Monday, November 21, 2011

Mystery Monday: The Thrill of Romantic Suspense

Part 2 of Jenna Victoria's "What's in a Mystery?"

The Thrill of Romantic Suspense
by Jenna Victoria

In retrospect, I think becoming a fan of the romantic suspense genre was a no-brainer.  After all, I spent most of my childhood and adolescence reading every Harlequin Romance I could get my hands on. At the same time, my reader’s eye coveted my mother’s growing “to be read” pile and bedside library containing every mystery novel she could get her hands on.  As the years passed, I read and cherished the mysteries she loved, too. Not all of them – I could never get into Dame Ngaio Marsh or Dorothy Sayers, for example. (But those authors are for another post in Mystery Mondays…)

So, when I discovered this wonderful category that combined my two loves – romance and suspense, along with admiring the talented authors who wrote the books – I said “sign me up!”

Truthfully, it wasn’t a stretch to enjoy romantic suspense [RS], as most romance books already have a component of mystery involved; whether it is the brooding dark haired hero with a secret, or the ingĂ©nue with a childhood wound kept buried deep inside her heart.  RS brings the suspense—the mystery, more to the forefront of the romantic element of story than you find in a straight romance book.  In a nutshell, RS features a hero and heroine who work together to solve a mystery, and fall in love in the process. 

Some further dissect the RS genre into books with a plot line where the protagonists know in advance who the villain is, and race to stop him from killing again, as opposed to a romantic mystery, where nobody knows who it is until the end. (The jury’s still out on that designation, I think.)

Whatever the definition, an admirer of RS cannot dismiss the impact of Mary Stewart – the founder of the genre. As far as I can tell, she’s still alive, at 95 years old – and her books still remarkably resonate today. (The Moon-Spinners, and Nine Coaches Waiting are my top two).  Stewart’s books are well-crafted suspense at its finest, and I recommend you seek them out.

When you consider that within the RS genre there are further subgenres (historical, contemporary, inspirational, etc.) – well, the ‘to be read’ list grows exponentially!

A few of my favorite authors in RS (the original list would take up an entire posting) are Kay Hooper, Amanda Quick, Heather Graham and J.D. Robb (also known as Nora Roberts).

In the inspirational market, Harlequin’s “Love Inspired Suspense” line is exploding with talent and new titles and even mini-series (Big Sky Secrets, Emerald Cost 911, Guardians, Inc).  Several authors who I highly recommend are Susan Sleeman, Shirlee McCoy, Roxanne Rustand and Lynette Eason.  Outside of Harlequin, I urge you to check out Brandilyn Collins and her “seatbelt suspense” novels with Avon books.  All of these titles and authors are “un-put-downable.”

I won’t keep you in suspense, though, on the segment of the mystery genre we’ll look at next week… Police Procedurals.  See you then!

Jenna Victoria is an East-Coast based aspiring novelist whose articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers.  She is currently writing an inspirational romantic suspense series, and serves as President of Faith, Hope and Love, the inspirational romance chapter of Romance Writers of America.  She is also a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and My Book Therapy.

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