Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The New Romantic Suspense?

Yesterday Angela James, the executive editor of Carina Press, tweeted "New trend in submissions inbox: 'contemporary romance with a hint of suspense'. Have seen 4 or 5 come in, in the past few days." Her tweet points to an interesting trend I've noticed over the last few years and that is the decline of the more traditional romantic suspense novel -- where both the romance and suspense take center stage and prominence in a novel -- and the growth of the, for a lack of a better word, softer contemporary with suspense elements.

Among those who are leading the trend toward this emerging hybrid are authors who helped pioneer and grow the traditional romantic suspense genre initially, authors like JoAnn Ross and Mariah Stewart. Both of these wonderful writers have, in the last few years, stepped back from their darker, bleakier stories and recreated their established towns by focusing on the romances of those living there and not the evil lurking below the surface. The stories still have powerful writing and dynamic characters, and do not disappoint.

And, in some of these stories, a bit of danger does exist, though it takes place off-screen as it were giving the author more time to grow the romance of the hero and heroine. (This is also how I look at Harlequin's Romantic Suspense line versus Harlequin Intrigue, HRS more on the romance, where HI divvies up the time between the danger/suspense and the romance.)

Given that traditional romantic suspense is not doing well in the marketplace these days especially for newcomers, I'm not surprised that authors pitching books are now playing up the contemporary elements or perhaps retooling existing stories to make them more market friendly. Readers have spoken in recent months with their purchasing dollars and made clear that they are looking for warmer contemporary romance stories. No longer do romance readers want to escape along with a couple fighting to save the world or their hometown. Instead, they want to escape to a place where all is relatively calm, but where personal problems and a mere hint of danger lay.

That's not to say romantic suspense is gone forever. Indeed there remain some fantastic romantic suspense authors -- Laura Griffin, Jami Alden, Allison Brennan and Brenda Novak, among them -- who continue to put out thrilling book after thrilling book. And a number of bestselling romance ebooks are in the romantic supsense genre.

But for the time being, it looks like the softer side, the contemporary with suspense elements, is winning the publishing battle for readers hearts and dollars. Consider them the "new" romantic suspense.

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