It was during this blind excursion through the romance suburbs that I stumbled on the romantic suspense section and thought it would be worth a look. And before you ask, yes, I remember Jennifer just wrote a blog post asking whether she should break up with romantic suspense and listed out all the issues she’s had over the years. But really, how bad could it be? I’ve read suspense thrillers before. Surely these weren’t all that different, right?
As it turns out, it’s not quite that simple. As Jennifer pointed out in her post, trying to mix romance into terrifying and life-threatening scenarios is difficult to say the least. On the plus side, I chose a book by Kendra Elliot who has multiple bestsellers within the genre. My hope was that she’d found a way to avoid all the potholes Jennifer warned us about.
Yeah, not so much. While the writing is certainly high quality with a well-conceived plot, likeable characters and realistic dialogue, there were so many instances where the romantic aspects of the story were just over-the-top at best and downright silly at worst. Let’s go through a few examples, shall we?
When the heroine Lacey first encounters the hero Jack, the encounter unfolds as such:
“Fifty feet away, the rider abruptly turned his head and a laughing, steel-gray gaze slammed into hers. Lacey stepped back at the instant onslaught, her eyes blinking.”
“Instant onslaught” seems a bit dramatic, doesn’t it? They looked at each other. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, especially since it occurred at a homicide crime scene where Lacey was called in as a specialized forensics expert. (Fingers snapping) Focus, girl. Still, the scene happened very early (page 11 to be exact) so I was willing to write it off and move on.
As expected, Lacey and Jack’s paths cross again as the story progresses and the sexual tension begins to smolder a bit more while they have lunch at a small bakery. And that’s where we stumble into more trouble.
“His eyes locked on her mouth as she sipped the drink, and a thick piece of blonde hair fell over one cheek, hitting the cup. He reached to push it back, remembered how she’d reacted to him touching her arm, and turned the movement into a reach for his own drink. He tapped his fingers on the glass bottle, not drinking as he studied her downcast eyes. Gorgeous thick dark lashes. She wasn’t wearing eye makeup; he didn’t think she needed it.”
Nope. Sorry but this would never happen. First, most guys don’t have a strong desire to reach out and fix a woman’s hair, especially a woman we barely even know. Second, I’ve been around a lot of guys in my life and heard just about every imaginable description of a woman’s physical traits, from crude to genuinely sincere. Not once have I ever heard a single mention of eyelashes or eye makeup. It just doesn’t happen.
At this point, it became clear I was reading a male viewpoint based on what a female author either mistakenly believes a guy would think or what she wishes a guy would think. Either way, it was off base.
The most egregious example happens in the tense climactic ending (spoiler alert):
“He looked so good. Tall, handsome, and utterly pissed off, his jaw rock-hard. She briefly closed her eyes at the waves of love flowing through her.”
It’s important to note that she was having this internal dialogue as a serial killer was choking her in a burning building. Remember when I said things got a little silly at times? Yeah, this is a prime example. Not only is that not normal, it’s almost disturbing. How crazily obsessed would a woman have to be to think about a guy’s looks or her feelings for him as someone is literally choking the life out of her? Jennifer’s post warned me that romantic suspense can get a little crazy. I should’ve listened.
So to recap, picking out my own romance books can now be added to the list of things that are really dangerous and should be avoided at all costs along with eating leftover seafood, taking naked selfies and texting when you’re drunk. As a general rule, if you find yourself thinking “Wait, should I be doing this?” it’s probably a bad idea. Lesson learned.
Does this book contribute to or help crush the romance stigma?
I haven’t read enough romance to say for sure but based on Jennifer’s reviews and other posts, I’m going to say this book contributes to the stigma.
Other reading suggestions (from Jennifer)
For a thriller with a strong romantic element and one of the creepiest serial killers in the history of serial killers, try Lisa Gardner's The Perfect Husband. (Note: this is a crime thriller, not really a romance. But, the romance between JT and Tess is hot enough to keep romance readers interested, and the writing is freakin’ fantastic. Quick aside: When I was reading it, in my head, JT was played by Hugh Jackman. It was awesome. But I digress…) And for a more straightforward romantic suspense with a creepy AF serial killer, try Shannon K. Butcher’s Love You to Death.