I used to say that I simply didn't read the subgenre of romantic suspense (RS), but that's not really true. In fact, some of the authors I would've put on my favorites list write RS. And then a few of my “top ten reads of the year” have been RS as well . . . so, slowly and surely, RS has been making its insidious way into my reading repertoire.
So why didn't I read it at first? Perhaps because I find the romance loses out in RS, or at least is unsatisfying/insufficient to me. The necessity of plot development and the focus on the burgeoning relationship are at odds. Especially with the shorter novel lengths. Maybe it'd work in a saga (although those to me are more grandiose story lines about generations of a family).
Relationships are complicated. Writing a believable suspense plot is also difficult, and combining the genres takes talent. Then there is also the development of series, and books that end with a cliff-hanger rather than the conclusion of a story arc. And I hate that. For some reason I can take that in films, but not books.
The people who love RS and only read in that genre say they like the emotion, but also crave the complicated plot twists and action, the danger of the hero and heroine running and fighting for their lives.
I'd counter, though, that those books are unbelievable because of the situation. One minute the hero and heroine will be running from the mob, trying to get out of the way or dodge a gun fight . . . and then they'll stop in an alley for sexytimes. Incredulous would be the word to describe how I feel. Followed by annoyance, disgust, what have you. What kind of moron would want to go have sex when just minutes, or even seconds ago, an armed man out to kill you was chasing you? Also, an alley. All that combined doesn't—or shouldn't—put someone in an amorous frame of mind. Maybe once the hero and heroine arrive at a safe place, sure—then they're cleared for that whole life-affirming, exhilarating, “hey we lived!” response.
This also bothers me because usually the hero, or the heroine, if not both, has some sort of military or law enforcement training. Generally the hero, and usually he's the best. But if he were truly the best, he wouldn't be dumb enough to put himself and others in danger by making stupid decisions. (Speaking of stupid decisions, characters almost never go to the police—which doesn't make sense.) I'm not trying to rip on RS—just explain why I avoided it for so many years and don't gravitate towards it first now. I read a number of books and got burned.
Forget the overarching plot and story; if I can't believe the character's individual actions, the novel isn't going to work for me. I need the whole package—a believable story, sensible (or as much as the situation or his/her personality allows) romance, emotional development and connection, and situations and circumstances that would or could actually occur.
Of course I know not all books are the same, and it's unfair to judge all books based one, which is why I haven't written off the genre. In fact, some of the first RS stories I read were by Shannon McKenna, and I'd say she writes erotic romantic suspense. The stories are wild, and yet they work for the McCloud brothers and the women who love them. Also Lori Foster's—hers are more low key. No international terrorists or mercenaries, generally, but the plots are engaging and interesting all the same. For Lori Foster, I'd say her SBC books or her books set in the city of Temptation can fall under the RS umbrella. HelenKay Dimon and Shiloh Walker also write excellent stories that are categorized as RS as well.
On the flip side, there are some authors I really enjoyed reading until they moved to writing RS, at which point I basically stopped reading their books. So you see, a number of authors I enjoy write in the genre, but when I describe what books I like or authors, asking for suggestions, the generalization is usually, “Oh, so you like lighter books.” This is true in regard to books, yes. (I don't know why, but if I watch something on TV or at the movies, I'm OK with it not ending happily.)
My question to you is (cuz there always has to be one, right? to make this interactive and fun for everyone?), what do you think of romantic suspense? Do you like it? Love it? Hate and avoid it? Who are your favorite RS authors, if you have any? Do you prefer suspense in movies and television or in books?