For years, I had a list of ten elements that I loved in a romance. I was reading back over it recently and realized that a few of those elements have changed for me. Many have stayed the same. I love a great setting. A bit of suspense is always fun. But while I was reading through it, I realized that some things have changed. One pretty drastically.
So here is my updated list of ten things (in no particular order) that I love in a romance, whether it’s one that I’m reading or writing:
- A good believable conflict – This hasn’t changed. I need a reason the main couple can’t get together right away. Though it still drives me nuts if the reason is a simple misunderstanding that a two-second adult conversation would clear up. You gotta talk to each other folks!
- A flawed quirky heroine – This is the one that has changed the most for me. Because I realized that the characteristics I was calling “flawed”—a klutz, a book nerd, someone with curves, a heroine with glasses, or crazy hobbies, or a typically male job—weren’t actually flaws at all. Though I think the industry at large treated them as such a few decades ago when I started reading romance. I really love a girl that has a few quirks. Someone who runs into walls (as I often do). A Belle with her nose in a book. A female Robin Hood bandit (I wrote a series of these and they are still some of my favorite books). I really love a heroine who can surprise me or make me laugh. Give me the quirks!
- A tortured edgy hero – I’m still a sucker for the bad boy with a heart of gold. Not necessarily a dark brooding hero, aka tortured, though I love those too. But someone with some bite to him. A Dread Pirate Roberts who turns out to be Wesley the farm boy. A thief who meets the girl of his dreams and changes his life to be with her. Jack from Romancing the Stone who tries to romance the treasure out of Joan and ends up falling in love himself. As long as there is a good heart—and a believable reason—beneath the bad activities, it makes for a great read.
- Or, an “average” hero – These can be a lot of fun. The nerdy librarian who finds out he’s a bit of an Indiana Jones. The soccer coach who turns into Rambo to save his family. I love when a regular Joe turns into the ultimate alpha male when the going gets tough.
- A setting that sucks you in – this is probably why I love historicals so much. I want to be transported to another world; whether that world is in the past, the future, another planet or timeline, or a regular world turned on its ear, I want to live in that world while I’m reading the story.
- Actual romance – I’m all for love scenes 😀 But sex scene after sex scene can actually get a bit tedious if there is no romance going on along with it. A simple brush of the hand can get my heart pounding harder than the most graphic love scene when done right. Gotta have the romance 🙂
- A little danger and/or mystery—romance is always a little more fun when something dangerous is going on. Falling in love while fighting zombies? Squeezing in a make-out session or two between a few near-death experiences? Maybe the main couple grows closer together as they try to solve a murder, or find a treasure, or search for a missing person. Adding a little spice to the mix is always fun.
- Humor! –Okay, I have tried to write stories that are completely serious, and I just can’t do it. If you pick up one of my books there will (hopefully) be at least one spot that makes you laugh. Or at least lightly chortle. An amused snort, perhaps. Something 😉 I am a serious laughter addict, so I really love at least a touch of humor with any romance I’m reading or writing.
- A great supporting cast – the best friend who helps the lovers sneak off together; the sidekick who’s great for a little comic relief; the sibling who puts aside the rivalry to help (or maybe hinder) the lovers getting together. Sometimes these supporting characters can make or break a story. And very often they end up getting their own stories in my book worlds because I love them that much!
- An intense love that makes me want to re-read the story again and again – for me this is different from the romance. The romance is the building love, the sweet gestures, the tender kisses. Those are wonderful and I want them in the books I read (and write!). But I really love an intense love that defies all odds, that lasts years, sometimes centuries….Jamie and Claire from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series; Rane and Alex from Celeste de Blasis’ Wild Swan series; Bella and Edward (don’t judge, I love these two!) 😀 I want intensity. I want the pages to smolder. I want these two to conquer the whole world in order to be together. I don’t ask for much, do I? 😉
My newest book, How to Forgive a Highlander, book 4 in my MacGregor Lairds series, combines quite a few of my favorite romance-book elements to create a funny, dangerously thrilling, and utterly romantic romp through the Highlands. What do you love in a romance?
William MacGregor will lie, spy, and happily die to protect his clan from their greatest enemy. But when he kidnaps the wrong woman, he triggers the very events he’d been working so hard to prevent. And puts everyone in danger.
Rose Thatcher will do anything to protect her lady and return them both safely to English soil. But the damn Highlander who snatched her off the docks has done nothing but get in her way. She’d love to ditch the bastard, but if they want to save their respective loved ones, they are going to have to stay together.
Somewhere along the grueling journey to Scotland, their constant bickering turns into something more. Something worth fighting for. But how can an English lady’s maid, who longs for the safe, comfortable life she had in London, find love with a Highlander who can’t wait to wipe England’s dust off his feet? If they can’t defeat the enemy they accidentally led home, they might not live long enough to find out.
Each book in the MacGregor Lairds series is STANDALONE:
* How to Lose a Highlander
* How to Ensnare a Highlander
* How to Blackmail a Highlander
* How to Forgive a Highlander