Michille: Romance and Natural Disasters

800px-Hurricane_Isabel_from_ISSWith Harvey mostly a memory leaving a staggeringly colossal disaster area behind it and Irma targeting Florida and another potentially colossal disaster for the U.S., I looked at disasters in romance novels. I read one recently that was set in a flood (freebie from RWA Nationals in a previous year), but I got really annoyed with the author because the hero and heroine kept standing around in floodwater while the rain was pounding down, discussing their history, wondering where his brother was and if her sister stayed at work, sharing scorching kisses and wishing for a bed. I’m not thinking that the folks going through Harvey were standing waist deep in floodwater reminiscing about a high school football game that took place 10 years ago. The memory of that book and the coverage of Harvey led my brain down the path of how an author could set a romance in a natural disaster and do justice to mother nature, the devastation and tragedy, and the romance without minimizing or horrorizing (is that a word?) the tragedy or the reader. As in, people are dying and these two idiots just want to do the horizontal tango.

GoodReads has a list of books about tornadoes in romance, hurricanes in romance, earthquakes in romance. Some of them don’t really apply to what I am interested in seeing. There is one in which the tornado was 10 years ago. I did find an Anne Stuart on the list of hurricane romances – A Dark and Stormy Night. Leave it to Krissie to give it that title. It’s an old Harlequin that might be worth buying as I like her stories and she does dark romance really well.

The movie Twister (1996) is a good example, I think, of a good tornado movie with romance. Rotten Tomatoes disagrees with me giving it 57%. Nora Roberts wrote Storm Warning in 1984. It has an Agatha Christie feel to it (The Mousetrap/And Then There Were None), but due to its age, it has an alpha hero who is a complete ass to the heroine who loves him anyway. I read an earthquake one several years ago in which the hero and heroine almost died, then had we’re-lucky-to-be-alive sex in the aftermath while waiting to be rescued. As I recall the quake and the internal thoughts of “I’m about to die” seemed realistic, not that I’ve ever been in a building falling down around me to know how I’d feel.

Have you read any good disaster-set romances? Or any ridiculous/insulting disaster-set romances? How was the disaster handled?

14 thoughts on “Michille: Romance and Natural Disasters

  1. My brother and niece live on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, so they’re all prepared and expecting a visit from Irma today. I’m watching the live coverage, hoping everyone stays safe and that my brother’s (tourist based) business doesn’t take a massive hit.

    I can’t think of a single disaster-set romance, though of course there are tons of trapped-in-a-snowstorm or take-cover-from-the-elements stories, usually with bonus shedding of wet clothes and huddling together for warmth 😉 . Oh, and there’s a very early Suzanne Brockmann Silhouette romantic suspense, Taylor’s Temptation, with an aid worker heroine, a SEAL hero, and an orphanage in a war-torn overseas country. That’s pretty good, though they only spend the last couple of chapters overseas, rescuing the orphans and dodging bullets, leading to the I’m-about-to-die realization that I Love You.

    • I hope your brother and niece stay safe.

      I read Taylor’s Temptation years ago – I read all the stories in that series. The I’m-about-to-die realization is a common trope, especially in thrillers and romantic suspense.

    • Sending safe thoughts your brother’s way. My sister’s parent-in-laws, who are in their 80s, refuse to leave their south Florida home. Their take on it is that they’ve lived a long life and if it’s their time to go, it’s their time to go. My sister and I bash our heads against the wall at that type of thinking, but there’s only so much we can do from far away.

      I would think just the struggle of getting some ornery family members out of town would make for a good story, if set the right way.

      • A co-worker has 2 uncles that are in their 60s (think of them like maiden aunts, but the male variety) living on one of the smaller Keys. Not leaving either. I think their island is so small, it could disappear in this. Scary.

        Keep us posted Jilly on your family.

  2. This is actually timely for me as I head into the Caribbean for a cruise with 20-odd other writers (leaving out of Galveston, no less). One of our destinations will hopefully be Falmouth, Jamaica, where I hope to set Isabelas book, and yes, I planned to throw in a helluva hurricane. I read a brief bit in a book called The Sugar Barons about the storm/aftermath of a horrible hurricane in the late 18th century and planned to do more research on it to see how folks survived. But first and foremost I don’t want to diminish the impact of the natural disaster, glossing over it for the sake of the love story. This is a good reminder, thanks.

    • You’re welcome. I’m sure I’ve read historicals where ships get stuck at sea in a hurricane. i can’t think of one right now. I remember when Pa got stuck in a blizzard in one of the Little House books, but that’s not really what I’m thinking of here.

      • I’ve read plenty of historicals where the seafaring couple gets trashed by a storm, but I don’t recall reading a historical with a hurricane on a tropical island. Doesn’t mean someone hasn’t done it, but unlike most people, I hardly remember the details of books I read (so pathetic).

  3. Best wishes to your brother and niece, Jilly! I hope they and their house make it safely through the storm.

    Like others, I can think of we’re-trapped-in-a-cabin-by-the-storm books, but not a real disaster story. And actually, I wouldn’t want to try writing one. I think the challenge would be pretty great, to get the tone right and also not make it claustrophobic—so the h/h can do things and not just be trapped.

    • Exactly, Kay. I think recognizing the dark side of catastrophic weather and the HEA of romance is a difficult balance. You see devastating destruction in the news, followed by heartwarming stories of people going above and beyond. Sexual tension seems out of place, but emotions are running really high in those situations and it could (emphasis on could) make a good story if told well. It appears none of us have read one. Niche market following this crazy year of catastrophic hurricanes?

  4. With the hurricane news, I’ve been running through a few Hamilton songs in my mind. The hurricane that destroyed his town is not really “in” the story, but it’s important back story that shows up again and again in the play.

    I think there have been a few “stormy nights” movies and TV episodes, but . . . I’m not sure I can pinpoint it more precisely.

    (-: One of my short stories takes place during a blizzard, but they aren’t in any danger from the storm, and the electricity doesn’t even go off. Yay, infrastructure! You know how some stories have a time-lock? This is a place-lock, that keeps them in the same place for a period of time. The villain is a snow goddess, so she has no problems coming to them.

    During a disaster, there’s a lot of downtime. One of my stupidest regrets after one of our typhoons was not keeping the house vacuumed — the daytime was a perfect time to plop down with a book, but the living room floor was on the grody side. No electricity, so I couldn’t do that or a million other things that required power.

    People get dazed, and people get “disaster horny” — if we’re going to die, why not have sex?

    But I’m not sure all of that belongs in a book. At least go to the attic to waste time (-:.

    I would think that an evacuation shelter would impose a lot of interesting restraints and boosts to a romance. First, sex is not the easiest thing in that kind of situation (I would guess), but on the other hand, there are a lot of chances to prove one is a worthy mate — caring for children, building a nest, caring for injured people, sorting out arguments and fights, providing food and water and simple comforts.

    I think traditionally, disaster stories have been about human resilience — man against nature, and man against man as far as decision-making goes. In some ways, romance is maybe a bit selfish. (I mean, one of the most important decisions in life is if you’ll take a life partner, and if you will, what will you put up with, so in that sense, so I’m not dissing by suggesting a sense of selfishness). A disaster makes you realize you want happiness, and it might define what that happiness consists of in ways that can’t happen in a normal everyday sort of way. But to concentrate on one’s happiness in the middle of misery? Really hard trick to pull off.

    Of course, if it can be pulled off, it’s amazing. The contrast between misery and happiness is so stark, and makes the resolution very satisfying when it’s done right.

    I hate having my emotional heartstrings tugged though. Okay, tugging is okay. Jerking my heart around is not something I enjoy as a reader, though.

  5. Just a quick comment to say that Irma has passed through the northern coast of DR and it seems they got off lightly. The beaches were wiped out, they lost some trees, windows and electricity but overall it could have been much, much worse. My brother and niece are fine, now starting the cleanup and helping others who weren’t so fortunate. Thank you all for your thoughts and supportive comments.

    Really hoping everyone in Cuba, Florida and surrounds stays safe this weekend and that the damage is less severe than we fear.

    • This is good news, Jilly. I can add a little (late) myself — my sister’s home in Houston didn’t receive any significant damage, and they are volunteering too, both through their church and through the kids’ schools. So much work ahead.

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