first published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail 7 October 2006
Romance gets a lot of flack for being repetitive and predictable. But Foster-Harris’s The Basic Patterns of Plot doesn’t only apply to this genre. Readers know that with romance novels, as with life, it’s about the journey and not the destination.
Realistically, however, there are certain themes that feature rather frequently on the romance play list. In the world of girl meets boy —or the currently fashionable girl meets vampire—there doesn’t seem to be too much new under the sun. However, there are authors out there taking old stories and spinning them in new ways.
Hope Tarr’s Vanquished takes place in Victorian London, and the plot conflict around a Parlimentary bill to grant the vote to women. The heroine is a soft-spoken suffragette, the hero the man hired to ruin her. Historicals are the backbone of the romance industry, but the plot, the setting, and the conflict in Vanquished are a breath of fresh air.
Sarah Mlynowski published Me vs Me in September. The story’s begins as heroine Gabby Wolf needs to make a decision between accepting her boyfriend’s proposal or following her dream to New York. The twist? In Mlynowski’s story, Gabby gets to do both. Live one day in Phoenix, then live it again in New York, compare on a day-to-day basis the two paths her life might take.
In one of my old favourites, Nice, Jen Sacks writes about Grace, a girl so desperate to a) get out of her relationship and b) not hurt her boyfriend’s feelings that she resorts to murder. And it’s so easy the first time that she does it again. And again. Unfortunately, her solution attracts the attention of an assassin, which leads to one important question. Can they both survive —literally— their relationship?
Susan Carroll has written a fantastic trilogy set in 16th century France that mixes the mystical and the historical to tell the extraordinary stories of three sisters pitted against one of the strongest women leaders in history. The first book is The Dark Queen, followed by The Courtesan and The Silver Rose.
Finally, fans of fantasy will devour Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewel Trilogy, one of the most imaginative, complex, and emotionally satisfying fantasy series available. As a bonus, Bishop recently released a collection of short stories, Dreams Made Flesh, set in the same universe, covering some back story and offering an epilogue.
It may be true that the basic plot lines are the same, but these novels offer refreshing variation, original characters, unique settings, and plenty of unexpected twists and detours off the well-developed path. So go on, take a walk.