The previous book of romantic suspense I had read was In Plain Sight by Tara Taylor Quinn. I needed a book that involved the letter “Q” for the 2013 Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme hosted by Kerrie Smith at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise. I had also set myself a theme of having a personal connection to each post for the meme. In Plain Sight fitted my criteria by featuring lawyers.
Because of my infrequent reading in the sub-genre I have a limited knowledge of even what qualifies as romantic suspense. For guidance in the area I looked to the RITA Awards handed out by the RWA (Romance Writers of America).
The judging guidelines for the category of romantic suspense are:
In this category, the love story is the main focus of the novel, a suspense/mystery/thriller plot is blended with the love story, and the resolution of the romance is emotionally satisfying and optimistic.
I have looked at the RITA award for romantic suspense for the last 10 years and I have not read any of them. I have not read any books by the award winning authors.
My primary reluctance in reading romantic suspense is the statement in the guidelines that “the love story is the main focus of the novel”. I want mysteries to focus on the mystery to be solved. When attention is concentrated on other subjects be it romance or violence or historical events I tend to lose interest.
Yet I have a prejudice against romantic suspense that cannot be explained by the focus of the story. It is a personal discomfort with romance being at the heart of the book. I am confident that I am not alone among males in finding myself ill at ease reading about romance.
Can our hearts be so dark that only noir is acceptable to the male? I say not as I am generally uncomfortable with strongly noir mysteries.
I believe I can relate to romance. I have been married for over three decades. Now it is entering treacherous territory to ask my wife if I am romantic. The word “romance” leaves men stumbling around verbally.
At least Canadian society when I was growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s strongly saw romance in books as effeminate. Not being masculine it was not reading for guys. I doubt it is much different in the current generation.
The guideline that the “resolution of the romance is emotionally satisfying and optimistic” is a further block for me. While few mysteries do not have a resolution that is “satisfying” in that the mystery is solved and the bad guy/gal apprehended I at least have the illusion in regular mysteries that the ending will be a surprise.
For a reader wanting to explore different sub-genres in mysteries I find myself facing my own biases. I feel I should read mysteries that are well written whether romantic suspense or conventional mysteries.
Mysteries have already been looked down up as formulaic. To be prejudiced against romance suspense is to personally reflect a prejudice against a part of a literary genre I love.
An Inquiry into Love and Death is a well written book. It should be considered as a candidate for the shortlist of best mystery novel. Romantic suspense is a worthy sub-genre.
Yet I doubt I am ready to add books of romantic suspense to my TBR piles. Justified or not my prejudices are going to continue to take me away from the book store shelves which contain romantic suspense. It will take a work of romantic suspense appearing on another shortlist for me to reading romantic suspense again. I am feeling very unromantic at the moment.