Boy meets girl.
Girl meets boy. Or boy meets boy. Girl meets girl. Girl meets three boys. When readers pick up a new romance novel, they more or less know what to expect. There will be an inevitable chance meeting or reunion. Sparks will fly, heat will rise, that old feeling will stir with a vengeance, people will relearn what they have forgotten or take a crash course to discover something new. It’s no secret romance novels have a formula, and that formula, more or less, crosses genres.
So why do we come back? Why do we find ourselves craving more of the same? Why does the romance genre itself continue to trump all others in terms of popularity and audience? And if the formula is so successful, why isn’t everyone successful in what they write?
Formula might be tried and true, but knowing where all the important revelatory moments are is only half the battle in penning a novel. Yes, we could discuss style, grammar, sentence structure, and all those other things, but the sad truth is some of the more successful works aren’t always well written. These works do, however, play on favorite, popular kinks, and, with very few exceptions, likewise rely on the formula.
Truthfully, I believe the secret ingredient is really a mixture of secret ingredients. Knowing what works and what doesn’t, knowing how to write believable chemistry between your characters, know how to establish conflict that doesn’t feel artificial or forced. In the end, we romance readers love, well, love, and we want to fall in love along with the main couple time and time again.
Take Pride and Prejudice, arguably one of the greatest romances of all time. Darcy meets Elizabeth, Darcy chases Elizabeth, Elizabeth rejects Darcy, Elizabeth realizes there has been a massive misunderstanding, Darcy saves the day, Darcy and Elizabeth admit where they have been wrong and everyone lives happily ever after. Remarkable? No, this plot is incredibly familiar, and has been repeated through countless stories like it. What did Darcy and Elizabeth have that other, less successful romantic couples do not? For me, it’s the snark. The banter. The quarrel, the fight. It’s creating a memorable dynamic.
Realistically, though, a romantic couples’ success is not always about dialogue and dynamic. Some of romance’s most celebrated heroes are those tortured by ghosts they can’t dodge or mistakes from which they have not recovered. Charlotte Brontë’s Mr. Rochester was so successful, he morphed into countless heroes across the spectrum, including Daphne du Maurier’s Maxim de Winter. Jane Eyre and Rebecca have remained incredibly popular gothic romances, even with their mutual overall simplistic story. We have the thrill of the unknown, the need for redemption, and the sensation of being the one person who can guide a brooding man from the shadows. Heroes and heroines separated by darkness and reunited by something greater than the self.
Consider now your favorite modern romance authors and your favorite books by those authors. What makes the dynamic work? What separates them from the other authors? What makes a great connection between hero and heroine? There is no one answer, of course. People’s tastes are subjective, though there is enough relative evidence to suggest a pattern among classics. We revisit simplistic storylines that retell something we’ve already read but in a way that captivates us. We enjoy reading the same old with a new spin. The strangers in an elevator, tension between boss and employee, old lovers running into each other at a grocery store, the cop protecting a witness from a killer, and so on. These are not new plots; I’d wager most of us have read at least a couple from each, and even more for all the others I didn’t mention. What makes one stand out over another? What makes an author’s characters stick with you long after you’ve completed their journey. What makes them unique? What makes you come back for more? Inquiring minds want to know!
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About the Author: A lifelong enthusiast of larger than life characters, Rosalie Stanton’s muse is fueled by alpha males, from badass bikers to scruffy-looking Nerf herders, and the intelligent, strong, and independent women who actually do the driving. She loves interweaving the lives of people who appear to be polar opposites and delving beneath the surface to see how well one actually complements the other.
Rosalie lives in Missouri with her husband. Writing is her first creative love, but she also enjoys working with other authors and has a variety of critique partners, and likewise works for Mundania Press LLC as an editor. At an early age, she discovered a talent for creating worlds into which she could escape. Over the years, her vivid imagination evolved into a love of words and storytelling. Rosalie graduated with a degree in English. Neither writing nor editing pays the bills, but thankfully her day-job employers understand where her true passion lies. When her attention is not engaged by writing or editing, she enjoys spending time with close friends and family.
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As far as birthdays go, university librarian Clarice St. Clair hasn’t had a string of successful celebrations, and her twenty-fifth doesn’t look to be any different. It’s not enough that the sexy subject of her schoolgirl crush walked in on her with her pantyhose around her ankles, but now her mother has dropped possibly the largest bomb in the history of large metaphoric bombs.
Happy birthday. You’re about to become a succubus.
Professor Weston Ryans has known Clarice since her days as one of his students. Though now they are nothing more than friendly colleagues, he clearly recalls her enthusiasm, her wit, and the litany of sinful things he wanted to do with her after hours. After catching her with her nylons around her ankles, he decides to smooth things over, but ends up hearing his favorite former student is the bargaining piece in a demon contract. And Weston knows something about demon contracts–he lost his father to one.
Suddenly everything is thrown into question. Clarice is about to change, but she doesn’t believe it. Weston is determined to help, but he doesn’t know how, and the clock is ticking. Yet when the transformation starts, Clarice finds herself hungry for one thing…and Weston is happy to cater to her needs.