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General Chat > Romance in crime novels - your opinions?

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message 1: by Beth (new)

Beth | 28 comments I feel I have to ask this question - just to clarify whether I am alone and truly a miserable git, or others feel the same!

One of my biggest pet hates is unnecessary, flowery Mills and Boon style romance in serious crime novels. I cannot stand it when authors (in particular Karen Rose, but by no means only her) feel the need, for no reason whatsoever and when it does not develop the story in any way, insert sickeningly sweet 'romance' sections into their books.

Unfortunately, it seems to be mainly female authors who do this with such a vomit-inducing effect, and it nearly always centers around a female cop/doctor/profiler etc, who cannot be complete without several times in the book having to refer to some "strong, masculine man". The worst part is when they revert (and this is precisely what Karen Rose does, and why I can no longer stand to read her) to filling 1-2 pages at a time with drivel such as "his beautiful hazel eyes, manly, chilselled features, sculpted body......as he held it against me, I felt weak". I mean, come on!!!! If I wanted to read that, I'd pick a romance novel. If I was reading Mills and Boon, I wouldn't expect a graphic depiction of an autopsy, or a murder scene shoved in my face and I think the respect should be mutual!

Let me be clear, I am a romantic in my personal life (well, I like to think so anyway!) and if a relationship develops in a book which is dealt with in a normal, non-sickening manner, and it adds to the storyline (for example the wonderful relationship between Amelia Sachs and Lincoln Rhyme in Jeffery Deavers series) I am all for it. But the continuous flowery romance spoiling my crime novels is becoming overwhelming!

Anyway, rant over! If you've stuck with me this long, please tell me - do any of you agree?!?


message 2: by Britney (new)

Britney (tarheels) | 125 comments Beth, I agree. When I read a mystery/thriller novel I expect it to be exciting and keep me interested.

Romance doesn't belong in a mystery novel. I understand having relationships, but going into detail is just not right. I'm not reading a romance novel. As you say as long as it develops the story its ok. I notice that I find romance in more cozy mysteries than anything. (AKA female writers).

I like to read about the crime, the hunt and hopefully the capture of the suspects.


message 3: by Jaime (last edited Mar 04, 2011 05:42PM) (new)

Jaime (janastasiow) | 16 comments I agree. It drove me crazy when Patterson would do that out of no where and for no reason for exactly one chapter in each book. Who told these people this was required or even desired? It drives me crazy and it's why I won't touch J D Robb.


message 4: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (pamelaterry) I agree with you girls. I know a couple of people who will not read female authors for this reason. Yup, Beth, if I want hard-core romance, I will read a Jackie Collins. More than enough "sculpted bodies" to go around there. When it comes to mystery, let's keep it that way.

This is why I have a problem, at times, with Sandra Brown. She gets off track.


message 5: by Gary (new)

Gary Proctor | 20 comments I guess I wonder how much is too much? Two of my favorites have some romance in them. In some ways it is almost required for a more "Noir" feeling novel maybe. Michael Connelly & Jance J. a. both always seem to include a small portion detailing some physical interlude by their main characters Bosch & Beaumont. I find it particularly meaningful to the Harry Bosch character since so much of his persona is built around his loner existence. It is much the same for JP. Maybe this is not what you are referring to, or if it is, it is because I tend to favor book "series" where I can follow a character I like.

Truthfully though, I have been afraid to pick up a J D Robb book because of the obvious romantic tie in.

I read several Patricia Cornwell books and didn't mind the romance there, but I quit reading them when her character started crying over thing too often for me.


message 6: by Abha (new)

Abha | 11 comments I'm a romance reader as well. I like romantic thrillers if they're written properly. Other times I just want a straight mystery.

I'm a fan of JD Robb's In Death series. I like Eve and Roarke's relationship.


message 7: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2143 comments Mod
I agree. Sometimes it seems like a story is going along and all of a sudden the author thinks - wait, time for romance! That's not to say that I don't like a good story line which can include a personal relationship between characters but sometimes it just seems like the author has a quota to fill.


message 8: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I'm not a reader of romance novels, so I am not looking for romance in a detective story, unless it is handled as incidental to the plot (as in the Lincoln Rhyme or Roderick Alleyn books). I don't want long, involved clutching and panting when there is a murderer on the loose.


message 9: by Jaime (new)

Jaime (janastasiow) | 16 comments Gary wrote: "I guess I wonder how much is too much? Two of my favorites have some romance in them. In some ways it is almost required for a more "Noir" feeling novel maybe. Michael Connelly & [au..."

It doesn't bother me with [author:connelly, michael|4508333]. I tried J D Robb and the first chapter was filled with that crap, so I didn't read further and never picked up another book.


message 10: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Cotterill (rachelcotterill) I don't mind a romantic sub-plot, in principle, but it has to be (a) believable for the characters and (b) in keeping with the style of the rest of the book. If it complicates the main plot (e.g. by clouding someone's judgement) then so much the better. But I get very irritated when something feels tacked on for no reason.


message 11: by Beth (new)

Beth | 28 comments Exactly! I agree with all of you. When it is unnecessary it really does feel like they're filling a quota. I've only read one or two Patricia Cornwell books so far, and they don't seem to insert too much of it so as it detracts from the stor itself, so I'm ok with that.

Mostly though, it feels as though if they have a female character she either has to be involved with someone unavailable/unwilling to commit (again, ala Karen Rose) or else have some awful tragedy in her past which only a strong, muscular man can sort out. It gets laughable at points but it does spoil the story for me!

In cozy mysteries it doesn't rankle as much, although I don't like it still, but I just think unless it significantly develops the characters or storyline, it has no place in serious crime fiction.


message 12: by Lalalalaaa (new)

Lalalalaaa | 3 comments Well well, you all said what I was going to say so I'll just have to agree with you instead!

Also, I agree with you Beth about cozy mysteries.


message 13: by Gatorman (new)

Gatorman | 7670 comments Beth wrote: "I feel I have to ask this question - just to clarify whether I am alone and truly a miserable git, or others feel the same!

One of my biggest pet hates is unnecessary, flowery Mills and Boon sty..."


I agree 100% and it's the reason why I read so few female authors. It almost always adds nothing to the story and becomes a major distraction.


message 14: by Channing (new)

Channing Hayden | 2 comments As a writer, I'm character driven versus plot driven. As a result, all my main characters, so far, have some type of romantic involvement -- lost love, unrequited love, impossible love, etc. Otherwise, I believe they lack dimension as human beings and are cold, unsympathetic characters. The romantic aspect of their life, in part, makes then who they are, even in my mysteries. Because I'm focused on the person solving the crime, romance, love, sex, etc. is often integral to the story.

That said, if an author is plot driven, I understand readers being vexed when the main character suddenly says, "Wait, it's time for me to kiss, hug, etc. somebody," and the kissing, hugging, etc. does not move the story forward. Having every word on the page move the story forward is a basic tenant of modern writing. Whether the digression is a romantic interlude, cooking dinner or a sermon on Sunday, if it does not move the story forward it should not be in the story. Readers have every right to reject authors who violate this rule. I'd characterize the comments here as rejecting bad writing rather than objecting to romance in a mystery story.

And if I digress with scenes that don't move my story forward, please let me know in a hurry.


message 15: by Delaney (new)

Delaney Diamond (delaney_diamond) Beth, I can sense your frustration. Lol.

I'm a fan of mystery/thrillers, and luckily, I've never had the misfortune of reading a mystery/thriller injected with too much romance. Usually, if there is romance, it's just enough to humanize the characters, but there isn't the level of sensory and emotional descriptions I read in romance novels.

I was actually discussing the opposite problem with a fellow author the other day: too much mystery in romance novels. More and more I see romance novels with a subplot involving danger, solving a mystery, saving the heroine, etc. There's a subgenre of romance called romantic suspense, where these types of plots are better suited. When I want to read a romance, that's all I want to read.


message 16: by Beth (new)

Beth | 28 comments Yeah Gatorman - it seems quite oddly unfeminist in a way! It does seem to be mainly female writers who are inflicted with this need, although Val McDermid manages to avoid this, unless it is moving the storyline on , in which case I have no objection to it. Like I said before, in the Lincoln Rhyme/Amelia Sachs relationship, brilliantly crafted by the genius Jeffery Deaver, I am more than happy to read about the developments in their relationship, because usually we learn of them through a neccessary part of the plot; the two are not usually distinct, I feel that to understand where the story is going we often need to see their relationship develop, and it is very well written.

However, like Delaney says, if I wanted romance I'd read romance! I think there is a difference between character development and the neccessary relationship development that goes with that, and just Mills and Boonish blatant romance for the sake of it. Nothing wrong with that in a romance novel, and I'm not knocking the genre, just saying there is no need for it in mysteries or thrillers!


message 17: by Judy (new)

Judy Olson | 148 comments Jill wrote: "I'm not a reader of romance novels, so I am not looking for romance in a detective story, unless it is handled as incidental to the plot (as in the Lincoln Rhyme or Roderick Alleyn books). I don't ..."

I love how you put it...I want my mysteries free of the play by play description of physical relationships. Let's get to the real issues at hand...whodunit and why. Don't want the suspense bogged down.


message 18: by Kim (new)

Kim (KimMR) I can't stand the Mills and Boon type romantic sub-plots in crime fiction, but I am not necessarily averse to a sub-plot involving a personal relationship between the characters. I'm currently re-reading the series of Dorothy L Sayers'novels which involve Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. The development of their relationship is integral to the narrative. In modern series, I think the relationship between Patrick and Angie in Denis Lehane's novels is well-done, as are the inter-personal relationships between the characters in Karin Slaughter's novels.


message 19: by Donna, Co-Moderator (new)

Donna | 2143 comments Mod
Hi Kim, You gave 2 very good examples of how a personal relationship can be appropriate, fit in, and even, in the case of Patrick and Angie, stronger.


message 20: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Agree with Kim......the romance of Lord Peter and Harriet Vane is a part of the overall story and does not get in the way of the plot. Although Gaudy Night is not my favorite of the series, it certainly doesn't overdue the romance angle


message 21: by Donald (new)

Donald Grant (drdon1996) | 122 comments There can be a fine line here. I agree that J.D.Robb and authors likeTami Hoag can over do it. Kathy Reichs straddles the fence in my mind of too much at times. For most "crime" novels it is better left out. Seems more appropriate in a psychological suspense story where it helps to define the character, Cathryn Grant's "The Demise of the Soccer Moms" being a good example.


message 22: by Delaney (last edited Mar 06, 2011 05:53PM) (new)

Delaney Diamond (delaney_diamond) Tami Hoag, Sandra Brown, and J.D. Robb all started off as romance novelists. Maybe that' why they insert more romance into their novels.


message 23: by Chris (new)

Chris Stanley (christinelstanley) | 44 comments Not a fan of romance in crime fiction, unless it is natural and really adds something to the plot.


message 24: by Hayes, Co-Moderator (last edited Mar 07, 2011 10:14AM) (new)

Hayes (hayes13) | 2060 comments Mod
I'm another fan of the Wimsey-Vane romance, because it is a romance. Wimsey courts Harriet over years (not hours or even minutes, as is the norm in modern Romance Novels) and he is extremely romantic. They even write sonnets to each other *sigh* And while there is no sex I find the whole courtship very sexy and fun at the same time. All this while dealing with some great mysteries and some brilliant comic moments.

I can't come up with too many modern mystery writers who can balance all of that in a fairly long series of books.

ETA: and Sayers writes well too!


message 25: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl I liked it when Wallander made a piggish pass at that female prosecutor.


message 26: by Kim (new)

Kim (KimMR) Marjorie wrote: "No sex in the Wimsey-Vane novels?

Have you read Busman's Honeymoon? When I first read that, I thought it was plenty sexy! It is not graphic sex, there are no descriptions of positio..."


I completely agree. The scene in the punt in Gaudy Night is very clearly not just about Harriet realising that she loves Peter, but also acknowledging the sexual attraction between them. That awareness of the physical continues for the rest of the novel and is definitely there again in Busman's Honeymoon. I am no prude and can cope with sex scenes in novels up to a point but how grateful I am for Sayers' writing style (consistent with the time in which she was writing, I guess)and for not being beaten about the head with graphic descriptions of sexual intercourse. Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon show how romance and sex can have a place in crime fiction without being a distraction from the narrative and without being graphic or coarse.


message 27: by Hayes, Co-Moderator (last edited Mar 08, 2011 12:25AM) (new)

Hayes (hayes13) | 2060 comments Mod
Marjorie wrote: "No sex in the Wimsey-Vane novels?

Have you read Busman's Honeymoon? When I first read that, I thought it was plenty sexy! It is not graphic sex, there are no descriptions of positio..."


No no! Girls, I didn't say it wasn't sexy... I said there was no sex! No mahogany skin and sculpted muscles, no heaving and rolling on the floor. The sex is implied and as far as I'm concerned it's a far far better thing!

Love that scene in the punt, Marjorie. Very sexy indeed! Busman's honeymoon too.


message 28: by Renee (new)

Renee (elenarenee) | 66 comments I agree with Channing. I prefer a char driven novel. Romance and atracction are a very big part of life.

I feel relationships make the chars more human and less like machines


message 29: by Heather L (new)

Heather L (wordtrix) Karen Rose is actually romantic suspense, not mystery/thriller. I personally love rom suspense (a genre that combines elements of both romance and mystery) as much as I do mysteries and thrillers, but it's not for everyone.


message 30: by Doreen (new)

Doreen Dalesandro (agileCairn) | 43 comments The minute I see any mention of love, romance, etc in a book's description I move on. I felt The Ice Princess had too much romance, so I won't read any more books by Camilla Läckberg. Ditto for Iris Johansen after reading Storm Cycle.

I loved The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. That does have some romance but the story is so different and Thursday, the heroine, is such a strong character that I wasn't bothered by it.


message 31: by Tracy (last edited Mar 11, 2011 04:33PM) (new)

Tracy | 32 comments I like romance in thrillers only when it fits the plot or moves the characters forward in the series in some way. I don't like trashy romance, but I do like innocent (non-explicit) romances as a side plot sometimes.


message 32: by Rachael (new)

Rachael | 9 comments I agree if it brings something to the story great otherwise I don't need it in my mysteries. :)
Relationships are important in anyone life, even fictional ones, but I don't see the need for major detail.....it would be like sitting down in public and giving descriptions of my bedroom activities.
For readers who want that-go to romances


message 33: by MsTiptress (new)

MsTiptress | 3 comments I agree. When I pick up a Crime thriller I too do not want to read about some sexy man coming into the circle. I want whoever it is to be able to stand on their own with having to find love. Its so cliche. I liked The girl with the dragon tattoo. The relationship wasnt overwhelming and only bits and pieces came about but others.. ugghhh It makes me put down the book.


message 34: by Beth (new)

Beth | 28 comments Marjorie wrote: "The Ice Princess was a terrible book imo -- regardless of the romance.

For the purposes of this discussion I am not sure what the definition of "romance" is. I got the bit about "mahogany skin,"..."


I agree Marjorie, I wouldn't want absolutely no character development whatsoever, so when the development takes a necessary romantic turn I have no problem with that. When the relationship is vital for us to understand a character, especially in a continuing series, I'm all for it. Stuart MacBride actually does this really well with all of the characters in his Logan McRae series, and I begin to care about the relationships that character have. Also with Val McDermid and her Lindsay Gordon mysteries, I am hooked to see what will happen between Lindsay and Cordelia/whoever else she hooks up with.

I suppose, on reflection, it is the language and writing style in which the romantic liasons are dealt with that I have a problem with, rather than the actual relationship itself. If it is purposeful and well-written, I agree that it does have a place in a good thriller.


message 35: by Betelgeuze (new)

Betelgeuze | 4 comments In general i do not like romance in crime novels, especially not if the romance dominates to much. The exception is the In Death series by J.D. Robb, because although the relationship between Eve and Roarke plays an important role, most of the focus is on the mystery.


message 36: by Morgan (last edited Mar 21, 2011 06:20AM) (new)

Morgan (Mogitha) | 17 comments I agree, when it comes to not being relevant, a lot of Patricia Cornwell novels have romance, but it's relevant to the story, at least I believe so.

Betelgeuze wrote: "In general i do not like romance in crime novels, especially not if the romance dominates to much. The exception is the In Death series by J.D. Robb, because although the relationship between Eve a..."

I forgot about that series, but yes, I agree, same with the Scarpetta series with Benton and Kay.


message 37: by Lauren (new)

Lauren (laurenjberman) Heather L wrote: "Karen Rose is actually romantic suspense, not mystery/thriller. I personally love rom suspense (a genre that combines elements of both romance and mystery) as much as I do mysteries and thrillers, ..."

I too am a big fan of the romantic suspense genre. Karen Rose, Sandra Brown, Nora Roberts write romantic suspense rather than straightforward thrillers. So if I understand correctly from the previous posts those who cannot stand romance in crime novels, in fact dislike the sub-genre of romantic suspense. Correct?


message 38: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Demers It's been hugely interesting reading this thread because my just-released first novel, Baby Jane, is marketed as a mystery but a relationship develops in it that is absolutely integral to solving the crime. And so while there are romantic and sexual passages, they all function to move the plot forward and also help develop the book's theme.

But because of the romance I felt that I would have to market it as romantic-suspense, and that my target demographic would then be women, but two things happened that changed all that: the first is that it was rejected by both an agent and a publisher who peddle the romance-suspense genre because the book wasn't "cozy" (a word also used in this thread); it was too eerie a crime and too graphic in its depiction of the details. The second was that a female beta reader remarked that the mystery was so strong and the male protagonist so realistic -- he wasn't the fantasy type (rich and ripped) you get in these syrupy romance novels -- that she felt the book would appeal just as much to men. Knowing, then, that marketing it as romantic-suspense would kill sales to that demographic, I elected to focus on the mystery element. My first sale was, incidentally, to a man, who gave it a 5-star review.

BTW, I find it interesting that many of you feel adding romance only cheapens a suspense novel, and feel female writers are particularly guilty of this, but look at all the romance in the successful supposedly male-oriented suspense fare: the Bourne series (he falls in love with Michelle, with sex scenes included), Bond (he's the man who can never commit because of the loss of his great love, Vespar), the classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Batman ... the list goes on.


message 39: by Sophie (new)

Sophie | 3 comments I think that a great author can make romance work in a mystery/thriller novel. It depends on the author itself and many a times authors fall short of making the plot believable or the romance comes off too cheesy. I have come across books where the romance component enhances the story and others where it works against the book. A well developed romance can definitely work in favor of a mystery book.


message 40: by Yvonne (last edited May 09, 2011 09:33PM) (new)

Yvonne (ysareader) | 53 comments It seems to me that most mysteries or thrillers has some elements of a love story of some sort if not an actual romance in them. It may be fleeting, inconsequential, part of their background or it could be the main part of the story. It could be the romance of the investigator/detective or of the criminal or the victim. It could be a bromance between partners (like Hawaii five O or Elvis Cole & Joe Pike in those Robert Crais novels), it could just be a man and his dog or cat or hamster or whatever. It helps to humanize the story--someone has to care if something bad happens to them otherwise the story is pretty much a dud. So I don't write off a story if it has romantic elements but just if it's a poorly written one.


message 41: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Michael | 674 comments It works for some authors and some characters and it doesn't for others. I can't tell you why it works for me sometimes and not others, but I have books/series with romance involved in the mystery ... and not just cozies either ... and there are other books and series I have dropped because it just did not work for me.

I would not call the "In Death" series by J.D.Robb a cozy in any way, but the romance works for me in that series. One of the 'cozies' that romance has worked for me is the Margaret Maron series with Judge Knott.

I can't remember the author or the name of the book (and I think it is intended to be a series) which the romance angle did not work was one in which both characters were law enforcement people and both had so many conflicts/hangups that it was like reading a psychiatrist's case file! No thanks ...

I am primarily a character-driven reader, so romance/relationships, if done well and an integral part of the overall story, can be a plus for me ... and a total turnoff otherwise.


message 42: by Joseph (new)

Joseph Cacciotti (josephjcacciotti) | 15 comments Hello Beth,
I totally agree with you, I write Mystery/Thrillers and I want my story to glide smooth. I'm not thinking of any romantic scenes, even though at times I'll explain in detail what the person looks like. But that's as far as it goes, and through my reviews only one person graded me a three star mark, because it didn't have enough romance in it. Personally it didn't have any romance in it, just plenty of action and adventure.


message 43: by Susan (new)

Susan | 69 comments I like both mystery and romance but I usually pick up a mystery because I am not looking for romance in my reading at that point. I don't mind the insertion of romance into the mystery as long as it makes sense for the characters, furthers the plot, and doesn't take away from the story. I do like the J.D. Robb series but if I want more mystery I pick up something else since I know there will be romance involved.


message 44: by aprilla (new)

aprilla Beth wrote: "I feel I have to ask this question - just to clarify whether I am alone and truly a miserable git, or others feel the same!

One of my biggest pet hates is unnecessary, flowery Mills and Boon sty..."


I agree 1000% !!
If I want Romance I know where to go.
:)


message 45: by Veronica (new)

Veronica (veraj121) | 129 comments I like a little of everything in a crime novel. A little romance just shows a some human and emotional element to a crime novel. Some authors could get too mushy, I agree. James Patterson's Alex Cross series adds just enough romance and personal aspect for the characters. Jackie Collins Lucky series incorporates every element to keep a reading wanting more. Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta series is ok. I havent picked up J.D Robb's Death series because I still see her as Nora Roberts(too much romance).

But a little romance is needed to keep a crime story from desensitizing their characters. Just my opinion, though


message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

If it fits to the story then whynot. It gives little more spice to the story then.


message 47: by Nick (new)

Nick Wastnage (NickWastnage) | 32 comments I'm a crime thriller writer, driven by character, plot and dialogue. Villains, despite their criminality, are human beings and have love affairs. If the affair is intrinsic to the plot and part of the character's make-up then I include it but not in a romantic slushy way.


message 48: by Beth (new)

Beth | 408 comments I like a little romance and a little titillation, but you can skip the "plumbing details," as I call them. :)


message 49: by Hayes, Co-Moderator (new)

Hayes (hayes13) | 2060 comments Mod
Beth wrote: "... "plumbing details" ..."

LOL Perfect description!


message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

Beth wrote: "I like a little romance and a little titillation, but you can skip the "plumbing details," as I call them. :)"

I agree!


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