I loved romantic suspense before I knew what the phrase was or meant. It was the “romantic” part that drew me to a book, not the “suspense”. And when I was younger there were certain authors guaranteed to deliver in the love area. Nora Roberts. Linda Howard. Sandra Brown. But soon I came to realize their stories always had another twist. Their stories were…more. Subplots that kept me as spellbound as the romance between the hero and heroine. Secrets I couldn’t wait to unravel. Fear that set my heart-pounding even as I flipped to the next page to continue the wild ride. Evil that sometimes made terrifying sense. In other words—suspense. I soon came to realize their stories always had the best suspense.
These authors created the most intricate puzzles using the characters, their motivations, and stories as the pieces. It inspired a desire in me to assemble my own enigma, to somehow grab the sometimes seemingly random bits of information and revelations and form them into a complete picture that would reveal a decades’ long secret, unearth a startling, heartbreaking truth, and also offer closure and peace.
I’ve read hundreds—probably thousands—of books that took me on a thrill ride. And many of them—their authors—have inspired me to write, to weave a story of intrigue, surprise, and twists. Still do. Here are just some of them.
1. Shades of Twilight by Linda Howard – Roanna Davenport was in love with her cousin Webb Tallant (by marriage, don’t worry!) since she was a child. When he marries their beautiful cousin Jessie, Roanna is hurt but not surprised. But she—and the entire family and small Alabama town—is stunned when Jessie is killed. Angered by his family’s lack of support when he is initially considered a suspect, Webb leaves town and doesn’t return for ten years. Roanna fetches him home, bargaining her body for one night in exchange. She isn’t the same impulsive, innocent, carefree girl, and Webb yearns to see that girl in the woman. But when he returns home it’s to a killer who wants to finish what he started ten years earlier. LOVED this book! Webb affirmed Roanna, loved her unconditionally; she didn’t have to be anyone but herself for him. And at the roughest moment of his life, she was his only stalwart support, even though he couldn’t see it at the time. And then let’s not forget the fantastic, totally unforeseeable twist in the end when the murderer was uncovered…and why!
2. After the Night by Linda Howard – Anyone see a theme here? LOL! I luvs me some Linda Howard! This was another favorite. Poor, from the wrong side of the tracks, LA Faith Devlin loved the first family of Prescott, LA’s son, Gray Rouillard from afar. When her mother runs away with his father one hot summer night, Gray runs Faith and her family out of the Parish. She returns to her hometown over a decade later, successful, confident and ready to uncover the truth behind the lie that destroyed her family and childhood. Because her mother didn’t run away with Guy Rouillard all those years ago. So where has the patriarch been all this time? Gray’s first glance at this grown up Faith stirs a desire in him he isn’t able to quench. He wants to run her out of town again before he does something stupid like make love to her. But Faith refuses to go, and now someone is after her, willing to kill to keep the secret of that long ago night buried. Gray and Faith was a scorching couple. They sizzled on the page and the volatile history and hurts from the past only made that fire burn hotter. And then there was the mystery surrounding Guy’s disappearance. Linda Howard weaved so many different strings together, catching this thread and that thread, and when I read what really happened, I wondered why I hadn’t seen it from the beginning. Cause she’s that damn good!!
3. Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts – Someone is killing young, beautiful women in Innocence, MS. And the common thread is Tucker Longstreet, son of the wealthiest family in Innocence. Famous concert violinist Carolyn Waverly arrives in town seeking peace and time to recover from a grueling tour schedule and an all-too-public breakup. What she finds is murder, bodies, and an unwanted but irresistible desire for Tucker. And now she’s caught in the target of a killer…could it be the very man she’s falling in love with? Nora Roberts has a way of drawing the reader in with her characters, including the sultry southern setting of a small town in Mississippi. You’re so invested in them, you want them to fall in love, to be happy. And Tucker and Carolyn were no different. Tucker with his easy-go-lucky, laid back personality was the perfect foil for uptight, reserved Carolyn. It was so much fun watching Tucker melt her. And all the while there was a murderer in the background stalking their every move. The twist at the end, the identity of the murderer—and why—stays with me even after all these years.
4. Best Kept Secrets by Sandra Brown – Frankly, there are too many wonderful Sandra Brown books to pick just one. Best Kept Secrets was one of the first I read by her and is one of my absolute favorites. It’s classic Sandra Brown to me. Alex Gaither returns to the town she was born twenty-five years earlier—and the town where her mother was brutally murdered. She’s determined to solve the cold case and gain belated justice for her mother. She fully expected the resistance of her top three suspects, Sheriff Reede Lambert, wealthy businessman Angus Minton, and his son Junior. What she doesn’t expect is her red-hot attraction to Reede—who was once her mother’s lover twenty-five years ago. Her investigation stirs the dormant hatred of a killer, and now that murderous rage is focused on the daughter. I know there are several factors that, at first glance, can seem a bit icky. Twenty-five year age difference between 25 years old Alex and 43 year old Reede. Reede was once her mother’s lover. But Sandra Brown did an awesome job of removing the ick factor and instead turned it into a love story for the ages. Even as I’m typing this I’m thinking, I need to go find this book on my shelf to read over. There was conflict, insecurities, passion, and so much love. Not to mention a mystery that kept me guessing until the last few pages. Sandra Brown is another master of suspense!
In Secrets and Sins: Chayot, book 4 in my Secrets and Sins series and my newest release from Entangled Publishing’s Ignite line, security specialist Chayot Grey encounters a mystery in the form of his next door neighbor, Aslyn Jericho. He isn’t unfamiliar with secrets—it’s because of a twenty-year pact he now faces the emotional and legal fallout of his desperate actions. But as he fights his overwhelming attraction to the concert pianist, her past demons appear to have resurrected. Now they have to uncover the identity of the threat before they lose their lives. Because some sins refuse to let go…
I can only hope I did half the job Linda Howard, Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown have done and continue to do!
What’s your favorite romantic suspense book or author? Share with me and win an ecopy of Secrets and Sins: Chayot! Make sure to leave your email address in the comments. I'll announce the winner on September 12th! Also, every day in the month of September, each post will be giving away a book or gift card! At the end of the Blogfest, a grand prize winner of a KINDLE FIRE HD will be chosen from everyone who commented during the month. The winner will be announced September 30th!
Also, don’t forget the whole reason of our September Blogfest! Southern Magic’s Readers Luncheon is November 1st in Birmingham, AL. NYT bestselling author Sylvia Day is the keynote speaker! Whoo-hoo! To register for the luncheon, go to http://southernmagic.org/luncheon.html. Each attendee will receive a bag of books and author swag, sit at a table with one or two published authors, and opportunities to win baskets full of goodies! And SYLVIA DAY!!