Why I Don’t Write Romance (Plus a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb ~ I’ve got romance on the brain right now, because my 46th wedding anniversary was two days ago. Obviously, I’m a believer in long-term relationships; however, I don’t write romance.

I do write romantic suspense (under the pen name of Jessica Dale), but there’s a very good reason why I don’t write romance without the suspense part.

But before I explain that reason, let me set up some background. There are certain reader expectations for each of these genres. But in any good fiction, there must always be challenges, conflicts, and tension. Otherwise, you have no story, or at least, not a very interesting one.

Structure/Expectations for Each Genre

Romance:

Two people meet. There may be attraction right away, or only conflict and tension initially.

The conflict and tension increases, but so does the attraction. Eventually, the two people admit the attraction to themselves, and maybe to each other.

why I don't write romance
photo by Frank McKenna on Unsplash.com

The conflict/tension AND the attraction build to a climax (no pun intended). The couple gets together, often with a rather intense sex scene (on or off screen), but there is still some conflict/tension between them.

The conflict is finally resolved and they become a couple, living happily ever after (HEA) or at least they are happy for now (HFN).

Mystery/Suspense:

Something bad has happened, or is going to happen. Main character (hereafter called MC) sets out to find out whodunnit, and/or stop more bad things from happening.

More bad things happen, which raise the stakes for the MC. S/he becomes more invested in solving the mystery and stopping the bad guy/gal.

MC thinks s/he is on the right track, but more bad things happen that (a) raise the stakes even higher, and/or (b) show the MC that s/he is not on the right track after all.

The MC regroups, tries even harder to solve the mystery. There is a big confrontation between MC and the bad guy/gal. The latter is defeated and justice and balance are restored in the world.


There are various techniques/tropes that writers can use to accomplish each of these steps. And one can and should throw in other twists and turns, subplots, etc. to make the story more unique.

But ultimately, in a mystery, if there is not conflict and tension as the MC tries to identify/stop the bad guy/gal, then a final confrontation and justice wins out, readers will be sorely disappointed. Likewise, in a romance, if there is not conflict and tension, leading eventually to a HEA or HFN ending, readers will be quite displeased.

And they will let the writer know about it!

And herein lies the rub for me; this is why I don’t write romance.

How does one fill 200-300 pages with conflict/tension between the couple?

Often it’s by creating situations/problems that lead to mis-communication and misunderstandings between them. But 200-300 pages worth? That’s a lot of misperceptions and poor communication.

why I don't write romance
photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash.com

All too often, when reading a romance, I find myself thinking, “They aren’t getting it…again!?!?”

This leaves the psychologist in me wondering how two people who are so bad at reading each other, so bad at communicating with each other, can ever realistically have an HEA ending.

In other words, in far too many romances, the relationship starts out on a rather unhealthy foundation.

And I am very bothered by the idea that this fictional romance, that is rather unhealthy, is being presented to the world of readers as an acceptable way to begin a strong relationship.

Now before romance fans band together to tar and feather me, I will be the first to admit that…

Some Romance Writers Get it Right!

Some romance writers are particularly good at showing the inner thoughts and feelings of the two main characters, which allows the reader to better understand why this couple is mis-communicating. And those writers know how to show a realistic path for both characters to grow to a healthier place, where they can have a healthier relationship (for the writers reading this, here’s more on how to write healthy relationships from the blog of writing guru and romance author, Jami Gold.)

Also, certain romance tropes lend themselves to creating misunderstandings that are not based on current poor mental health or bad communication. For example, a second chance romance, where the things that went wrong in their earlier relationship are barriers they must overcome. They must show each other how they have changed.

Or the hidden baby trope, or others that involve secrets from the past. In these instances, those external secrets are keeping the couple apart, rather than internal flaws. In other words, there are elements of…wait for it… suspense!

One of my mysteries in which romance is a strong subplot.

And that suspense creates the tension.

Which is why I can write romantic suspense, even though I don’t write romance per se.

Yes, I have the couple make some missteps with each other. All new relationships have hiccups. But most of the conflict and tension can come from the suspense/mystery part of the story, i.e. from outside the relationship.

In my humble opinion, all good romance stories involve some suspense, and all good suspense stories are enhanced by some romance.

Your thoughts? Do you enjoy some suspense with your romance and/or some romance with your suspense?

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Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida. Plus she has started a new police procedural series, also set in Florida—The C.o.P. on the Scene mysteries. And she writes romantic suspense under the pen name of Jessica Dale.

Misterio press produces an array of quality crime fiction. We post here twice a month, usually on Tuesdays, to alert you to new releases, to entertain, and to inform.

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Jami Gold
    August 30, 2022 at 2:54 am

    Thanks for the shout out to my blog! And believe it or not, I understand where you’re coming from. 😉

    I have a few favorite contemporary romance authors that I really enjoy, often because they include “big issues,” like one of the characters recovering from prior abuse or something, that explains the tension and conflict between the couple. But in general, contemporary romance isn’t my favorite go-to romance genre, and there’s a reason I write paranormal romance (which usually has a big-bad villain similar to romantic suspense). LOL!

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      September 10, 2022 at 7:27 pm

      You’re welcome, Jami! I definitely consider you as one of the romance authors who gets it right! You give the couple a common/problem enemy to deal with, rather than contriving conflict between the couple.

  • Reply
    Pamela Meyer
    August 30, 2022 at 10:57 am

    Count me in as one who likes 50% mystery / 50% romance the best. Thanks for this post. Your thoughts on ‘healthy’ relationships was enlightening as I’ve felt it but have not managed to put it into words as well as you have. I think it’s why the enemies to lovers trope has always felt off to me. I had no idea about your Jessica Dale pen name. Next internet stop is purchasing your book!

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      September 10, 2022 at 7:29 pm

      Thanks for checking out “Jessica’s” books, Pamela. I agree. The enemies to lovers trope often sets my teeth on edge.

      Although I thought they did a good job with it in the movie, The Proposal. Although any movie with Sandra Bullock and Betty White in it had to be a success.

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