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becke_davis
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What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

I just returned from a romance writers' convention, where I met several of my favorite romantic suspense authors. I've always read mystery and I've always read romance (well, since my mid-twenties, anyway, and I don't think I ever worried about the distinctions between the genres.

 

 I've been thinking about this a lot as I talk to authors about visiting this board: is this author right for Mystery, or am I poaching someone who should be over at Romantic Reads? My local book stores don't seem too sure -- I never know where to find Karen Rose's books, for example. In one store they will be in Romance and in another they will be in Mystery. Of course, the sure place to find them is in Hot New Releases!

 

A lot of my friends who don't read what I would call "romance," DO read romantic suspense. My sister, for instance, isn't a huge reader but she's completely addicted to Lisa Jackson.

 

If you look o n the thread that's titled something like "your traveling moderator returns," you'll see what sparked this question. Our featured author, Lisa Unger, writes intense and suspenseful mysteries with romance (of a kind) running through all her books. I would never think to call her books "romantic fiction," though.

 

Do you read both mystery and romantic suspense? How would you define the difference between the two -- and does it even matter to you, as a reader? (It matters to me because I don't want Melanie, the Romantic Reads mod, to think I'm pinching her authors! 

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dhaupt
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

Well there's one thing I know for sure especially after visiting all of the various book clubs that B&N.com offers and that is that Romance is still snubbed by some obviously uninformed readers. I know people that will actually go to such lengths as to hide a romance cover or read it on kindle so no-one know that they have slunk to the wallows of us romance readers. In fact I know people who when they find out the Mirra is part of Harlequin they won't read any more titles from there, now that's just stupid. That's one thing, another is that authors like Nelson DeMille can call their thriller a thriller and authors of the female persuasion who's thriller has a little romance in it have to be put under the Romantic Suspense category. How fair is that. Now don't get me wrong I'm not a book snob and I proudly display my paperback HQ six-pack filled cover face up on my desk at work along with a John Connolly or Nelson DeMill as long as it's well written and there's a reasonable happy ending I'm all over it.
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jlrouse
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

I've wondered the same thing...  I prefer Romance to Mystery, but I can get into the who-done-its if they've got a little steam to offer :smileyhappy:.  I have no idea how others would define the difference, but I think it's the focus of the book.  If the focus of the book is on the romantic relationship between two characters, then it's probably more likely to be classified as Romance.  If the focus is on the mystery/crime to be solved, then it's more likely to be classified as Mystery.  That's my opinion at least...for whatever it's worth :smileyhappy:
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JacquelineSeewald
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

There's a lot of crossover between mystery, romance and romantic suspense. I think category classification has a lot to do with the intent of the author. In a mystery novel, the mystery is the key factor even if there is a strong romance. In a romance novel, there can certainly be a mystery but the romance takes precedence. In romantic suspense, you have a romance, a mystery and possibly a thriller, all combined. But the love interest still takes precedence.

 

Even publishers are confused about this. I know mine has been. My two romantic mystery novels which are hopefully going to be part of a series, THE INFERNO COLLECTION and THE DROWNING POOL, were labeled by Five Star as romantic suspense and placed in the Expressions line. The novels both have a strong romantic element and relationship; however, they are first and foremost mystery novels. THE INFERNO COLLECTION is also a fast-paced thriller while THE DROWNING POOL is essentially a complex mystery. Romance readers have enjoyed these novels just as much as mystery readers, but it's important to understand differences in genre.

 

Does my explanation help any? Let me know.

 

Jacqueline Seewald

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becke_davis
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

Here are links to Jacqueline's books:  The Drowning Pool   The Inferno Collection  
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dhaupt
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

Hi Jacqueline, I read The Drowning Pool for one of the B&N book clubs and I also read the Inferno Collection. I really liked the books and I would definitely put both of these books in the mystery category, there is a romance that develops in the first book and matures in the second but they are the real mccoy who-done-it's.

Does it bother you that it was categorized as a Romantic Suspense novel?

It probably shouldn't seeing as we avid romance readers probably keep publishing houses going. 

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becke_davis
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

And thanks to Facebook, I know it's Jacqueline's birthday tomorrow, so: HAVE A HAPPY ONE!
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JacquelineSeewald
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

Hi, Debbie,

 

It's always great to find out that our novels have been read and enjoyed!

 

I'm not all that sensitive about how my novels are classified. But I do think that the important reviewers for hardcover are more inclined to give positive reviews to mystery fiction and that means more library sales. BOOKLIST gave both my Five Star mystery novels very good reviews. So did CRIMESPREE and ROMANCE REVIEWS TODAY. The anonymous reviewer at PUBLISHERS WEEKLY was obviously a romance reviewer and became confused since the advanced review copy was labeled "romantic suspense." The upshot was that reviewer liked the romance but couldn't understand why there was so much mystery in the novel. That was problematic!

 

I intend to continue this romantic mystery series. I've already finished the third novel and submitted it for consideration. But I really believe it should be placed in the mystery line for the future.

 

My next scheduled novel for Five Star is an historical romance set in the Regency era and will be published in August 2010. That novel will truly be romantic suspense.

 

Jacqueline

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becke_davis
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

Debbie, Jacqueline is going to be joining us for a Tuesday Author Visit in September. I'll post more about it closer to the date!
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dhaupt
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

Jacqueline, I'm glad you're continuing the series I like the couple and the mysteries they find themselves in, I also really like the male primary character Mike. I love how he involves Kim in all aspects of his life and work.

I'll be in line to get your new book coming out.

And I'll be there in Sept. for your author visit.

Thanks 

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ms_linda
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

I personally prefer mystery over romance. I want the mystery to be the main focus, and while a little romance is fine I don't want it to be the focus. I find that the books I have read that are classified as Romantic Suspense are too romantic for me (hmm that makes me sound bad!) Of course growing up (as a teen) I loved Sidney Sheldon, would those be romance? And I loved Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier and Jane Eyre. And a lot of times the cover art will turn me off which may not be fair - it could well be a great story!
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becke_davis
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

I don't think "romantic suspense" was listed as a sub-genre when I was young, but, looking back, I would say I lot of my favorite mysteries were what would now be called romantic suspense. I'm thinking of books by Dorothy Eden, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Velda Johnston, Evelyn Anthony, and so on.
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JacquelineSeewald
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Re: Favorite romantic suspense authors

[ Edited ]
Phyllis Whitney was a favorite of mine way back when. I believe her "gothics" would qualify as "romantic suspense". I think you'll find a wide range today in what constitutes romantic suspense. Some of the novels focus mostly on romance others on mystery. The best ones in my opinion balance a strong mystery with a romance that also deepens character. I enjoy a lot of Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz. I'm addicted to Elizabeth George's novels which although mystery always have depth of characterization and some elements of romance.
Message Edited by becke_davis on 07-28-2009 10:40 AM
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becke_davis
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Re: Favorite romantic suspense authors

[ Edited ]
I read her books, too - I remember one called the Red Carnelian, and another called Hunter's Green. Did you read Anya Seton's Green Darkness? Another good one. I wonder why I remember so many with colors in the titles?
Message Edited by becke_davis on 07-28-2009 10:41 AM
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JacquelineSeewald
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

It just shows how strong visual imagery is. Red and black--blood and death--always good with titles and cover art for mysteries. I asked that red be used in the cover of THE INFERNO COLLECTION and black in the cover of THE DROWNING POOL.

 

Jacqueline Seewald

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JeanneAdamsAKADuchesse
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

Hi Becke and all!  I love this discussion because I've been having it with my agent.  What's the line?  How much romance is too much?  If you talk about Daphne du Maurier, today it would be called romantic suspense - the 50/50 split of romance to mystery - but then?  Mystery.  Is Ian Fleming Suspense?  or Action/Thriller?  There's romance (of a sort!) in it, but it wouldn't be called a romance, most likely.  What about Dan Brown?  There is a serious relationship/romance in his books, but they aren't categorized that way nor is the cover art geared toward indicating a romance, but the DaVinci would be flat w/o Sophie.  :smileyembarrassed:  Both my books - Dark and Dangerous and Dark and Deadly - are suspense, with a strong romance.  I'd characterize them as 60/40 suspense to romance.  Romantic Times wouldn't agree, but my readers seem to.  You've read them, Becke, what would YOU say?  Grins.
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JeanneAdamsAKADuchesse
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

BTW Jacqueline, meant to say that I enjoyed The Drowning Pool!
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becke_davis
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

I would say your books lean toward suspense but they are definitely romance, too -- which I want in a book. But even when I read, say, Greg Iles or Robert Parker or even Ngaio Marsh, I like mysteries best when there's some romance. I agree about the DaVinci Code -- it wouldn't be half the book without Sophie in it.

 

I've always been a mystery buff, but I've also always had favorites that featured a romance mixed with the mystery: Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Dorothy Eden, Anya Seton, Susan Howatch, Velda Johnston, Evelyn Anthony, Helen MacInnes -- and yes, even Daphne DuMaurier. Jane Eyre is romantic suspense, when it comes right down to it. Even my favorite Dorothy L. Sayers book, Gaudy Night, has a strong romance subplot. 

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JacquelineSeewald
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Re: What's the difference between mystery, romance and romantic suspense?

Thanks, Jeanne. I'm always delighted to hear that a reader and particularly a fellow author enjoyed one of my novels! Your titles are really intriguing. And I do love romantic suspense.

 

I have to agree with Becke that my favorite type of mystery novel is one that has a strong element of romance but a clever mystery as well. When done well, it's the most fascinating of novels, probably because there is a depth of character development along with a complex plot. All the writers that you mention, Becke, are favorites of mine from long ago.

They wrote wonderful, romantic but intelligent books. I also like humor in a mystery novel, but nothing foolish. I think readers appreciate humor even in a serious novel.

 

I enjoyed The DaVinci Code, even kept my hardcover copy, when I was forced to give away nearly a thousand books on downsizing from a large house to a co-op apartment last year. However, The DaVinci Code is a bit heavy on info dumping. I do agree that the romantic element is a real benefit to the novel.

 

Some of the readers of The Inferno Collection compared it to The DaVinci Code. Actually, I wrote my novel before D.C. It just took a long time to get a publisher.