Thursday, June 23, 2011

Romance in Mysteries

I have to give Deb Baker/Hannah Reed for giving me the idea for this blog.  Click here to read her blog post on the Cozy Chicks Blog.

It seems to me that the lines between the mystery genre and romanace are becoming less and less distinguishable.  A cozy written now versus one written ten years ago is more likely to have on the page romance.  Not graphic sex scenes by any means, but there has been a trend of more action, as well as more bad language and slightly more violence.  In my opinion, cozies used to be very close to traditional mysteries and now they are much closer to soft-boiled.  Is this a bad change?  Not at all.  It's simply the evolution of the genre.  (Romantic suspense is an entirely different sub-genre.)

Cozies and soft-boiled mysteries are very character driven.  Or you could call them relational driven - in that its the relationships that are most important (yes there needs to be a good, plausable plot, but come on folks, let's be honest - is there really a plot in the Stephanie Plum books?)  So how much relationship do we need to see?  Does it make a book less believable if we don't see some action on the page?

So where does the line get drawn now?  Authors are probably in the best position to answer that question, after all, authors are receiving reader feedback regularly.  So authors - what are your thoughts on romance in the cozy or soft-boiled sub-genres?  Are readers asking for more romance or telling you that you have gone too far?

Readers, of course I want to hear your opinions as well!!  What do you want to see? And what about swearing and violence?  Is a character believable if she says "darn" after she has accidentally backs into the tall, dark and handsome police chief's car?  :)


Deborah Sharp said...

Hey, I think I've seen that silver-haired couple pictured on your post in a Viagra ad! I think the answer to both your questions is ''However much the story demands'' (romance or swearing). I don't think authors should force it, though. If it doesn't feel natural to you to do a bosom-heaving, hormone-raging sex scene, don't do it. I do know I was getting some pressure from ''romantic'' types to have my main character in the Mace Bauer Mysteries get down with her hunky love interest. They didn't do it, though, until all three of us were ready: Carlos, Mace, and me!

Vicki Doudera said...

Terri, interesting post. I was very surprised to hear how much readers of A HOUSE TO DIE FOR enjoyed secondary character (and love interest) Miles Porter. Even more intriguing was how much I enjoyed creating romantic tension between Darby and Miles in subsequent books. I think romance in a mystery can heighten the suspense, give readers another character to worry about, and provide another dimension to the story. If love is a new addition to the genre, I think it's here to stay.

Deb said...

Thanks for the mention! I agree with you as far as lines blurring.

Lois Winston said...

Terri, as you know, I set up the beginnings of a possible romance in ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN. Since my main character is recently widowed, I don't think readers would have accepted a romance in the first book, even though Anastasia certainly deserves a little bit of male attention after what her dead louse of a spouse did to her. Readers will have to wait to see if that romance develops in DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL, the second book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series.

As for foul language, I've always thought words were words and the right words should be used for the right circumstances. No one is going to believe that my mob loan shark is going to say "gosh" and "darn." So when I feel it's appropriate for stronger language, I use it. I just don't use it for the sake of shock value. Some readers of traditional cozies do object to such language, but there are plenty of books out there that won't offend their sensibilities. I make no apologies for mobsters with potty mouths.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

My readers are asking for more and more romance, even with my vampire books, which are not cozies.

BTW, I love that the couple in the photo you posted are of a "certain age." :)

Terri Bischoff said...

Deb and Sue Ann - I just did an image search on google... and that photo seemed adorable to me!

Vicki and Lois - I think the relationships in both your books are appropriate for the characters and the larger story arc. It's true that a romantic interest does give someone else for the reader to cheer for and become attached to.

Deb - just two weekends ago I spoke at a writers group and they were affiliated with RWA. It was funny because a lot of them had strong mystery subplots but the main theme of the book was romance. I told them they just needed to switch that a little bit - the mystery had to be at least 51% of the book!! I have a feeling I am going to get a few submissions in the near future. :)

Shannon said...

After critique of my first novel, I went back and added some romance and a sex scene to soften her and make her more sympathetic. At a book club I attended after the release one reader said those parts felt "added on." It was not organic to the character I'd created (or more appropriate, the character who created herself--you know what I mean)Since I, myself, have the mouth of a long-haul trucker, I find my characters often spot foul language.

Tina said...

Hey Terri,

I wanted to chime in on this because it’s the decision I’m faced with now: change my romantic suspense to suspense with romantic elements or keep as is? So many things factor in: Which way is the market going? Is the story stronger with more action, less mushy stuff? What does the reader want?

In the past 15 years, I think authors have developed writing styles that touch the deep human emotions without having to devise a sex scene to go along with it. I think that has made romance more acceptable to the general public—human feelings and interactions, not necessarily sex. And the tension between two people can be so fun to read and write, especially when it’s the love-hate version.

With more reader acceptance, comes more authors willing to write it into their storylines. Love/romance is such an integral part of human nature, that a story without some romantic elements can feel ‘not real’. That’s my take on it.

So, I’m concocting an entirely different second half to my story that appeals more to the thriller reader, which is what I am. Instead of snowy Finland, they’re going to the dangerous jungles of Colombia. We’ll see.

Have a great weekend!


Also, my heroine is entrenched in the rough side of humankind. So ‘gosh darn’ and ‘poop’ aren’t realistic. That’s what her character calls for.