Tag Archives: Romance

Tripping Over Tropes, Part One: Romance

“What kind of books do you write?”

I’ve always resisted attempts to fence me in—not a good trait in a writer who wants to sell books.

I want to write, and read, stories of adventure, love, domesticity, revenge, creative self-fulfillment, murder, introspection, friendship, and vanquishing evil. The thread running through my favorite stories is the sympathetic, realistic protagonist who defies expectations to make a fresh start.

Wise writing mentors tell us: You’ve got to know whom you’re writing for and what sort of book experience she wants. You’ve got to know which shelf your book is going to land on. Romance readers expect certain things, as do mystery fans, women’s fiction fans, etc.

Who doesn’t love a good love story? Most books I’ve loved have a strong romantic element woven into the plot. And I love romance’s optimism—you know there’s a happy ever after coming, no matter how bad things get for our heroine. Life outside the book covers (especially politics) provides plenty of doom and gloom.

But my recent efforts to read good romance novels have led to a big pile of unfinished books. I like my characters believable, my heroines smart and brave. So far, I’ve found very few women like that between the covers of romance novels. Of course, an interesting heroine will have insecurities and past failures–everyone does–but she won’t be a quivering puddle of self-doubt.

I also love steamy sex scenes—in the context of a relationship, of course—but most of the sex scenes I’ve read so far sound like they were written by guys, or by women who’ve never had an actual orgasm. And romance tales about instant love? She sees him across the room and melts into a quivering puddle of desire and love, knowing he’s the one and only for her, forever and ever, amen. Yeah—that doesn’t happen. That level of love comes only after a slow build-up of getting to know the guy—and that build-up is what I want to read/write.

Oh, and domineering males? Can’t stand ‘em. I’ve never longed for some handsome guy to show up and boss me around. What’s up with that? I don’t care if he’s a bazillionaire—don’t tell me what to do, Bud! So much for the alpha hero.

And inexperienced, sweet young things? Meh. In real life, that rosy first kiss of maidenhood seldom results in lasting love. I’d like to read about mature women finding love after the first blush of youth.

So perhaps I’m not cut out to write romance fiction. Except all my daydreams, all those elaborate tales I’ve spun since I was a wee maid, have all centered around falling in love. That sort of story is calling to me. I guess I’ll keep writing them, and hope there are readers out there who want to read about love that could actually happen.

Can you recommend a trope-defying, believable romance novel?

Book Review: Exit Signs, by Patrice Locke

Patrice Locke’s charming new romance

It’s always a delight to read a book after having met the author. I met Patrice Locke at this year’s Women Fiction Writers’ Association retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is also the setting of this delightful tale. In fact, we met just a few days before her book’s release, and she was a bit nervous about the whole business. She needn’t have been—this story is a delight.

Researcher and ghost writer Tracy Price is hired to help dreamy rock star Jesse Elliot with his memoir. Sparks fly, naturally, but her cautious nature and his cockiness lead to misunderstandings and doubts. Meanwhile, Tracy and her partner are digging up intriguing clues about a long-dead poet from the 1930s, whose story may be the key that unlocks their success, as well as freedom from the odious boss, AKA “the dragon.”

Locke knits these two plot lines together in a clever and touching way. The on-again, off-again romance between Tracy and Jesse delivers humor and heartache. I read this novel during the very busy run-up to the holidays, and made sure to carve out a precious hour each day to escape to Albuquerque and see what new adventure or screw-up Tracy would deliver. Tracy’s the sort of heroine who shoots herself in the foot so often that she’s going to need a much smaller shoe, but Locke makes her an extremely sympathetic, well-rounded character all the same. Her quirky snack concoctions, awkwardness around achingly-handsome Jesse, her dogged independence, and her warm heart make her a character to fall in love with. The same holds true for her circle of friends, all well-rounded characters I enjoyed spending time with. This book delivers a satisfying resolution and plenty of warm fuzzies—sweet but not cloying, and great fun.