I don’t write romance novels, nor do I read them, although some of my books do include romance elements in them. For the most part, I write suspense novels, Christian suspense to be exact, but I try to include a little bit of everything in there. I always try to balance out suspense with humor, and having a romantic angle in the story also makes it interesting as well.
But here’s what I learned about romance stories: the story is not about boy meets girl, boy gets girl. The story is really about the fact that they are attracted to each other BUT something is keeping them apart. It could be a villain. It could be their pride. It could be distance. But there always has to be something. Think about the most famous love story of all time: Romeo and Juliet. Was it about two kids falling in love and living happily ever after? Nooooo. From the very beginning there was something very large that kept them apart, in this situation a decades-long feud between their families. I would tell you how it ends, but I don’t want to ruin it for you….
I should know all of this stuff. After all, I teach it to my students in class every day. But sometimes the teacher forgets the lesson. In The Champion, Harris Borden is madly in love with his wife and they are struggling to have a child, unsuccessfully, until he is put into prison, when she gleefully announces that she is pregnant. Bad timing, that. He realizes that the bad guys will use her and his new child against him so he tells her to run back to Russia. Her plane gets blown up, and they are separated. She is dead, or is she? Later he is declared dead…but is he? And so the tension continues. Will the star-crossed lovers, now with a baby, be able to reunite? You will have to read more to find out.
What brings this up now? In Tesla’s Ghost, I introduce Fritz Lowenstein and his new bride, Elizabeth, who arrive in the U.S. in the 1890s from Germany to work with the famous Nikola Tesla. They are also madly in love, and I have had fun developing both their characters and their relationship. What I haven’t done is add the complications to their relationship. It’s too perfect. So far, there has been nothing to cause them problems. I think the reason I haven’t done so is that I have been so concerned with following actual history that I have gotten away from the tenets of telling a good story. Physician, as they say, heal thyself.
I’ve been frustrated with the story as I have been working on it, and from my viewpoint, it’s often come out flat. And that’s a common problem when you are trying to recreate history. That’s why you have to give yourself some literary liberties with these stories. After all, the author has to remember that the number one goal is to entertain.
So yes, there’s some romance. But I will throw some complications in there too. Don’t know what they are yet. But I am sure 1890s New York holds some problems for two young lovers that might make the story interesting.
Time will tell.