Reality in Romance

In case you don’t know one of the many hats I wear is a book reviewer for my local paper. I read a lot of different books (some genre, some not) and once a month they publish a review. For December, I read a great book called THE TEN BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE by Adena Halpern. I gave it a glowing review (no sneak peeks, sorry), but one thing I mentioned was that the relationship the character develops didn’t really do it for me, it didn’t feel ‘real’.

Since I wrote the review, I’ve been thinking about that statement. Obviously as a romance writer, I take the development of a romantic relationship in a book very seriously. In my books, it’s probably the most important element. Readers may come for the super sexy, but they stay for the relationship and so I take that very seriously. In a book like Halpern’s, which is not a romance, that relationship doesn’t have to be developed so far (and if it somehow became the focus of her book, it would have been very distracting). But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be grounded in some kind of reality.

Which sounds funny coming from a person who writes historical fiction and sometimes dabbles in monsters and zombies (under my Jesse Petersen name). But I don’t mean that a romance must show every element. Lots of parts of a romance are kind of boring. You have talks about random stuff and find funny things you have in common. Boring for everyone except for the couple. I mean more that I have to feel like there’s really a romance developing.

As a reader (and a writer), I’m not fully satisfied if someone just says, “Hey, this couple is in love now. Go with it.” I need to feel an attraction, a development of a relationship. Even if sex comes first, as it often does in my erotic romances, as the couple develops, I try to make their attraction deeper, to make it as much about shared values and experiences, about empathy and interest, as it is about sex. And in any book that has an element of a romantic relationship, I need to feel that same thing. I need to know that the couple really is falling in love by seeing it, not just hearing it through the literary grapevine. That’s what satisfies me as a reader.

So what about you?

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