Romance Novels Make Me Bite My Nails
People who don’t read romance love to proclaim, “They’re all the same! I don’t know why women read that crap. You know exactly what’s going to happen from the very first page.”
I’m not even going to bother to take that statement on directly. But I have to ask why, if the basic form of all romance novels is the same, the experience of reading a really excellent romance novel is so darn tense? Why is it impossible for me to sleep, some nights, until I finally see the hero and heroine kiss, or until they reach their happily-ever-after?
The answer is that a good romance novel just drips with tension. It dangles the possibility of reconciliation before the reader, but even in the good parts—even in the middle of the novel when the hero and heroine have finally started getting along, maybe even getting it on—there’s a guillotine blade hanging over their heads, and the reader knows the precise size and shape of it. The reader can’t help but wince, anticipating the sound it’s going to make when it falls. That dull thud. That chop. How can we stop reading, knowing doom is up there?
And even before that—even before hero and heroine even like each other—the tension is present, inherent in the conventions of the genre itself. Because we know who the hero and heroine are, we know that they’ll have to begin liking each other sooner or later. But when? How? Why? The unknowns create tension. The slow unfurling of the story is pleasurably anxiety-provoking.
Some romance readers love the suspenseful plots—the intrigue, the killer on the loose, the run from bad guys. For my part, I adore tension generated purely through the process of two people coming at a relationship from different, mutually incompatible directions. I like to watch the hero and heroine take each other’s measure and think, Nah. Never going to happen. I love to watch them surprise each other, watch them reassess and come to new conclusions. You know, if she weren’t so . . . If our situation weren’t impossible . . . Maybe there could be something there.
In Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me, the heroine, Min, doesn’t like the hero, Cal, when they meet. Flat-out doesn’t like him. He doesn’t think much of her, either, but he takes her out to dinner, and there’s one moment—just one moment, in the whole first several chapters of the novel, where she looks with pleasure at her food and he thinks, Look at me like that. It’s delicious: the moment, the glimpse of what’s ahead. Oh, the reader says. This is going to be fun.
I think this is one reason readers so enjoy a hero who’s grouchy, angry, even occasionally loathsome at the outset of a novel. (The hero of my debut release, Tom, is this sort. Not loathsome, but oh-so-very grumpy. A loner bike mechanic with a chip on his shoulder. Ah, Tom. I wrote you, and I still have such a crush on you.) As readers, we’re good students of the romance form, so we know the grouchy hero has got to redeem himself. We know we’re going to get to watch him chill out, cheer up, play nice. We know we’ll get to see his distaste for the heroine transform into reluctant admiration, friendship, love. The more impossible that seems at the novel’s outset, the more tension the situation generates, and the more satisfying it is to find our expectations once again satisfied.
Folks who say romance novels are all the same are missing the point. It’s not the outcome of a novel that generates the pleasure in reading it—it’s the journey. And in a good romance novel, the journey is fraught with tension, with reversals, with nail-biting moments of It’s never going to happen for these two.
And then it does. Every time. *happy sigh*
Ride with Me, available from Loveswept on February 13, 2012!
In this fun, scorching-hot eBook original romance by Ruthie Knox, a cross-country bike adventure takes a detour into unexplored passion. As readers will discover, Ride with Me is not about the bike!
When Lexie Marshall places an ad for a cycling companion, she hopes to find someone friendly and fun to cross the TransAmerica Trail with. Instead, she gets Tom Geiger — a lean, sexy loner whose bad attitude threatens to spoil the adventure she’s spent years planning.
Roped into the cycling equivalent of a blind date by his sister, Tom doesn’t want to ride with a chatty, go-by-the-map kind of woman, and he certainly doesn’t want to want her. Too bad the sight of Lexie with a bike between her thighs really turns his crank.
Even Tom’s stubborn determination to keep Lexie at a distance can’t stop a kiss from leading to endless nights of hotter-than-hot sex. But when the wild ride ends, where will they go next?
Ruthie Knox figured out how to walk and read at the same time in the second grade, and she hasn’t looked up since. She spent her formative years hiding romance novels in her bedroom closet to avoid the merciless teasing of her brothers and imagining scenarios in which someone who looked remarkably like Daniel Day Lewis recognized her well-hidden sex appeal and rescued her from middle-class Midwestern obscurity. After graduating from Grinnell College with an English and history double major, she earned a Ph.D. in modern British history that she’s put to remarkably little use.
These days, she writes contemporary romance in which witty, down-to- earth characters find each other irresistible in their pajamas, though she freely admits this has yet to happen to her. Perhaps she needs more exciting pajamas. Ruthie abhors an epilogue and insists a decent romance requires at least three good sex scenes.
How about you — what gets you hooked and makes you bite your nails? One lucky commenter will be randomly chosen to win a digital copy of Ride with Me. Winners will pick up their copy through Net Galley. Good luck to all!
Thank you Ruthie for stopping by !!!