Friday, July 26, 2013

When Mystery Meets Romance

I write traditional mysteries with a darker edge. I don’t write romantic suspense, much as I enjoy reading it when done well. I write mysteries with a strong female sleuth, Skeet Bannion, who has no time for men, except as colleagues, friends, and relatives, who’s protective of her freedom and doesn’t want to sort out the messy entanglements that romance and sex bring with them. Skeet prides herself on not being a cowboy cop who’s always taking stupid chances, so what’s she doing falling for a bad boy? Talk about taking stupid chances!

What is all this romantic mess that walked in and tangled up my current WIP? Skeet’s practical and sensible, and she learned a hard lesson in the failure of her marriage to a charming, flirtatious hunk. She prefers to keep her heart under lock and key. So how did this dangerous, probably criminal mercenary slip into its inner recesses?

As a reader, I prefer my mystery straight. A little sexual tension maybe, but let’s keep the focus on the important thing here, which is finding the killer. As a writer, I prefer the same. Yet, in my last Skeet Bannion book, Every Broken Trust, a minor character walked in and decided he liked Skeet and would become a major character—and to my shock, Skeet developed an attraction for him that she’s done everything but drop a nuclear bomb on to destroy, all without effect. Now, in the WIP, Every Hidden Fear, Skeet is losing ground in this battle against this new guy who’s probably going to rip her heart out. How did this happen?
Yes, there’s a murder to solve and a killer to catch. Yes, there are innocent and not-so-innocent people to save. Yes, Skeet’s as busy as ever with no time for silly attractions. Yet, there they are, staring into each other’s eyes and breathing heavy. It’s enough to make anyone sick.

Like most authors, I have to stay true to my characters and honor their choices. But honestly! Yes, he did look kind of hot when he showed up in the last book, all kitted out like an assassin, ready to rescue Skeet from danger. Of course, Skeet wasn’t having any of it, thank you very much. She’s quite capable of rescuing herself and any number of others from danger and did. So why didn’t he just go away?

Such are the dilemmas authors face.

Do you like romance mixed in with your mystery? Do you prefer to keep them separate? What do you think of characters who take over and grow beyond what they’re supposed to be? 

And would you fall for a dangerous guy with a classified background and a nice sense of humor who looks kind of like Johnny Depp?


  1. I don't mine some romance when it's secondary to the mystery. But lately there have been a whole lot of harliquin romances claiming to be cozy mysteries and it irks me to no end. If I wanted romance I'd read romance genre.

  2. It's actually true to life when other aspects slip into your straightforward mystery plot . . . she's human, after all, and if the bad boy has potential for good . . . all the better!
    I think you struck a good balance ;-)

    1. Sounds very Balanced..Not a Romance Reader..But Mysteries..Edgy..Could be a Cozy or Darker...A Smart Bad Boy ..Yes...UF/Para 3 Authors Visit E-Mysteries on Pinterest...Addictive...Can Pin Your Own Books if you want to.. ;)

  3. I'll admit to liking a little well-done romance once in awhile, and I'm a sucker for bad boys (only in fiction--really!).

  4. Kath, I'll admit I'm with you. I don't mind some romance that's secondary, but when the heroine takes the time she's supposed to be desperately using to disarm the bomb or save the next victim to make out with her love interest, that book hits the wall. I find it too unbelievable.

  5. Mary, that's the way I hope I handled it--so it's just another of the real-life obstacles she has to deal with as she tries to solve the mystery. And the bad boy does have potential for good, but who knows if he'll turn that way? It's not the way he's going now. The author is sometimes the last to know. :-)

  6. Julie, I, too, have that lamentable weakness for fictional-only bad boys. (As you know, I'm married to one of the all-time good guys.) It's that hope of turning them around, I suspect. I also suspect that, in real life, they only turn worse.

    Actually, that's not really true. I know of a wonderful organization in East LA that works with hardened gangbangers and helps them turn their lives around completely. It has a great success rate, and some of the stories are almost miraculous. But, like my friend Luis J. Rodriguez, former gang member, now award-winning poet, novelist, memoirist and community activist, the guys themselves have to be ready and willing to turn themselves around before all the belief and help can work for them.

  7. Kath said it well regarding the Harlequin romance mystery masquerade…

    I don't actively seek out romance novels or mysteries with romance in them. How I react to it when I read it depends on how it fits the story. If it looks like somebody wrote their mystery and then dropped romance/sex passages to add a little something—I absolutely want nothing to do with it. But if it is an active and integrated part of an ongoing story—not a drop in—of a story that I like, then I like it. If it's a book by an author I like despite drop in romance/sex passages, I will put up with it. If it gets too annoying I stop reading that author's books.

    You Skeet are doing great.

    Johnny Depp...

  8. Reine, I know what you mean about drop-in romance/sex passages. I think I see them more in the thrillers, though I have seen a few drop-in romance passages in cozy mysteries recently. They are a problem. Now, a series like Julia Spencer-Fleming's that has a relationship that's at the heart of the series and involved in the sleuthing, as well, works fine for me.

    Glad you think Skeet and I are doing okay!

  9. Oh, no! TMI!!! Don't tell me that! Skeet must keep her head on straight!

    Okay, seriously? Although romance is certainly part of ordinary life, it irks me when it takes over a mystery or when it's dropped in, as Reine said. I can think of one mystery where it was so ridiculously out of place (and did nothing whatsoever for the plot) that I'm not sure I'll ever again read something by that author. The entire chapter can be removed from future printings and nobody will know the difference.

    Bad boys? Eww, I'm not sure. Sometimes I wonder about the ones from the neighborhood where I grew up. Did they become respectable husbands and fathers, or did they continue on the paths they were on the last time I heard about them forty or so years ago? At least one of them came to a bad end, and probably more than one. I like Skeet and am sure she can take care of herself, but be good to her; she's already had one bad experience:-) But go ahead and break her heart if she can grow from the experience. No! I did not just say that! She deseves to be happy!

  10. Well, DebRo,you know Skeet. She's not one to allow herself to fall head over heels, no matter what her libido is telling her to do. She's going to fight against it with all her might.

    And I, too, hate romance in mystery that has nothing to do with the plot.

    Well, this bad boy went to school in Britain and has traveled all over the world. But he seems drawn to danger--and he appears not to have the same scrupulous conscience Skeet has. As you might expect, she finds that a HUGE stumbling block.

    Unfortunately, I have to be mean to Skeet, in order to stretch her beyond what she thinks she can do and make her grow as a person. So I really can't let her be happy. Sorry!

  11. Linda, you are right that Julia Spencer-Fleming's books have relationship at the heart and are an integral part of the story not separate from the main plot or theme.

  12. Yes, Reine, I love her books, but there the Clare-Russ relationship has been a part of the story from the first. And they're both involved in the mysteries.

    In this current WIP, The struggles Skeet is making against this attraction are connected integrally with the mystery involved, but I don't know where this is all going in future books. *sigh*

  13. I'm so happy to learn Skeet and whazzizname will be carrying on the resisted-chemistry in book #3. I don't have hard rules about romance in mysteries - as long as the mystery, character development and plotting are primary. A little romance is like just the right herbs and spices in a great dish, they enhance, give a little heat, flavor just right.