I’m extremely happy to welcome back historical author, Anna Campbell, to the RU classroom. I ‘met’ Anna months before her first book debuted in 2007, and next week, the reigning Queen of Regency Noir, launches her seventh book, SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED.
Today, Anna will discuss the structure of romance and why an HEA ending doesn’t necessarily mean formulaic.
Hey, thanks for having me as your guest today, Romance U gals! I love this site!
A fortnight ago, I hosted an author chat with a bunch of readers at the Brisbane Writers Festival (http://www.bwf.org.au/) in Queensland, Australia, where I live. Included in the audience were some very brave males – I always admire men who can front such an obviously female enclave as a romantic fiction discussion. One particularly impressive young man visiting from Texas is writing a young adult novel. He came to my talk because he wanted help with creating a more rounded heroine (and no, I don’t mean feed her chocolate although thanks to sponsors, Baci Chocolates, that was a possibility!).
He asked a question that prompted howls of horror from all the (romance-reading) women in the audience. And that was – after the happy ending, do romance authors ever put in an epilogue indicating that things didn’t work out after all?
Well, you can imagine!
The word ‘predictable’ automatically has prejudicial overtones – which is obviously why these people use it.
I prefer terms like ‘themes’, ‘tropes’, ‘beats’, ‘turning points’. And as a long time romance reader, I love seeing how each author uses those familiar elements. Mr. Texas’s question got me thinking about some of the things that I love to see over and over in a romance novel.
For me, every romance I read contains a number of essentials – much like there’s always a dead body in a murder mystery.
There’s a first meet (even if it’s not the characters’ first meet, it’s the first time the reader sees them interacting and goes ‘Aha! They’re going to fall in love!’). That’s almost always early in the book. I made a comment at the BWF talk that romance readers are like baby geese – they imprint on the first eligible male who turns up on the page and decide he’s the hero.
Then we discover what’s keeping our hero and heroine apart, usually factors both internal and external. We don’t like to make it easy for our characters to get together at the end. They need to earn their happy ending.
There’s almost always a first kiss. This is one of my favorite parts of a romance novel because it’s the moment when it’s pretty clear these two just won’t be able to stay away from one another. Sigh.
We frequently get a first love scene when our characters are naked emotionally as well as physically for the first time. The characters take huge risks when they get it on. I especially love it when the first love scene doesn’t resolve any of the conflict between the hero and heroine, but just makes things a gazillion times worse. And if there are more love scenes (and often there are), that gazillion times worse thing just keeps repeating. Delicious!
Then there’s that moment toward the end of a book when it looks like the forces of darkness are going to win. Oh, no!!! In spite of the fact that we KNOW that this is a romance and these two are going to conquer the barriers separating them, we always get desperately worried at this point.
Finally we get the happy ending. Our hero and heroine have discovered a love that will last a lifetime, and while nobody’s life is completely clear sailing, their relationship is strong enough to weather whatever the world throws at it. Reader exits book on blissful sigh. If we’re lucky, we get a luscious epilogue that proves the happy ever after goes on, well, ever after!
What’s wonderful about the romance genre is that millions of books have been written using this structure and millions more will be written, and every book is different. My seventh historical romance, SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED (clearly seven is a powerful number!), is out on 25th September and I can promise you that it contains every single one of these tropes and in this particular order. So have my previous six books – while all having very different stories. This structure provides a strong skeleton for a dazzling variety of chocolatey good romance novels!
Long may it live.
I’ve got a signed copy of SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED up for grabs today to one commenter! Good luck!
Have I missed any of the turning points? Why do you think readers in their millions find this particular structure so satisfying? Have you read any romance novels that didn’t follow this structure, yet still gave you a satisfying experience?
Here’s a sneak peak of SEVEN NIGHT’S IN A ROGUE’S BED.
Desperate to save her sister’s life, Sidonie Forsythe has agreed to submit herself to a terrible fate: Beyond the foreboding walls of Castle Craven, a notorious, hideously scarred scoundrel will take her virtue over the course of seven sinful nights. Yet instead of a monster, she encounters a man like no other. And during this week, she comes to care for Jonas Merrick in ways that defy all logic-even as a dark secret she carries threatens them both.
…Spark a lifetime of passionate surrender?
Ruthless loner Jonas knows exactly who he is. Should he forget, even for a moment, the curse he bears, a mere glance in the mirror serves as an agonizing reminder. So when the lovely Sidonie turns up on his doorstep, her seduction is an even more delicious prospect than he originally planned. But the hardened outcast is soon moved by her innocent beauty, sharp wit, and surprising courage. Now as dangerous enemies gather at the gate to destroy them, can their new, fragile love survive?
Join us on Friday, September 21st, when we welcome back Theresa Stevens and her column, Ask an Editor.
Bio: ANNA CAMPBELL has written six multi award-winning historical romances for Avon HarperCollins and her work is published in eleven languages. Anna has won numerous awards for her Regency-set romances including Romantic Times Reviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill (three times), the Heart of Excellence, the Aspen Gold (twice) and the Australian Romance Readers Association’s favorite historical romance (four times). Her books have twice been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA Award and three times for Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year. In 2012, Anna begins an exciting new publishing venture with Grand Central Publishing. She launches her first series, “Sons of Sin”, with SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED on 25th September, 2012.
- Anna Campbell on Writing the First Kiss
- And They All Lived Epiloguey Ever After by Anna Campbell
- An Interview with Author Anna Campbell
- Romance: Finding your Own Happy Ending by Tessa Shapcott
- Kate Carlisle presents: The Mysterious Arc of Romance