A student of the genre

As part of the mission given to me by my editor, Maudeen Wachsmith, I’ve been reading  romance novels so that I might better understand how to create sexual tension. To that end, I turned to bestselling author, Teresa Medeiros, and I dived into two of her more recent releases: The Temptation of Your Touch, released this past January, and the book that predates it, The Pleasure of Your Kiss, released December, 2011.

The Pleasure of Your Kiss tells the story of Ashton Burke, the black-sheep brother who leaves his childhood love, Clarinda, for the life of an adventurer. When Clarinda is kidnapped and sold to a sheik for his harem, Ashton rescues her and in the process, reawakens their romance. She dumps her fiancée at the altar to marry Ashton. The dumped fiancé, Max, is Ashton’s older brother, and the main character of The Temptation of Your Touch.  

Both books are engaging reads, but I found myself drawn more to the characters that live amongst the pages of The Tempation of Your Touch. In this book, the main female character, Mrs. Spencer, looks after not only Cadgwyck Manor, but also her father, two half-siblings, and a gaggle of girls she rescues from the London streets. She’s a caregiver. I get that.

By contrast, Clarinda is not a caregiver. To some extent, she watches over her friend, Poppy. But by and large, Clarinda’s focus is Clarinda. I personally don’t have that luxury, although there are many times when I wish I did. For that reason, I didn’t connect with this main character.

Also, unlike Clarinda, Mrs. Spencer has a purpose: she’s hunting for a lost treasure, which she will sell to provide for herself and her charges. Meanwhile, she and the others scare away anyone who gets between her and that goal. I like that. I like characters who have a goal.

It might also be the setting. Sure, a lazy life in a sheik’s palace in the far-off desert sounds exotic, but I’m in love with the agrarian setting. I want to raise chickens. So, while Cadgwyck Manor sounds pretty rainy, I’ll take that over a harem any day.

Here’s my take-away: in my romance novels, my main character has to be more than a 20-year-old who thinks only of herself. She has to be a mother, a sister, a daughter or a mentor. She has to care for more than just herself. And she needs a purpose, not just to survive the situation, but a plan. I love a good plan.

I think these reasons are why I brought The Temptation of Your Touch downstairs on a Saturday morning. I buried my nose in it, allowing my young son to watch all the TV he wanted so I could keep reading. With this book, Teresa Medeiros had me. I couldn’t put the book down. Answers to my husband became one-syllable; I would say anything so he would leave me alone and let me read. I had to know what happened to Mrs. Spencer and Max!

Clarinda and Ashton, well, their book stayed upstairs on my nightstand. They could wait.

Right now, I’m revising my paranormal romance, Celebration House. I’m perusing lots of romance novels, not only as a reader, but as a student of the genre. I’m just getting started, but if I’m to be a successful romance writer, I need to know how these books work. What makes a reader choose to bring the book downstairs on a Saturday morning or leave it on the nightstand? That’s what I need to know.

Hands and arms inside the cart, please. Next: the siren’s call of giving up.

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About Annette Drake

For me, a great book is about the people who live in it. So when my characters talk, I eavesdrop and write down what they say. My three favorite words: what happens next. I make my home in Washington state. A member of Romance Writers of America, I love ferry rides, basset hounds and bakeries. I do not camp.
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