Sunday, March 16, 2014

Love in Suspense: The Buzz About Romantic Suspense

by Vilma Gonzalez)

Welcome to Love In Suspense! I'm so excited to kick off my new column at Happy Ever After! Every other Monday, we'll be discussing novels that marry romance and suspense. Elements of mystery and thrillers that when fused together with stirring love stories make our hearts pound faster and our breaths hitch. Whether it be news, reviews, must-reads, author interviews, reader opinions or my thoughts on a topic, I promise we'll have fun discussing the hair-raising, chill-inducing, nail-biting and swoon-worthy books of which we can't seem to get enough.

So, Love In Suspense. As a fan of happily ever afters, I knew I wanted to write about romance novels, so when considering the right moniker for this column, I spent most of my time pondering what suspense really meant. Particularly, the much-discussed similarities and differences between mysteries, suspense and thrillers. There are certainly diverging elements between the three labels.

Mysteries tend to focus on the unraveling of a secret, one in which you may not know the "who done it" or what exactly happened until the book's climax at the end. Classic murder mysteries are a good example of this approach (And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie was probably the one that got me hooked as a young reader).

Suspense has an overarching sense of danger looming in the shadows, oftentimes trailing our characters as the secrets gradually unravel. You may even know the evildoer early on, yet the perilous circumstances keep you riveted.

Thrillers are similar to suspense. You may know the culprit, but it's in the pacing that these two labels stray. Thrillers must keep you at the edge of your seat, gripped by non-stop drama, biting your nails to the nub until you flip the final page.

That being said, grab at everything I've mentioned above, crumble it up tight and discard it, because most books are a blend of this spine-tingling spectrum. The pacing of a book might slow and speed more haphazardly while pieces of information are sprinkled throughout, allowing the more clever sleuths to piece it all together early in the story. But the name of my column comes from what I think is the singular thread that connects the three. It's the suspense. The exciting anticipation of what's to come. It's the high we get from uncertain danger, the allure of figuring out the puzzle, the waiting with bated breath to see how the story unfurls, twisting and turning in a way we sometimes never imagined.

And before we get to the important stuff — talking about the latest book that had me furiously flipping its pages — I'll say that we'll use the notion of suspense loosely. I'll feature authors from various genres whose books have both an element of romance and suspense in varying degrees. In the end, I hope our discussions will energize us both, fueling discussions about books that have us clamoring for more while we relish in the joy of happily ever afters.

"Unravel" by Calia Read.(Photo: Calia Read)


from Calia Read

Just recently I read Unravel, the latest book from author Calia Read, who had up until now written primarily in the New Adult romance genre. I spent some time with Calia to ask her about this suspenseful and intriguing novel.

Q: Tell us a little bit about Unravel.

Calia: Unravel is a about a girl, Naomi, who is involuntarily admitted into a mental institution. She thinks she doesn't belong there and she's not crazy. But as she speaks to her therapists, and her story unravels, she starts to question everything. Who she loves, who she's trying to protect and why she's willing to risk it all.

Q: How would you describe your book? Thriller? Suspense? Mystery?

Calia: I would call Unravel a psychological suspense, with a romance mixed in. I must have romance. It's a requirement for me. : )

Q: In my own experience reading it, I was able to figure out part of what was happening just before the halfway point of the book. Did you think your readers would figure out the secret and did that really matter?

Calia: I didn't plan on the readers catching things quite so fast. But I think that shows how sharp the readers are!! When I wrote it out, I just focused on Naomi's voice and the story. Everything the readers felt, so did I!

Q: You have primarily written New Adult romances. What incited you to stray from that genre?

Calia: Writing Unravel was such a challenge for me, but it was thrilling to write something different from my Sloan Brothers Series, and I think that's what appealed to me — the rawness and mix up from the typical romance I was used to writing. This story was stuck in my head and I was dying to see where Unravel went!

Q: What's coming next for you?

Calia: Right now I'm working on a story from a certain character from Fairfax (the mental institution in Unravel). She has A LOT to say, and it's a complete trip writing this story. It's another story that challenges me! Lachlan will have a story! It will not be a re-telling of Unravel. And another character from Fairfax has a story! I have written down bits and pieces for his book, but what's there fascinates me. These Fairfax characters have a lot to say!

You can find more on Calia Read at


(Photo: Avon Books)

• Hard As You Can by Laura Kaye. This is the second book in the Hard Ink series, where each book features a different pair of characters. The series follows a group of special ops bad boys as they seek the truth behind a series of kidnappings and stolen money, thrusting them into an all-out war with an organized crime ring. This book is all about Shane McCallan and Crystal Dean. Crystal is caught up in the direct line of fire and Shane is determined to help. In the process, they discover more than just buried truths, they also find love unexpectedly. Reading order for the series: Hard As It Gets, Hard As You Can, Hard To Hold Onto, (novella), Hard To Come By, Untitled #4.

• Deceiving Lies by Molly McAdams. This follow-up to Forgiving Lies is all kinds of suspenseful! The series centers around Rachel and Kash. Kash is an undercover detective and finds himself first in pursuit of a serial killer and then in pursuit of the woman he loves. Full of surprises, this book kept me riveted until the very end. Romance, mystery, wit — this book has it all.

"The Winner's Curse" by Marie Rutkoski.(Photo: Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

• The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski. As an aristocratic member of an empire that conquers territories and enslaves their populations, 17-year-old Kestrel knows that she must either go to war or marry well. But she doesn't want to do either. Her passion is music, and one day she purchases a slave who she thinks shares her passion. But he is secretly a spy for a rebellion that seeks to overthrow her people and Kestrel's entire way of life. This new YA novel is the thrilling first book of The Winner's Trilogy.

• The Swan and the Jackal by J.A. Redmerski. This is the third book in The Company of Killers series. Expect a dark and thrilling journey with lots of suspense, crime and mystery. Yes, there are elements of romantic suspense, but it's a very different series for this author. You'll experience a dark story of passion and love and to what lengths a man with an already tortured soul will go to save the only woman he's ever loved, from herself. Reading order: Killing Sarai, Reviving Izabel, The Swan and the Jackal, The Seeds of Iniquity (prequel)

Vilma Gonzalez is a blogger, reader, marketer, wife and mom. She has an insatiable appetite for happily ever afters and a deep love of the written word. She is also determined to keep the promise she made to her 16-year-old self to finish writing a book before she dies. You can find more about her and read full reviews at Vilma's Book Blog. Please e-mail Vilma at about content related to this column. Due to the volume of mail, e-mails may not be answered personally, but all will be read.