Oct 9 2013 3:28pm

Come to the Dark Side: The Best Onscreen Dark Romantic Thrillers

Crash and Burn by Allison Brennan and Laura GriffinAuthors Laura Griffin and Allison Brennan have cowritten a book, the first in the Moreno and Hart series, titled Crash and Burn, which includes elements of both mystery and romance, and so they are here today to discuss their favorite onscreen romantic thrillers. Thanks, ladies!

We’re not weird!...Well, maybe we are.

Laura Griffin and I write romantic suspense on the dark side, and both of us get comments from friends and family asking why we write so dark. This always surprises us.

I never thought I wrote particularly dark until my second book came out. My husband worked in the California State Capitol at the time, and a mutual acquaintance approached him and said, “I just finished Allison’s new book.” He leaned into my husband and said, “It was really creepy. Aren’t you worried about her?”

My husband, always quick on the uptake, looked around, darted his eyes back and forth, and whispered, “I wasn’t until I read the draft of her next book. She castrates someone in the first chapter.”

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall!

Laura and I were talking about this phenomenon over drinks at a writer’s conference (because that’s what writers do at conferences, didn’t you know?) and she said her husband sometimes worries about her, too, but for different reasons. “I research a lot of pretty grisly stuff online—everything from bomb making to body disposal—and he’s convinced I’ve gotten myself on some FBI watch list.”

We started discussing why we love writing dark and suspenseful romantic thrillers. What turned us from the light, fluffy romantic comedies that we both love to read?

“I started young,” Laura said. “I read Pet Sematary when I was a kid and couldn’t get enough. That book is scary on its own, but I read it at summer camp, which somehow made it especially creepy. Stephen King was one of my favorite authors from an early age.”

I started young, too, and Stephen King is also one of my favorite authors! Any wonder why Laura and I became friends? I read The Stand when I was 13 and to this day, dark, epic, apocalyptic storytelling is among my favorite reads. In The Stand, when Larry and the others sacrifice themselves in Las Vegas to save everyone in Denver was one of the most suspenseful scenes I’d ever read. Everything was building up to this confrontation, and Stephen King didn’t let us down.

Dark moments make books better. I think about the sacrifices our heroes made, which meant more because Stu and Frannie survived. Their romance was solidified not only because they were soul mates, but because they had survived what was, essentially, the end of the world. While I love dark suspense, it’s always better with an enduring love story.

In the Line of Fire posterLaura agrees. “One of my favorite suspense movies is In the Line of Fire, with Clint Eastwood and Rene Russo. The film has this really twisted villain (John Malkovich) but to me the heart of the movie is the May/December romance between the Secret Service agents who are trying to protect the President. The romance makes the rest of the story so much more complicated—and more interesting.”

I think that’s why Laura and I both love writing and reading romantic suspense. We get the dark, suspenseful, pulse-pounding read with a love story that’s in jeopardy up until the very end of the book. For the hero and heroine to survive everything thrown at them, to fall in love, and to have each other...well, it just doesn’t get better than that!

We came up with a list of some of our favorite darkly suspenseful movies that might be classified as romantic thrillers—or at least thrillers with a romantic interest:

The Thin Man: We love this series with William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. Nick, a former cop, married the rich Nora and they solve crimes. It’s dark noir and witty and their love for each other, and martinis, is evident.

Die Hard: NY cop John McClane saves a group of hostages from the always amazing bad guy Alan Rickman – and saves his estranged wife in the process. That moment when Rickman’s character realizes that Holly Genero is really John’s wife is perfect.

North by Northwest posterWitness: A jaded city detective tries to protect an Amish boy who witnessed a murder. The taboo romance between the detective (Harrison Ford) and an Amish widow (Kelly McGillis) adds to the suspense.

North by Northwest: Who doesn’t love Cary Grant? And the timeless story of mistaken identity turned deadly, a beautiful woman, and a ruthless bad guy … well, this classic makes the grade in every sense of the word.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: The unlikely relationship between a disgraced journalist and the brilliant computer hacker gives heat to this chilling suspense story set in Sweden.

Do you like the dark side as much as we do? What are some of your favorite thrillers with a compelling love story?

Learn more or order a copy of Crash and Burn by Allison Brennan and Laura Griffin, out now:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & Noble



ALLISON BRENNAN is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books, including the Lucy Kincaid series, and numerous short stories. She lives in Northern California with her husband, five children, and assorted pets. You can reach her through her website,

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author LAURA GRIFFIN started her career in journalism before venturing into the world of romantic suspense. She is a two-time RITA Award winner as well as the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award. Laura currently lives in Austin where she is working on her next book. Visit her website at

CRASH AND BURN is Brennan and Griffin's first collaboration.

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1. Torifl
The Fugitive. I enjoyed both the 1963 series and the more modern movie version starring Harrison Ford.
2. Scarlettleigh
I used to read darker books when I was younger but I have sort of gotten away from them. I did read Crash and Burn and thought it was the perfect blend of suspense and romance. I especially liked that it wasn't that graphic. One reason I have gotten away from dark - is the body count. I Although I have watched most of the movies you have mentioned. There was just something about Bruce that make you forget all that- plus it was just over the top you knew that it wasn't real - not like Thomas Harris' books adaptations. While I did read Red Dragon and Silence of the Lamb I just had to quit after Hector started eating human flesh - ugh and I never could bring myself to watch any of the movies. I was always too scared to read any Stephen King and still haven't to this day. Although I caught a part of a movie called Thinner - and was intrigued about the end. I ended up accidently reading Stephen Koontz - he released books under the name of Leigh Nichols - like Key to Midnight. And I have gone on to read one of his Thomas books - typical male author killing off the romance interest. Although she might came back as a ghost or something - I haven't read anymore.
3. Scarlettleigh
@Torifl - Oh, I love the movie the Fugitive. Just saying the name makes me want to watch it. Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford were great in it.
4. scarlettleigh
Speed too - with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock
Allison Brennan
5. Allison_Brennan
-- Tori, I love THE FUGITIVE, both the original and Harrison Ford's reboot (Ok, maybe I like Harrison just a little bit more ...) Great story, I didn't include it because his wife was dead (can't have a dead heroine in a romantic thriller! LOL.)

-- Scarlett -- I agree about the Hannibal books. LOVED the first two books (particularly THE RED DRAGON because I like FBI Agent Will Graham far more than Clarice Starling) -- haven't read the others because I knew what they'd be about and didn't want to go there. I love Stephen King. Some of his books are more psychological suspense than gory suspense. THE STAND is one of my all-time favorite books, and one of the few books I've read twice.

OH, yes, Speed -- both the first and the second. I love Sandra Bullock. Great example!
Marijane Diodati
6. annecolbert
I like The Byrds, Charade, Rear Window (J. Stewart), Dial M for Murder, and Witness.

I love The Fugitive too but it doesn't count and I am talking about the version with Harrison and Tommy Lee!
7. RomySommer
I love the Thin Man movies! That humour and the quick repartee between Nick and Nora, set against the backdrop of the suspense, puts these among the best movies of all time, in my opinion.
Allison Brennan
8. Allison_Brennan
@RomySommer -- I agree! I own them all on DVD. If I could write witty, I would write a contemporary Nick/Nora series. I've seen all the moves multiple times, especially the first two (or the first one and the one with Jimmy Stewart, who I also love -- I can't remember if that's the second or third movie.)
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