I consider my upcoming book, “A Stone’s Throw,” a romantic suspense novel, but it contains a mystery, so why isn’t it classified as one? There are many types of mysteries. Most people are familiar with the Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie detective mysteries or, more currently, the crime solving amateur sleuths featured in Sue Grafton or Janet Evanovich’s books. “A Stone’s Throw” features two detectives, the nasty and arrogant, Ron Ramsay and the nice cop, Michael Faraday. Neither of them are very useful in solving the mystery but that is not why “A Stone’s Throw” is romantic suspense. Would you classify a Mary Higgins Clark novel as a mystery? What about a Nora Roberts book? Compare them to her JD Robb series of books which are mysteries (but include romance, too).
The Romance Writer’s of America define romantic suspense as a subgenre or romance in which “suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.”
When I was a young girl in the 1970’s, my older brother gave me my favorite Christmas gift. It was the novel, “Winter People” by Phyllis Whitney. Once I read that book, I was hooked. I gobbled up everything Whitney wrote and then began reading similar authors – Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels, and others. I was transported to faraway places. I fell in love along with the main character with the mysterious and attractive stranger who might or might not be a killer. These books, sometimes referred to as gothic novels, were very popular at the time. They were also a form of romantic suspense. Daphne Du Maurier was one of the master writers of this genre. All these authors were my teachers and mentors in writing because I was learning their style as I absorbed their words.
The Wikipedia defines romantic suspense as “a blend of romance and mystery.” According to the Wikipedia, “This blend of the romance and mystery was perfected by Mary Stewart, who wrote ten romantic suspense novels between 1955 and 1967. Stewart was one of the first to seamlessly combine the two genres, maintaining a full mystery while focusing on the courtship between two people. In her novels, the process of solving the mystery “helps to illuminate” the hero’s personality, helping the heroine to fall in love with him.”
As I matured, I progressed to other authors and sampled many genres. As a librarian, I had the advantage of access to a wide variety of reading material. However, I still had a preference for mysteries that featured a heroine thrust into danger who was saavy enough to save herself and find love in the process. I began reading Nora Roberts, Mary Higgins Clark, and others. I also realized that romantic suspense authors are not exclusively female and neither are the protagonists or main characters of these novels always women. The prolific James Patterson writes novels that might be considered romantic suspense in addition to his mystery series.
So how would you define romantic suspense? Is it mystery or romance? It’s actually both and that’s why it’s such a popular form of writing and reading.