This past Sunday, Jilly brought up a “blunder” with her recent contest entry. She’s writing a romance, but the relationship between her H&H is a slow burn. However, she got dinged by a few of the judges because there was little evidence of romance in her story (at least the first 50 or so pages) and none in her synopsis, yet this was a contest for romance writers.
I find it coincidental that Jilly got this feedback recently, because I’ve just read two books by Sarah MacLean (in her new Scandal and Scoundrel series) and one by Lenora Bell where there isn’t much evidence of romance right off the bat, either. Yet they were clearly romances, and quite enjoyable ones at that.
One of the things we learned early on in the McDaniel Romance Writing Program is that we have to get the H&H together on the page as quickly as possible. How *I* have always interpreted that was that they should demonstrate/show/feel some sort of attraction for each other, but after the last couple of books I’ve read (and Jilly’s feedback), I’m not so sure now. Maybe it simply means that the H&H need to be together, but not necessarily interested in each other.
Between the books I just read and the circumstances of Jilly’s story, I’m starting to wonder if we are seeing a new evolution in romance stories, or is this simply one or two authors? I’m speaking primarily of historicals, which is what I usually read, and an evolution that goes beyond bodice rippers and “the great misunderstanding.” Are we starting to see stories morph from a “get them hooked on each other from chapter 1” kind of plot to “there has to be definite interest, even if they don’t act on it, by the ¼ mark.” Are romance authors spending more beginning-of-the-story time on developing the plot rather than developing the romance? In other words, are we writing historical fiction with romantic elements instead of historical romance?
Of course not EVERYONE is doing it, but to have a few recently-published books I’ve read in the last several weeks demonstrate this seems quite coincidental. Or have I simply drawn the historical reader lottery and picked up three books that just happen to focus more at the beginning on plot than relationship building and physical passion?
MacLean and Bell’s books have me thinking about the evolution of my plot and characters (which is also a historical). I have my H&H on the page together from chapter one, but it’s been bugging me that, while there’s a sizzle between them, it’s not really the right TIME for a sizzle to happen between them. Yet there’s a part of me that’s afraid to NOT have the sizzle, because I am writing a romance.
At the same time, I’m also telling a story. A rather complex one. And the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to feel that pushing my characters together romantically too soon would make their situation seem forced and trite. Yes, I think I need my characters on the page together, but perhaps the attraction and romance needs to wait.
What do you think? Are you a fan of a clear and obvious romance right off the bat, or do you like a slow-burn kind of love story?