On Friday I was on a panel with five other authors at the Mansfield Texas library. The event was sponsored by the Friends of the Library and was billed as Mansfield Writes. My friend, Diane Kelly, who writes the humorous Tara Holloway mysteries, organized the event, and each of us did a presentation on some aspect of publishing/writing. I chose the topic romance in mysteries, a subject that is near and dear to my heart since I write what I call romantic mysteries.
I read an interesting article about this on Mystery.Net.com. Did you know that romance with mysteries started way back when Gothic novels were popular? Think Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers. In those days a young, naïve woman found herself in the middle of a horrible storm, usually alone, with screams coming from the attic or some similar scenario. Our young heroine would rush up to see what was going on, only to be rescued by a dashing, brooding, handsome man. Today we call that heroine TSTL – – too stupid to live.
Fortunately, as women’s lib cranked up, so did writers. Modern-day heroines no longer went up to the attic alone after hearing screams unless there was a very compelling reason, and even then, they didn't go without a flashlight, a cell phone, and sometimes a Glock.
In 1943 Phyllis Whitney penned mysteries aimed at a modern female audience. Mary Stuart followed, and from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, we saw an emergence of suspense novels with pronounced romantic elements. Finally, in the 1970s, Mary Higgins Clark introduced us to a new version of romantic suspense with her women in jeopardy novels. This has always been my favorite genre to both read and write, although I get confused sometimes as to what exactly I do write. My heroines always find themselves in jeopardy, but there's a fine line. Romance can be found in all my books (romantic suspense), but you never know who the killer is until the very end (mystery.) Born a rebel, I love breaking the genre rules.
I can only hope the readers who have been kind enough to take a chance on me – – some even who like me – – aren't aware of these rules. They only know what they enjoy reading, and hopefully, I'm included on the list.
I ended my presentation with this little tidbit. After a particularly exhausting sexy encounter with her mate, the female praying mantis bites off his head and eats it.
Moral of this story – – even Mother Nature sees the importance of combining murder with good sex.