Thursday, February 14, 2013

Components of a Great Romance

Reading in bed
Immersed in your latest romance, you stayed up hours past your bedtime to make sure the hero and heroine arrived at their happily-ever-after. A sigh erupts from deep in your chest. Your lips curve. You put the book down and turn off the light, satisfied that all is well with your fictional world.

A sigh and a smile. What every romance writer hopes to achieve, right? What is it that makes a love story sigh-worthy? I’ll share my top five necessary components, but I want to hear from you, too.

Strong, genuine characters. Don’t you love heroes and heroines who struggle with decisions and don’t always make the best choices? Men and women who may have messed up in the past but want to make things right? If I’m going to invest my time, give me real-to-life characters with authentic emotions.

Natural romantic tension oozes from the pages. Yes, I believe the bedroom door should stay firmly closed, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy ramped up tension. Something like this:

          Did she want Hunter to kiss her? An ache, a need, started in her sock-covered toes and  zapped all the way to her lips. Yeah. She did. Her free palm cupped his whisker-roughened cheek and slid down to his jawline, ending with a caress around his lips. “But I’m not laughing, now.”

       His eyes darkened, his nostrils flared. His jaw tensed under her hand. “No. I see that. But are you sure this is what you want, Teal? I don’t play games where matters of the heart are concerned. Yours, or mine.”

That little goodie is from When Truth Whispers, my novella releasing with White Rose Publishing on 3/15. For me, romance isn’t about the bedroom. It’s all about the journey.

Appropriate conflict. Do you enjoy books where the hero and heroine constantly argue? Aren’t they supposed to be falling in love? Not to be confused with teasing, a somewhat electrified banter between the hero and heroine, which I adore and where the reader can tell they like each other. Arguing, not so much. Conflict should arise internally from the characters’ dreams, ambitions, insecurities, and beliefs; and externally, what stands in the way of reaching their happily-ever-after.

A message that wraps around your heart. Such as forgiveness, that it’s never too late. Or that with God all things are possible and you can overcome your fears. When you read a story with faith and romance seamlessly woven together, it’s like savoring a cup of hot chocolate, dark and sweet, and dolloped with just the right amount of whipped cream. So rich with flavor, so satisfying, so comforting on a cold winter day.

Closure. Wrap it up. Unless I know up front that it’s a continuation (and I probably won't buy it until the series concludes), don’t leave me hanging on whether the hero and heroine get together or not. Nothing makes me want to fling a book (or my kindle) across the room more than when the hero and heroine aren’t even together at the end. How can that even be considered a romance? 

Now it’s your turn. What elements make a great romance for you? 
Happy Valentine's Day!

Coming 3/15
with Pelican Book Group
After a humiliating breakup, best-selling romance author Teal Benning flees to Promise Lake to complete her current novel, minus paparazzi and flashing cameras. Suffering from writer's block and a broken heart, Teal accepts the offer of help from neighbor, Hunter Miciver.

Hunter longs to be more than the friend who picks up the shattered pieces of Teal's heart, but when Teal finds out his secret, will she see him for the man he is—a man of faith and devotion, a man who would cherish her for the rest of her days—or will she lump him into the same category as all the other men in her life, including her father?

Will Teal recognize when truth whispers her name?