Lately I’ve been reading a lot of light romance novels–I think it has to do with my reaction to stressful situations: I crave chocolate and romance.
This has, not unnaturally, got me thinking about writing romances. Or, since I don’t actually write romance novels, about including romance in my novels.
Lots of romance novels have the cliche’d features: hot, longing glances, tense conversations, misunderstandings, etc. But those features, alone, don’t add up to a satisfactory romance.
Recently, I read Carla Kelly’s Borrowed Light, which won the Whitney award for best Romance this year. Since Kelly established her career writing Regency romances, this Western is a departure for her. I thought she deserved the Whitney, and the story is a compelling romance.
But. There aren’t a lot of kisses. There are no hot glances. Few misunderstandings (at least about their relationship). In fact, most of the story is about the two main character’s growth arcs and the way their dual growth brings them toward each other. There aren’t a lot of conventional romantic features.
What makes this story work, though, is that as readers we come to really care about the characters. And because we like them so much, we believe that a romance between them is possible. Not only that, we want the characters to be happy, so their romance is ultimately emotionally satisfying as well as believable.
In short: if you want readers to believe in your characters’ love, readers need to love the characters.
What are your favorite elements in romantic fiction? (Maybe more to the point: what are some of your favorite romance novels? I need some good recommendations. I can only read Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer so many times . . .)