May 20 2011 9:30am

Modern Women in Jeopardy: What Gives?

The Perils of PaulineRomantic suspense comes in many different flavors, and its taste has changed over the years. While we’re not here to tell you what is the Best, one of the most popular styles of mass-market/e-book romantic suspense is priced for easy consumption, delivering high-octane action, romance with spice, and dangerous mayhem based upon the Heroic Rescue of a Woman in Jeopardy. Does that last part twang a little old-school for a contemporary plot? Well, this Twila Twenty-First Century (think Thoroughly Modern Millie, only with Internet access) finds a lot to applaud in these modern updates to the Perils of Pauline.

1) Smart Women. Simpering and screaming from a rail tie is pretty ineffectual, but these heroines have education, professional lives, and a range of accomplishments. They contribute equal intellectual horsepower, and occasionally, body counts to the mystery's resolution.

Living on the Edge by Shannon K. Butcher2) Uninvited Help. These heroes show up to take command, barging in to handle threats whether welcomed or not. After steaming off wallpaper in a tiny bathroom or outlasting hours of reprocessed jazz finally to reach that customer service manager, this capable gal enjoys the idea of shamelessly surrendering some dirty work.

3) Freaks of Nature. Not merely professionals in ass-kickery, these heroic hotties sport bods like gym rats without obsessing about carbs, filling the heroine's counters with supplements, or declining to comfort her because they’re sore from bicep day.

4) Hauntings. Sure, there's imminent danger, but somewhere in the background, you can also bet on family tragedies, uneasy identities, paroled clients, old wounds, former patients, dead partners, or unforgiven failures to create baggage. If you're over twelve, you've got at least a stylish clutch purse's worth, too.

5) Tech that Works. You may not be able to print a coupon for a discount latte without a full virus scan and six new ink cartridges, but these heroes show up with cool gear and weapons that perform, even after fireballs and even in underground lairs. There is, however, an increased possibility of communications malfunction right before the villain gets put down like a bathtub centipede.

Breaking Point by Pamela Clare6) Competent Team Members. There will be access to responsive and intelligent self-starters who are hardly ever scheming super-criminals. Your human resources include Angus of the low forehead in Accounts Payable. Enough said.

7) Freedom from Stubble. Three days on the run from (or pursuing) the drug cartel/crooked sheriff/psychopath doesn’t provide depilatory opportunities. The hero's stubble's goes all sexy, never contact rash-creating, while the heroine's goes completely unremarked.

8) Effortless Sex Appeal. These heroes see heroines at their exhausted, bandaged, tear-stained, GSR and soot-covered worst. And yet, they lust for the siren within the warmed-over corpse. Admit it, you (I) want someone to look at you (me) without concealer or control-top and to feel like hitting that is as important as breathing.

9) Graphic Gories and Glories. We fans of late-night crime shows are already fascinated with the icky, twisted stuff, so that's swell. Frankly steamy romps simply provide a welcome mental palate cleanser after the time we’ve spent in a degenerate's point-of-view.

Renegade by Catherine Mann10) You Say Serial Killer, I Say Vacation from Dusting. No matter what kind of existential threat the hero and heroine face, there's no damn time to worry about scrubbing toilets, is there? Facing a mad psychopath who's kidnapped her sister and threatens to blow up the dam, who dares think less of the heroine for the stuff getting furry in her fridge? I revel without apology.

Some, but only some, of the authors you might look for include Jeanne Adams, Mary Burton, Shannon Butcher, Pamela Clare, Karen Fenech, Laura Griffin, Catherine Mann, and Stephanie Tyler. Please tell me more about what and who you love in this genre. I'm always thrilled to put my contemporary womanhood in peril of a good read!


Clare Toohey can usually be found all around Criminal ElementWomen of Mystery, tweeting @clare2e, or looking for a quick transfusion in a hyperbaric chamber.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. JacquiC
Some authors of romantic suspense that I've read that aren't in your list are: Maya Banks (the trilogy that includes No Place to Run); Roxanne St. Claire, Cynthia Eden (the "Deadly" series) and Cherry Adair. Some of the books of this genre are amazing, not least because the protagonists seem to be able to spend days in a jungle drinking water from nearby streams and not bathing. Yet they stay perfectly healthy, with no embarrassing digestive issues, and remain totally attractive to each other, despite sweat and other grime. Too funny, and totally unbelievable, but lots of fun nonetheless!
Donna Cummings
2. Donna Cummings
I was just creating my very own Special Ops team--you must have been reading my mind!

I am a big fan of Suzanne Brockmann, and Roxanne St. Clair, and Maya Banks, and Stephannie Tyler. I would definitely add Cindy Gerard and Nina Bruhns to the romantic suspense series list too.
Megan Frampton
3. MFrampton
I remember reading Tara Janzen's Crazy series several years ago--I really loved it, and of course, love Anne Stuart's suspense titles.
Heather Waters
4. HeatherWaters
@MFrampton -- Yessss. Anne Stuart is fantastic.

Love the early books in Suzanne Brockmann's SEAL series. And Linda Howard's All the Queen's Men and Mr. Perfect. It's been a while since I've really read romantic suspense, though--I should see what's new!
Louise Partain
5. Louise321
@clare2e -- *G* "put down like a bathtub centipede"?
Clare 2e
6. clare2e
Thanks for the recs, everyone! I'm scribbling as fast as I can!

@Louise321 You've got that efficient killer's instinct, too. I can just tell.
Carrie Strickler
7. DyslexicSquirrel
Shannon McKenna is my go-to romantic suspense author. Her heroines give as good as they get, her heroes put the A in alpha and her villians are so freaking creepy. It's Criminal-Minds-esque creepy. Love it.
Post a comment