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:~: Monday, May 14, 2007 :~:

Choose Your Own Adventure

Now that vacation is over and I've returned to the real world, I've had some time to get my head back into the writing mode. My computer is (finally) home (yippie!), and my plan is to spend all day uploading files I need to work on and get myself back into gear. But first, since we are five RS authors and today is my day to blog, I thought I'd talk a little about what makes a good romantic suspense novel.

I picked up five RS books to take on vacation with me. I ended up reading one, and that was primarily on the five+ hour flight home last weekend because I was bored and had nothing else to do. Normally I'm a reading fiend on my vacations, but not this time. Why? Simple. None of the books I took with me held my interest after chapter one. The one I did end up reading was your typical "investigation" book. The hero and heroine were working together to solve a mystery. And while it was entertaining, the writing was good, and the characters were likable, had I not been stuck on a plane, I'd have put it down.

The more RS I read (and write), the more I see this delineation within the romantic suspense genre. I think of them as the leaders of the pack and the followers. On one hand you have your standard investigative type books. These are the followers. The hero or heroine are typically police officers, FBI agents, private investigators, bodyguards or members of the military, following someone else's lead (like the big bad villain who's out killing young girls for no apparent reason). Sometimes your main characters are "everyday people" (i.e. retired police officers, FBI agents, or members of the military with specialized backgrounds), but these seem to be few and far between. In all investigative books, the hero/heroine are searching for answers to some sort of mystery. The bad guy is leading them along...doing something here, leaving clues there, and the heroine and hero are out to solve the mystery, save lives, and in the process, save themselves. They often team up to find the answers they need. The romance always develops from this close proximity of working together.

On the flip-side you have "chase" books. I think of these as the leaders. Someone's after the hero or heroine and, consequently, the main characters end up running for their lives, leading the bad guys along behind them. Sometimes they're running to find something or someone first. Sometimes the main characters aren't sure why they're being pursued in the first place (i.e. stalker books) and they have to figure out the "why" along the way. For the most part, chase books tend to put the hero/heroine's life in danger more often than investigative books. As the reader, you don't know what's around the bend. The tension is higher, the pace is faster and the romance is more volatile because there's little down time to "get to know each other".

I admit to liking "chase" books more. And all five books I took with me on vacation were investigative books, which explains why they didn't hold my interest. While forensics interests me (I was a science teacher in my previous life), the mundane questioning of witnesses that accompanies standard investigations bores me to tears. I read for entertainment, not rote memorization, so after about the third or forth witness in a novel, I tend to forget who said what and when, and those are the minuscule details you have to pay attention to in an investigative book so you can put all the clues together. This is the same reason I don't watch any of the crime scene shows on TV, which are wildly popular these days.

It used to be that the "chase" RS books were more prevalent on the shelves, but with the popularity of shows like CSI and Law & Order, I notice more and more RS books leaning toward the investigative side. So what do you think? As with all trends, this RS delineation will shift and jump and morph as time goes on, but what kind of RS books do you enjoy reading? The investigative ones, or the chase ones? And what would you like to see done differently in the RS genre to spice things up?



Blogger Joan Swan said...

I like a combination. My idea of the perfect book would be one where they were running while seeking/uncovering information.

Honestly, too much running wears me out. I read for entertainment as well, but I also read for relaxation, and sometimes too much suspense isn't a good thing -- that's why I don't like thrillers.

On the other hand, too much dry investigation numbs my brain.

How politically correct is that?

2:21 PM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

Since I haven't read a RS in a while - I'm not sure what I prefer... I take that back... would Suzanne Enoch's books be classified as a an RS? It's a cat burglar and a millionaire. She's always trying to discover who did what, but the chemistry between them is what made those books- so my wishy washy answer is if the main characters have chemistry - I go for both kinds! ;)

3:40 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

My idea of the perfect book would be one where they were running while seeking/uncovering information.

Good point. Mine too.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Yes, Paty. Suzanne's cat burglar books are RS. And while they're technically "investigative" books (ie, the hero and heroine are trying to solve a mystery), the main characters aren't professionals (cops, FBI agents, etc).

Good example of a mixture.

9:31 PM  
Blogger wavybrains said...

I like both. I like how Suzanne Brockmann and Catherine Coulter often have a combo of chase/investigation going on. Straight investigation is often too dry for me--I need a reason why hero/heroine is personally invested in the investigation--missing child/parent/$ at stake/accused. They don't have to be a target or law enforcement but they do need a REASON to be there--otherwise it ends up reading like a cozy (no offense to anyone who loves them) with more blood.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

Guess I'm politically uncorrect here, but I like the investigative RS's more - likely because I'm an ex-cop. The chase books always seem a bit contrived in that those stories are more "fiction" than the possibilities that investigative RS's hold. How many people are really "chased" by stalkers, people who want them dead (for any reason), or are finding a missing child/relative/treasure? I suppose those *are* more entertaining in their way, but the investigative books - if done well, can also have enough emotion to make them worthwhile as a read. Either way, you've got a hero/heroine in close proximity.

7:56 PM  

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