Road Romances are one of my favorite romance tropes. There are a lot of them out there, but to my mind, a great road romance must include three elements.
There must be a compelling reason for our couple to be on the road. A reason to place these two people in a position they would never otherwise be. A great example of this is Loretta Chase's Lord Perfect. Bathsheba's daughter and Benedict's nephew have run away to look for a family treasure and must be tracked down. Bathsheba and Benedict's fear for the children and their adventures on the road bring them closer and seal their fate.
There must be a good sense of place, without becoming a travelogue. Travel gives the author great scope for description and can put us in new and exciting places both for us and our h/h. Learning about a place and seeing how the characters react to new places is part of the fun of a road romance. My favorite book for this aspect of a road romance is Anne Gracie's Tallie's Knight. After a hasty marriage, and practically strangers, Tallie and Magnus take a bride trip from Paris to Italy. Gracie does a fabulous job of showing the rigors of travel and just how exactly one did cross the Alps in 1803 without sounding like you're reading a Baedeker's Guide.
There must be hardships along the way which promote closeness. It is not just proximity that fosters closeness, it is the shared experiences that do so, and nothing advances that like hardship—facing adversity or danger and coming through them together. In Joanna Bourne's The Spymaster's Lady, Annique (French Spy) and Grey (English Spy) must find a way to work together as they cross the French countryside trying to get to England alive. There are attacks, betrayals, injuries and danger at every turn. You really get to the core of a person when you go through all of that together.
One road romance that does all of these elements extraordinarily well, and my favorite, is Mary Jo Putney's Angel Rogue. Maxie Collins, daughter of an Englishman and an American Mohawk woman, has a good reason to hit the road: She overhears her uncle talk about her father's recent death leaving her with the impression that her father was murdered. She is walking to London when she literally trips over Robin Andreville who decides to accompany her. Robin is just home after spending 12 years as a British spy in war-torn Europe, emotionally and physically exhausted and needing to find a purpose in life. Maybe this trip will afford him time to find himself again.
Robin and Maxie travel from Durham in the north of England to London, a journey of some 250 miles. They encounter a variety of characters and interesting places, even joining a parade of drovers taking their cattle to London. There a nice sense of the openness of the countryside, the small villages, the back alleys of large towns, and the denizens unique to all of them.
As one might imagine, there are many dangers along the way; some seriously bad guys are after Maxie and both are injured. While Robin and Maxie are both independent, self-reliant people, they learn that they don't have to be strong all the time, they learn to allow another to share a burden and their falling in love is the most natural thing there can be. This is one of the great road romances.
What are your favorite road romances? What makes them work—or not—for you?
Open road image courtesy of Wolfgang Staudt via Flickr
Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com.