I just can’t seem to stay away from Romantic Suspense. I got the edits back from my latest Urban Fantasy tonight, and my editor said “nice mix of UF and Romantic Suspense, as usual….”
Huh? I thought I was writing straight urban fantasy. First I knew it was a blend! But I thought about it on and off all evening when I had a few odd moments, and I suppose she has a point, from a certain perspective. Urban Fantasy can be purely about the paranormal elements, but I beefed up my novel with high degrees of suspense and action, too, so technically, it was a blend. I just can’t help myself.
Does that make the novel poorer for being a blend? I don’t think so.
As it happened, tonight we went to see the new Ironman 2 movie. Now, there’s a romantic suspense in fairly thin disguise. If Harlequin can market their Silhouette Romantic Suspense novels with barely a passing nod at the romance subplots, then Ironman 2 qualifies as romantic suspense. I loved it. A tortured hero, an equally divided heroine, and a frenetically paced story that wouldn’t quit…and there was the perfect “ticking clock device” throughout the first half of the story. I won’t spoil it for you, but it was simply perfect – it had you chewing your fingernails for Tony Stark that really got the movie going with supreme low-key tension that was brilliant for the start of a movie.
Fact is, there are very strong suspense storylines in a lot of stories, and most stories are made better by beefing up the suspense properly, if there’s already one in existence. There’s nothing worse than a story with a suspense line that falls flat and lifeless because the author thinks they’re really writing a contemporary romance and can give the suspense bit just a passing nod because the readers won’t mind/aren’t interested, and besides, that’s not her usual genre and therefore it’s not her job to know how to right suspense properly.
Even if you’re not a huge fan of pure romantic suspense, you probably enjoy the by-products of damn good suspense in most of the popular fiction you read, one way or another, every day. It’s hard to get away from the benefits of fine suspense…like dairy products: it’s in almost everything you read.
I know I won’t be giving it up any time soon. The suspense, that is. I gave up dairy over a year ago. 🙂
What’s your favorite novel ever? If it isn’t a pure romantic suspense, can you absolutely say it doesn’t have a strong suspense or action story line in it? I’m curious!
Dead Again by Tracy Cooper-Posey
A small plane crashes in the Rockies, and the only two survivors, Jack and Sophie, help each other live until rescue arrives, seven days later. Only Sophie goes on to pick up the pieces of her life, which has now been irrevocably changed by big, gentle Jack’s love…and death. But Sophie learns that Jack’s death didn’t close that chapter of her life, after all.
A drifter called Martin holds the key to her heart, alongside a deadly secret. Combined with a corrupt and desperate police chief and her pressure-cooker life as a single mother in a small town, they plunge her head-deep into the after-shocks caused by those seven days in the mountains. The consequences will reach out to rock state governors, district attorneys, and one of the deadliest crime lords in the land, and all of them have reason to react. For Sophie, life is about to change again…for the worse.
The sun was strong, warming her and making her sleepy. The removal of the crushing burden of loneliness allowed her eyes to shut. When she opened them again, Sophie knew she must have dozed, because it seemed little time had passed, even
though sand and rocks slithered down the channel again, heralding the return of the tall man.
But even stranger, she was impatient for his return. When he had first lowered himself to the shelf and smiled, merely lifting the corners of his mouth, she had felt a sense of recognition stir in her soul. He wasn’t a stranger, even though she didn’t know his name.
Then his smile faded and he’d simply looked at her, assessing, calculating. The frank stare was oddly reassuring. He was no man’s fool. A self-reliant man, who looked to his own instincts and made his own decisions. She knew that she would be all right, that this man could be trusted. Which was strange, for so far in her life, she’d found her greatest comfort and safety arose in moments of solitude, from depending upon her
own strength. “It’s just the circumstances,” she muttered.
But she felt a spurt of eagerness when the pebbles began to roll and bounce down the slide, heralding his descent.
He returned with treasures. Sophie watched in amazement as the pile of goods grew. It took him half a dozen trips, using the wire rope for stability, to bring each load down to the platform. In the end, there were three or four backpacks. From the top of one she saw foil packages and realized he’d repacked that pack with food. There were other anonymous bundles too.
He’d rigged another, slimmer rope made of luggage straps and pieces of fabric, including some of the fuzzy gray wall lining that had covered the lower half of the cabin. This little rope he used to lower down the most amazing load of all. Her jaw fell
and she watched, dazed, as a whole cabin chair slid and tumbled down the gully, triphopped and tumbled a couple of times, then came to a rest on its back a few feet from
It was one of the double chairs, with the articulated arm in the middle. The gray upholstery with the elegant thin red stripe was scuffed, dirty and ripped on one corner.
She stared at a mangled bolt that hung from the bottom of the metal frame that served as legs. Had he wrenched it up himself or was it a lone survivor too?
He scuffled down the last few feet himself, smiling at her expression. “You can’t stay lying on the damp ground,” he explained.
She found herself laughing a little. “Luxury in the wilderness.”
He turned to sort out the bundles, revealing some of the bounty he’d gathered.
Wood, clothing, food and water. Two first aid kits. There was more but he put two of the packs aside, pushing them under the overhang, where it dipped down to within a few feet of the ledge’s nearly level surface.
Sophie watched him with mellow happiness, the pain in her leg fading to a detached, muffled hammering. Not only was she not alone on this shelf in the middle of nowhere but her companion was remarkably capable. He exuded the industrious air of someone who knew what they were about as he sorted and stored.
She wondered what he did for a living. He wore black jeans and a black polo-neck sweater flecked with midnight blue. A black belt threaded through the jeans, with a plain square buckle, silvery gray. Hiking boots, scuffed and well used. Ordinary clothes that gave away nothing. They even camouflaged the thickness of his shoulders but couldn’t hide their width altogether.
Whatever he did for a living, she was glad he was here, now.
“You okay? How do you feel?” He stepped over a bundle, crouched down next to her and laid his hand on her forehead. “Sorry I took so long.” Low and warm, his voice seemed to rumble in her mind and it took a moment for her to recognize and label the emotion. He cared.
The warmth enveloped her and for a second she felt an absurd need to cry. She blinked rapidly. “I’m fine.” Her voice was thick.
A faint frown puckered his brow and his hand fell away from her forehead. Again, the assessing, judging expression appeared in his eyes.
Sophie cursed her weakness and tried to master the helpless wail that battled to voice itself. She lifted her chin and tried to breathe deeply.
“No, don’t,” he said softly, his hand dropping to her shoulder. “Don’t hold it back. Cry if you have to. It’s okay.” He shook his head. “You’re allowed to be scared. Hell, I’m scared too, you know.”
The admission brought tears, hot stinging tears that broke down her hasty defenses.
Great racking sobs shook her and her vision dissolved.
Warm arms wrapped around her. A gentle hand laid her head against soft wool. Beneath that was the hard wall of his chest. She turned her face inward, shutting out the light, seeking warmth and wept her heart out.
Sometime later, Sophie told him quietly, “I’ve never done that before. The crying thing. I mean, in front of someone.” Let alone on their shoulder.
“I believe you.” His flat tone seemed to imply sincerity. He didn’t pause from stacking the wood into a fire pile.
“What’s your name?” Sophie asked.
He looked up at her and grinned. She guessed his thoughts. Now you ask?
“Jack. Jack Laubreaux.”
Sophie rolled the name around in her mind, measuring it against the shock of thick black hair, his deep brown eyes and clear, white skin. His features were lean, the jaw clean and well defined. To her eye, he looked more Irish than his name allowed. “It sounds French.”
“My father is French Canadian.” He arranged the last piece of kindling, reached into his pocket to pull out a book of matches, ripped one out and lit it. He set fire to the paper balls sitting beneath the wood. “He came south when he was fifteen. Been in the States ever since.”
She focused on the tense he’d used. His father, at least, was alive. “Was your mother Irish, then?”
“Sort of. Her grandparents were from County Mead but she was a mid-western farm girl, as corn-fed as you can get.”
“It’s very nice to meet you, Jack,” she said.
Again, he gave her that quick assessing look. “You’re okay now.” It was a statement rather than a question.
“I’ll be all right as long as the silence doesn’t last,” she said, reaching for a truth that came from several layers deep inside her. She hadn’t realized before that truth could be
seamed like that—that there was superficial honesty but one could choose to dip into the strata beneath, for a purer truth.
His assessment was longer this time and Sophie found her chin lifting, her shoulders squaring. Defiance, she suspected. She had just handed over a substratum of truth, a private slice of herself. Would he belittle it? She had never done this before and had no experience by which to judge.
He smiled. It was sudden, as if he’d been caught off-guard and was smiling despite himself. But his whole face lit up, including his eyes. Strong white, even teeth showed
and his eyes crinkled at the corners, filling the deep brown irises with good cheer. It was like watching the sun come out. Her breath caught, her spirits soared.
“We’ll just have to keep talking then,” he said.
Sophie tried to suppress her answering smile. “Can you talk that long?” she asked seriously. “How long will it take them to find us?”
“Oh, a day. Maybe two,” he said cheerfully. Quickly, he turned to one of the packs behind him and dug into it. “I have something here for you.” He pulled out a pair of jeans. “They’re probably too big but you don’t want to sit around in wet clothing. And we have to get it over your leg.” He dug again and came up with a dark blue sweatshirt, which he spread out for her inspection. On the front was written University of Chicago in white lettering, beneath an all white badge showing a stylized gryphon, its wings spread. “This, I guarantee will keep you warm.”
The flames from the fire were starting to lick higher and she could feel the warmth from them. In comparison, she realized that the wall of rock behind and beneath her was radiating a steady chill now the sun had passed out of reach. And Jack was offering warmth, dry clothing. She examined the jeans. “How do I get them over my leg?” she asked, somehow sure he’d have the answer.
First of all he pulled out one of the medical kits and shook out a small capsule shaped tablet. “Prescription strength pain killers,” he explained, handing her the water bottle along with the tablet. “Percodan. I busted up my arm once and the doc had me on these for a week. I was high as a kite to start, but man, do they work. I was taking two at a time, so I figure you’d better start with just one.”
She took the tablet without hesitation for her whole leg and her hip felt like whitehot pokers driving up into her body. While they were waiting for the medication to kick
in, he sat on one folded leg, his chin perched on the other denim-clad knee, feeding the fire up into a steady, comforting blaze.
Twenty minutes later her mind was buzzing, her body remote and her thoughts ethereal. The pain in her leg had receded to a dull roar that she could ignore.
She realized that Jack was watching her.
“Better?” he asked softly.
“Okay, now to get you comfortable.” He took out a knife from his back pocket—another memento from his treasure hunt?—and slit the left leg of the jeans from hem to waistband. Then, with the impartiality of a nurse, he helped her strip off her own grimy, damp suit pants. Actually, he did most of the work, for her own fingers were thick, clumsy and throbbing with the beat of her own heart. He took most of her weight
on his shoulder for she could only prop herself up with her good right leg. While she lifted herself up, he threaded the jeans over her foot and slid them up to her waist.
“No, don’t sit down there,” he said, as she tried to lower herself back down. His arm was around her waist and he was reaching for her right leg, sliding the other arm beneath it. “This’ll hurt a bit,” he said, his face very close to her.
“Yup,” she said inanely. She understood him well enough but her tongue had a mind of its own.
He lifted her.
It did hurt. It hurt like hell. Silver fire exploded in her leg and there was an identical flash in her mind, wiping out all the distant good humor and remote fogginess. She tried to bite her teeth together but couldn’t stop the guttural cry that broke through.
A few steps, then she was lowered onto warm softness. Cushioning her back. She looked to her left and blinked her teary eyes so she could focus. The cabin chair, of course. Jack must have set it up while the painkiller had been doing its work and she hadn’t noticed. Her broken leg was resting on a piece of internal fuselage, the mild curve of the metal holding it steady. One end was propped on the chair, the other on
one of the packs Jack had brought down the gully.
He was standing over her, one hand on her shoulder, holding her steady in case she listed to one side.
“I’m okay,” she said. It came out as a croak.
“Sorry,” he said. “But I had to get you off the ground.”
She nodded. “Yup,” she agreed, tiredness abruptly spreading through her. The chair was warm at her back and the fire before her deliciously hot.
“Wanna do up your jeans now?” he asked and she heard a thread of amusement.
“Sure,” she said and yawned. She tugged at the oversized jeans and fastened them, pulled up the zip.
She realized her eyes had closed. She forced them open.
“Don’t fade on me just yet,” Jack said. He held the sweater. “Can you get your jacket off by yourself?”
She struggled with it but the coordination needed to lean forward and remove one arm and then the other defeated her. This time, Jack’s amusement was audible. He chuckled. Hands gently helped her out of the jacket. The sweater was tugged over her head, her arms pushed into the sleeves. She could help with that much and straightened her arms as the sweater was pulled down. Warmth enveloped her. Oversized but soft and comfortable.
“Mmm…” The murmur slipped out. Her eyes were closing again.
“Drink,” he said.
The water bottle touched her lips. She drank.
The chair back behind her reclined and a small distant sentinel in her mind laughed silently. Of course. The seats in a plane always recline.
“Sleep,” he whispered.
Yup. She had no idea if she said it aloud it or not.
Much later, she awoke, rising through sleep layers enough to register the dark of night. The fire had died.
It’s late, she realized.
But the night was not fully dark.
She came a little bit closer to alertness. Why was it not quite dark?
The mountains, of course. Across the valley from them, marching north and south in broken, uneven rows, the mass of each mountain sat over them. Unlike the one they
clung to, the peaks across the ravine were sheer, treeless crags, with thick snowcaps.
The white stone, the snow, gleamed in the three-quarter moonlight, bathing everything with a ghostly radiance.
Keeping guard, her foggy mind suggested as sleep pulled her back down.
To buy Dead Again, click here.
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