How much romance do you need in your thriller?

A thrilling romance… or a romantic thriller???

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Romance in a thriller can be problematic, as I found out when I was writing Ward Zero, and my editor advised me to change the sex of one of my main characters… A couple of months back, I wrote a post about that – you can read it here on Helen Pollard’s blog.

So who comes to mind, when we think about crime fiction and romance?

hanging-rope-1295442_1280Dorothy L. Sayers did it beautifully with Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, who met under very unromantic circumstances (she was on trial for murdering her lover, which in those days could mean a death penalty). And the fact that Harriet was a crime writer who hated writing romance into her plot adds an extra dimension to the stories. Their courtship stretches over several books, but they do get a happy end, even though it comes as a ‘Busman’s Honeymoon’.

More recently, we have Elizabeth George, whose ‘Inspector Lynley’ series sees both Lynley and Sergeant Barbara Havers each having their own (huge) romantic problems. The last Lynley book was A Banquet of Consequences in 2015, so maybe we’ll get the next episode soon.

And there are so many more. Like Elly Griffiths and her Ruth, more of a non-romance, this one, but very compelling. And Val McDemid’s Carol and Tony, who nearly had a happy end in the last book, and after all they’ve been through, I really hope they get to keep it.

That’s the thing – reading a book, we are caught up in the characters’ lives; we feel their pain and dilema and we want them to be happy – but a happy end could mean the last of the series. And that’s what we don’t want…

Maybe compromise is best. There’s definitely something a little sinister about those wedding roses – isn’t there??? I wonder what their story is?

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13 Responses to How much romance do you need in your thriller?

  1. Great post, Linda. And such a coincidence . . . I just finished listening to ‘Busman’s Honeymoon’ on BBC Radio Four i-player this week!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good point, Linda. I was struggling with that very question in my romantic suspense novel!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. lucciagray says:

    Vonnegut once said that he kept love out of his stories because it distracts readers from the rest of the plot. Love takes over the plot and the whole novel. He may be right if the novel isn’t a romance. I couldn’t write a novel without including love and romance, but it depends on the type of novel you’re writing, I suppose.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lindahuber says:

      I think it’s all about the characters – we want them to come across as real people. A romance that has nothing to do with the crime aspect of a thriller shouldn’t get much page space, imo, but it’s a different story if the heroine falls in love with the local psychopath!

      Liked by 2 people

      • lucciagray says:

        Right! Nobody wants to empathise with a psychopath, but If he falls in love, for example, it can make him more human, even interesting for the reader to engage with, thus provoking contradictory feelings. Love humanises characters.
        I wondered about Nina and Sam. There was a good balance of romance there, not too much to distract, but I wouldn’t have minded a bit more! But I’m an incurable romantic!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindahuber says:

        Don’t worry – they had a lovely happy end the following year, with a beautiful romantic wedding on Arran, and Naomi was the perfect frilly pink bridesmaid! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • lucciagray says:

        Sounds goodđź’ź

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Clare Chase says:

    Such an interesting post, Linda – it’s a knotty problem and one I’ve been dealing with in my Cambridge mysteries which feature the same crime-solving couple. I want to keep up the tension between them, but doing this in a believable way is a challenge. I love slow burn love stories, such as you mention in Dorothy L Sayers’ books. And Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series is one of my favourites too – I’m certainly hooked by the Nelson/Ruth relationship and feel that the way they’re distanced by necessity is a good, plausible workaround for keeping up the tension. All the same, there’s still that feeling that there must eventually be a resolution. And I definitely don’t want that series to end!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindahuber says:

      I can imagine it’s challenging to write a series, and still keep the characters fresh and believable – I can’t think where Ruth and Nelson are going to end up! Hopefully they’ll get a few more books yet. I’m almost scared to hope for a new Tony Hill book, though – they’ve gone through such horrors in previous books!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice post, Linda. I have mixed feelings about romance in novels; it seems that too often female characters are expected to fall in love, and then the romance quickly takes over the story. I’m all for romance. But I also like tough and gritty female characters that are whole and complete without a love interest. Because women have so much more to offer a story than simply romance, you know?

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindahuber says:

      Absolutely. I think Mary Higgins Clark did this very well in her standalone novels – they all have a strong female lead, though usually there’s a prospective love interest (very much) in the background. That’s the way to do it, for thriller/suspense writers, I think.

      Like

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