Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentines and Romance Novels

If Valentines are like tweets, short and to the point, then romance novels are the long form. Love stories with complexity and depths to make you cry, make you laugh, give you chills, and have you rooting for the hero and heroine to walk off into the sunset together.

I’ve known Valentines from childhood. I remember the ones we punched out of books or made out of red construction paper and lace doilies and brought to our friends at school on Valentine’s Day.

But I didn’t encounter a romance novel until I was already married and the mother of two.

How can this be true of a woman who’s written more than a hundred romances?

As a kid I read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, and adventure. It wasn’t until I was taking a writing seminar at my local community college that one of my friends asked me if I wanted to try my hand at a romance. When I confessed my ignorance about the genre, she brought me several shopping bags full of Harlequin Presents (one of the few lines at the time). I started reading them, and a new passion was born. Here were books that focused in the romance element of a story–the part that only rated a subplot in the fiction I’d been reading.

Yes, I did want to try and write one. And for a while, that was the main focus of my fiction, until the other elements I also love started creeping into my books. The adventure, the suspense, the danger, the paranormal powers.

My writing career has had a lot of influences. One of the science fiction novels that captivated me in my teens was a book called WILD TALENT, by Wilson Tucker. The Amazon editorial description says “Tucker's 1954 story of telepathy and ESP wherein Paul Breen discovers that he has special powers. As a loyal American he lends his powers to the U.S. government but soon finds out that the government is not to be trusted.”

Years later, I still remember elements of the story. And I know it’s the book that made me want to write about mind to mind communication. My way.

As romantic suspense. My favorite genre. A man and woman falling in love against a background threat so that the danger/suspense elements jolt up the romance. If you’re in a pressure cooker of peril, you’re more likely to reach for each other.

When I thought of people with telepathic powers, I thought of that hidden talent as intensifying the relationship between them. What if my characters always felt that they were missing something in life–that they could never connect with anyone on an intimate level? Then they’re thrown together with someone who’s had the same experience; and when they touch, it opens a door to each other’s minds and to a craving for intimacy.

What if someone else discovers they have those powers and is determined to kill them or subject them to cruel experiments?

At the same time, they’re compelled to follow their newfound abilities to their logical conclusion, even when they sense that the mind to mind link could kill them. Which adds another level of danger to the story. It’s not just external, it’s bound up with what the characters are feeling and experiencing.

That’s how I came to write SUDDEN INSIGHT and SUDDEN ATTRACTION, about telepaths created as babies by an illegal medical experiment. Now they’re grown up and alone–until they meet someone else with the same background.

That’s the background for these two books. To add to the mix, I’ve set them against the steamy atmosphere of New Orleans and Louisiana. And I’ve added a government conspiracy element.

As my heroes and heroines run for their lives, the mind to mind bond between them builds. It’s both a blessing and a curse, and it turns out to be the key to their survival.

When did you discover romance novels? And why do you like your romance mixed with elements like suspense and danger?

Rebecca York


  1. Became hooked on rom sus when, aged 11, read du Maurier's Rebecca (which scared me witless)and then an old box full of Mary Stewart's no one wanted at a jumble sale.

    Enjoy romance but love a fast paced story line more. Combine the two and IMO you get the ultimate read

  2. I remember those valentines made of doilies and red construction paper, too! I wonder if anybody does do homemade ones anymore?

    Amazing to learn that you have written so many romantic suspense novels, especially since you didn't learn about them until you were grown and had kids. I write cookbooks and started loving them when I was barely old enough to read.

  3. When I was twelve, I was babysitting and looking for something to read. Victoria Holt's Mistress of Mellyn had just been serialized in a woman's magazine. It was the first book I read that combined romance and suspense and I was hooked.

  4. Hum. As a teen I did read Daphne Du Maurier. I just didn't recognize Rebecca as a "romances."

  5. My grandmother handed me the Harlequins she'd finished with. I also cleaned the library of Mary Stuart and the like. I read a bit of everything, but have found that the romance genre guarantees me character growth and the promise of a happily ever after. Much more fun.

  6. Angie, thanks for commenting. I've found that most genres have some kind of "happy ending." Except science fiction (where the world or the universe can be destroyed) or horror (where the monster can kill everyone you care about.) Wait. I thought of another. The guy love story authors, where the h/h can be separated forever or one of them can die.

    1. Exactly...I'd rather have my Happily Ever After. LOL