Write Byte

What is the Allure of the Road Romance?


We asked author Rae Muir, author of The Pearl Stallion, why we are drawn to to road romances (romances where much of the story is either on the road or on the sea, from one place to another, and the characters are forced to battle themselves, each other, and often the elements). Here is what she had to say:

The allure of road romances comes directly from the human psyche. Fiction "on the road" has been popular for 3,000 years, from The Odyssey to The Plains of Passage. All over the world, myths and folk tales require the hero or heroine to leave home and face a series of challenges in environments he or she has never seen before. (Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!) Each stopping place reveals a new aspect of our hero or heroine's character, and the reader is pulled onward as the ship, train, car, spacecraft, carriage, or covered wagon rolls to a new destination.

Romances are some of the finest road novels, for a romance always contains a core story, the falling in love of the hero and heroine. Travel adventure stories often fall into separate episodes, with no dramatic thread running through the book. But romance! On the road to Everest Base Camp, crossing Australia by camel, heading for California in a covered wagon, no matter what happens, the tale always returns to the growing affection and sexual feelings between the protagonists. And we readers are waiting breathlessly to see what imaginative situation will finally cause them to fall in each other's arms. And where is it going to happen?

Road novels generally fall into two categories that have existed since the first human told the first story around a campfire: The quest and the struggle to return home. The heroine leaves home to find her lost brother. The hero sets out on an adventure to find himself. By force of circumstance a girl is stranded far from Kansas. There's no place like home! How often have you dreamed of clicking your ruby slippers? Both quest and struggle work in romance plots, in fact they can coexist in the same plot. In my first novel, The Pearl Stallion, the hero wanders the Pacific to achieve his dream, the heroine to find a way back to England.

I love to write road romances because the line of travel helps organize the plot. My favorite model is Huckleberry Finn, where events must conform to the speed and surroundings of a raft on the Mississippi. The Pearl Stallion followed the traditional path of Pacific trade in 1805 --Northwest Coast, Hawaii, China. My December release from Harlequin Historicals, The Trail to Temptation, is tied to the traditional routes of cattle drives from Texas to Montana. The sequence of events and the pace are set by the trail.

I find this keeps me fenced in and prevents my story from running all over the place, somewhat the way the rules of building a sonnet keep poetry from slithering around.

A historical road romance demands a great deal of research, but I enjoy writing them so much I think the work well worth it. Right now I'm in the midst of writing a four book series for Harlequin Historicals, the Wedding Trail quartet. The first book, The Lieutenant's Lady, introduces four young women who form a sewing circle in Indiana. We follow their progress on the Overland Trail to California in 1848, and their adventures as they fall in love. To be certain of my facts, and also the atmosphere of the countryside, I drove from California to St. Joe, Missouri, in August, following the old wagon road as closely as possible in my Ford Escort. My own, personal road story, but unlike the pioneers of 1848, I had air conditioning!

Rae Muir


You can e-mail Rae by clicking here.