by Susan Arden
In a love story, when the going gets rough, the tough kick it into gear. Maybe a twist on the saying, but who doesn’t like a hero packaged as rugged, smart, and cocky?
Well what about when the going gets dark? As in edgy and an emotional hurricane. Around 1840, the appearance of a new thread in fiction arose: dark romanticism. The heavy hitters of the genre were Poe, Hawthorne, Dickenson.
Let’s shoot forward to the 21st century and Shades of Grey. Once again, a distinct flavor of fiction appeared, and just like before, pushed boundaries in mainstream reading, pop culture, even our vernacular. From libraries to living rooms, erotica is no longer housed under lock and key. Check your blush at the door. Both characters and readers aren’t shy in admitting to wanting it…harder. Like flint and gasoline, the sexual tension kabooms off the page and into the media, spurring discussions like no one’s business. Not everyone has read Fifty Shades, but most have an opinion on the book and the subject matter.
When I say dark, you say…?
I’ve posed that question and the responses I get vary from: fantasy, horror, paranormal, erotica, bondage, unsettling, not my thing, the darker the better, mature, adult themes, etc. As a subgenre, dark romance is something of an umbrella term and can be further divided based on story details as is done in fiction. Some are erotica, or have erotic elements, or not (sex is behind closed doors). Some stories might be fantasy based, contain paranormal elements like wolf shifters, or be written under the main category of contemporary romance.
The main feature of dark romance is a passionate detour into the tumultuous and darker side of human nature or the wound within the soul. Tragedy lurks ever near as does self-destruction; one wrong move, and our hero or heroine are kaput. Characters journey, battling under burdens bred out of remorse, guilt, greed, avarice—whatever plagues them. Aka the backstory within a tale.
Passions are extreme to the point of obsessive in dark romance. Many times, it is what characters fight, seeking to escape from their pain, which is part of the journey back into the light. Within the scope of a story, it means a full-throttle heart-racing dive off a cliff. Two characters forge a bond bone deep, and then find a way to connect as a couple as they struggle to overcome the demons of their past. In the end, that equates to an HEA (happily ever after), or as some stories may afford a ‘happy for now.’
Take heart. In these fireball romances, after plummeting into a ravine, the audience isn’t left adrift. Satisfaction is delivered: the couple is together. Although not completely healed, they aren’t alone anymore.
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Too Hot To Handle breaks the mold of what I’ve written. Margo Santero is a runaway, living by her wits amongst ropers and bull riders. Trying to outmaneuver a slick con man with a taste for revenge, she’s got cargo to hide and no time to waste. Barely 18, she lost her naiveté months ago. Wouldn’t you?
When Margo ends up within the crosshairs of Rod McLemore’s focus, they connect and their passion is volatile. Holding back from her proves to be the test of a lifetime for McLemore. Four tours of duty haven’t prepared Rod for her smart-mouth or her horse from hell. He agrees to safeguard her secrets, and in short order they’re entangled within a stormy love affair. They lie. Cheat. Steal. And they’re willing to kill, if that’s what it takes to stay together. Although there are dark parts woven into this story, the ending is served up Western romance style.
Author note: Jan 2016 sales go to support our wounded US Marines via the awesome Semper Fi Fund.