This isn’t a blog about the ups and downs of the romantic suspense genre. Rather, it’s about the light and dark. To clarify, I’m using those words as a “simplistic umbrella” when describing novel elements and author styles. It’s also how I categorize my works of fiction.
Just because I write light, doesn’t mean I can’t write dark. And trust me, I do.
Light brings the fun, sunshine, happily ever-after, laughter—the ingredients you’ve come to expect with a light-hearted romantic suspense. For the most part. There are plenty of outstanding authors and fantastic romantic suspense reads that don’t have the airy elements but still bring the light. You know the ones. Not so chilling but rather exciting with a heavier dose of romance. They may have additional elements that add brightness, such as humor, quirky characters, uplifting plot, spirituality, clean dialogue, whimsy, or a beloved trope that makes you smile.
However you choose to dissect them, there’s one element you’ll always find “light.” That’s a hard element to define. It’s a subjective, gut-feeling, symptomatic of “fun reads.” Consequences? Heart palpitations and frequent smiles.
Nora Roberts, Colleen Hoover, Anne Stewart, Linda Howard, Julie Garwood, Barbara Freethy, Jane Ann Krantz, and Dee Henderson are just a few authors writing romantic suspense with lighter plot lines. To be clear, this doesn’t mean there isn’t crime, death, or dark moments that punch you in the gut or send shivers down your spine. But some of their novels (not all) come with a heavier dose of romance over thrills and chills. I also want to add, writing lighter romantic suspense isn’t exclusive to women.
Let’s go dark for a moment. I consider this classification to apply to books with heavier elements.
Suspense and thrillers will have criminal elements, but darker plots tend to weigh a little heavier. They evoke a chilling visceral response you feel head to toe. Sometimes dark romantic suspense includes a protagonist with sterner demeanor, the lost soul, the bitter, angry, or bruised character in pursuit of justice or redemption. Sometimes it involves a protagonist who, between tracking down the serial killer, pursues their romantic interest.
Some of the bestselling darker romantic suspense authors include David Baldacci, Harlen Coben, Dean Koontz, Sandra Brown, Brian Shea, Simon Gervais, J.D. Robb, J.R. Ward, Sylvia Day…and yes, I would suggest you copy and paste the above list of authors here as well.
I would surmise that many of these authors would cringe if they knew I referenced their books as romantic suspense. Technically they’re not. Their books are genre driven and are “hardcore” suspense, thriller, crime, and mystery books or series. Still, I did it. I had the nerve to include their names in my dark romantic suspense list. Yet, if you read their books, voilà, there’s romance. Let’s admit it. We’re human. We love to fall in love. And yes, the romance genre is the best-selling genre flying off the shelves. In fact, “Romance novels generate over $1.44 billion in revenue, making romance the highest-earning genre of fiction.”
Gone are the days of the suspense, thriller, crime, and mystery books being solely consumed by one target audience. (Were they ever?)
Because of our ever-evolving tastes, authors are creating books as diverse as their readers. Hooray! I once heard a male author share his surprise at how many of his readers were women. In fact, two-thirds of the mystery, crime, and thriller audience are made up of women. Maybe that’s why authors often include romantic elements in their dark novels. Or perhaps, they’re romantics at heart and just don’t want to admit it aloud. But that doesn’t mean a book has to have romantic elements to sell. In fact, if you search for thrillers, crime, mystery, and suspense you’ll find that there’s a healthy crossover of the dark and light written by all the aforementioned authors.
What’s my point? I’m an author and a reader who’s drawn to both sides of the coin—light and dark. I read all the authors in this blog, and many more. I’m thrilled when a new book in this category hits the shelves. As an author, I write lighter, heart-driven romantic suspense along with darker, grittier suspense with romance sprinkled in. From what I’ve read, and shared, I’m not alone.
So, dear reader of this blog, please share your thoughts.
What do you read?
What do you write?
What authors write light and dark?
What romantic suspense books do you recommend? Dark or light.