When is romantic suspense not romantic suspense?
Damned if I know. My Carina book, “Learning To Trust,” which I thought was romantic suspense, was categorised as contemporary romance in many places. I thought that with dead bodies, bombs and a bit of assassination, that might qualify it, but in my books the romance is always upfront and center, the most important part of any story I write, be it paranormal, contemporary, historical, or indeed, suspense.
What’s more, I’ve won an award for romantic suspense, an EPPIE (now retitled). It happened in a year when I had a lot of books I wanted to enter in the EPPIEs, but I didn’t want to enter too many in the same category, and so have them compete against themselves and perhaps weaken the vote.
The EPPIEs happened when writers entered their books for awards, and chose the categories they were entered into. Then the books were sent to readers, who judged them, giving each book points, and that included relevance in the category they were entered in.
I had a paranormal, and several historicals that year, including two Richard and Rose books, the series that made my name. I could never choose between them, and I didn’t want to, so I decided to take a chance and enter them into different categories.
“Harley Street” was a book that started with a murder, which then factored into Richard and Rose’s lives in an alarming way, and spread over the remaining books in the series, only finally resolved in the upcoming “Lisbon.” But there was this murder, so I figured I could get away with entering it in the Romantic Suspense category.
And blow me down, that was the book that won. Historical mystery is an unusual and fascinating subgenre, and mine was even more specific, because it was a romance novel, or a novel featuring a very strong romance.
So what do I know? “Learning to Trust” was, I felt, an important step for me into another genre, but not everyone thought so, probably because the romance is the thing, rather than the suspense. I still love the book, and I’m still thrilled that it got into a publishing house like Carina. But it was really hard for me to write. The issues are dark and gritty, and writing a romance with that in mind was harder than usual. However, some of my paranormals are also suspense books, featuring secret agents, murders and other good things. But paranormal suspense is a genre I’ve just made up. Bloody good, though. I’d read a paranormal suspense in a heartbeat. Hey, aren’t the Harry Dresden books paranormal suspense?
As I said, damned if I know. I’ll let the experts decide in future.