspense justice in the same book. One I've read lately who does a good job of it is Karen Rose. Though is some cases her suspense takes over the romance, she still allows for enough romance that I don't feel let down at the end of the book.
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Natalie



Joined: 25 Mar 2007
Posts: 1691

PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Lynda Howard is one of the best in this (sub)genre. I can't say I enjoyed all of her books, but when she's good, she's really good. Much better than Anne Stuart whose heroes I can't stand. They're just plain psychoes.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 6:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Natalie wrote:
I think Lynda Howard is one of the best in this (sub)genre. I can't say I enjoyed all of her books, but when she's good, she's really good. Much better than Anne Stuart whose heroes I can't stand. They're just plain psychoes.




LOL, about Stuart's heroes. I guess, I feel the same, but when I read her, I know that is what I'm going to be dealing with. Linda Howard...I've just finished a reread of After The Night and well, Gray wasn't exactly playing with a full deck either, but, darn it...I love this book. The second time around was a wonderful experience.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 3:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember being floored by Sandra Brown's Witness, the first time I read it some time in the 90s. I didn't know it was Romantic Suspense and thought it was a regular Thriller with a strong love story.

An aunt who doesn't care for Romances also thought it was good. (What's funny is that she gave me a lecture for reading hours past my bedtime just to finish the book . . . and then did pretty much the same thing when it was her turn. Laughing )
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2475

PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 9:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In addition to Howard and Rose--who, I agree, do manage the sub-genre well--I'd add some of Lowell's, ("The Wrong Hostage," for example, and sometimes, Dee Davis, Rachel Butler, and Annie Solomon. But in comparison to the list of authors of historicals who manage to make the recipe for that class sing, the number for romantic suspense is small.

It's surprising in a way, because in the last couple of decades, the most intriguing writers of straight mystery have been women, in my opinion.
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
Posts: 2064

PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Where do you classify Elizabeth Peters?
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2475

PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

to veaslyd1: As an author of mystery? Not too high, although I enjoyed some of the Peabody books. I've never considered her to be a romantic suspense author.
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KayWebbHarrison



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1234
Location: SE VA. USA

PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
to veaslyd1: As an author of mystery? Not too high, although I enjoyed some of the Peabody books. I've never considered her to be a romantic suspense author.


I suggest that you read some of Peters' older books, especially the Vicky Bliss ones (the first was Borrower of the Night, the latest Laughter of Dead Kings). There are also her Barbara Michaels' books, i.e. Amy Come Home and Shattered Silk.

Kay
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
Posts: 2064

PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2008 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KayWebbHarrison wrote:
dick wrote:
to veaslyd1: As an author of mystery? Not too high, although I enjoyed some of the Peabody books. I've never considered her to be a romantic suspense author.


I suggest that you read some of Peters' older books, especially the Vicky Bliss ones (the first was Borrower of the Night, the latest Laughter of Dead Kings). There are also her Barbara Michaels' books, i.e. Amy Come Home and Shattered Silk.

Kay


I have read them -- my reading for this weekend is The Laughter of Dead Kings. I enjoy them, but the mysteries are never very mysterious.

Back when I read them, when they first came out, I considered her Barbara Michaels books to be gothics. I still think they're gothics rather than romantic suspense as it's developed as a genre.


Last edited by veasleyd1 on Sun Aug 31, 2008 9:59 am; edited 1 time in total
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2475

PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 9:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I have read some of Barbara Michaels', but no titles come to mind. Women authors of mysteries whom I think stand out are Frances Fyfield, P. D. James, Minette Walters, Ruth Rendall--although the last several of Walters' have become predictable and Rendall's have become more psychological studies than mysteries. All of these at one time or another have included relationships of a romantic nature from time to time, but I'd hesitate to classify any of them as romantic suspense. In my opinion, if an author doesn't manage to weld the relationship of the heroine to a large dose of apprehensiveness for the well-being of one or the other or both of them in what they write, their books shouldn't be considered romantic suspense.

Of course, the apprehension is always a bit false, because the HEA demanded by the "romantic" part of the label guarantees all will turn out right. And that may be what makes the genre so difficult: Convincing a reader to be apprehensive when he knows the apprehension is pointless takes something more than narrative power.
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Diana



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 1044
Location: Washington DC

PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm feeling more than a little pissy on the subject of Romantic Suspense right now because I just read TWO clunkers in a row.Watch Me by Brenda Novak and Dark Room by Andrea Kane. In both books the level of suspense is zero -- both authors are so ham-handed in clueing in the reader that they killed anything resembling a mystery. Puh-leeze. Both authors assume that their readers are as dim-witted as the clueless characters they've written, all of whom are inexplicably unable to figure out who the killer is. Here's a clue: it's the two-ton pink elephant on the living room couch. Duh.

There's way more dreck than good stuff. In my humble opinion, of course.

The only authors I rely on to always get it right:
Linda Howard
Anne Stuart
Sandra Brown
JD Robb
Karen Rose
Katherine Sutcliffe (where is she?)

Authors who sometimes get it right:
Shannon McKenna
Elizabeth Lowell
Nora Roberts
Debra Webb
Jayne Ann Krentz
Julie Garwood
Karen Robards
Lisa Marie Rice
Roxanne St Claire
Cindy Gerard
JR Ward
Nalini Singh

Once-was-enough authors or those I'll never read again:
Andrea Kane
Brenda Novak
Shannon Drake
Jordan Dane
Christina Dodd
Allyson Brennan
Jillian Hoffman
Cherry Adair
Erin McCarthy
Lindsey McKenna
Lisa Cach
Lori Foster
Catherine Coulter
Iris Johannsen
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