Romantic suspense was fantastic about ten years ago, but recently it has sort of disappeared and morphed into other genres (NA, for example), and something is… different. Many of the best authors have moved over to writing small town romances or young adult fiction, while others put out books so infrequently it’s frustrating.
I’ve noticed RS books now tend to be one of two types. Either they’re deliberately over-the-top, on the silly side, and featuring characters (SEALs, for example) whose work doesn’t even remotely resemble the way the jobs are done in real life.
Otherwise, they’re heavy on the sex and the melodrama, but sorely lacking in actual suspense or action.
The first type of book is fun sometimes, but I don’t want it all the time.
The second type of book is problematic for me because the drama doesn’t come from the plot; it comes from melodramatically tragic backstories and lots of brutalisation of the heroine that is totally unnecessary to the plot.
Things like violence – even sexual violence – can be and have been handled well in a lot of books, if not so many recently. I was recently rereading some Suzanne Brockmann books. Over the Edge was published in 2001, and it is still one of my absolute favourites. It incorporates some things that we might consider clichéd now (including navy SEALs!), but it was original back then, and it was done So Much Better.
This scene comes near the end of the book, and is between two secondary characters. Though it is the aftermath of violence, it is handled better than in most books now. I go back and reread this scene sometimes, and it has a much stronger effect on me than most books do now – and these aren’t even the main characters:
Obviously, there’re some spoilers if you haven’t read the book yet:
Gina lay on the floor of the cockpit, aware of the door being forced open.
Someone came in. Someone in uniform who took one look at her and began shouting for the lieutenant, shouting for medical assistance.
And then another man came in. He was wearing a white button-down shirt and a tie, and he had a blanket that he used to cover her.
‘I’m so sorry,’ he said, ‘that we didn’t get here sooner,’ and it was so strange to hear that voice, Max’s voice, coming out of a real mouth, in a real face.
It was a good face. Blurry, but good. What she could see was older than she’d pictured, with deep lines of fatigue around his eyes.
He had tears in his eyes, and she knew that seeing her like that, broken and bleeding, hurt him badly.
‘At least you got here,’ she said. ‘I’m pleased to finally meet you, Max.’
He laughed at that, but then started to cry. As she watched, he composed himself, wiping his eyes and even managing to give her a smile. ‘I’m going to get you off the plane now.’
He was ready to pick her up in his arms, but she didn’t want him to remember her that way forever. First impressions were important, after all, and she was already at a serious disadvantage.
And dammit, she wanted to see something besides pity in his eyes.
‘No,’ she told him. ‘I want to walk.’ And as she said it, she realised it was true. She did. She wanted to walk off that plane. ‘Will you help me walk out of here?’
‘Yeah.’ He nodded and helped her to her feet, the muscle jumping in his jaw as his repositioning the blanket around her forced him to get another glimpse of her battered body.
He stood on the side of her unbroken wrist, slipping her arm over his shoulders, his arm around her waist, supporting her.
And she walked. Out of the cockpit. Out of the plane. One step at a time.