Since I’ve begun reading books in Harlequin’s Steeple Hill imprint in the last several years, I’ve been thinking hard about the various story parts that have to come together to make a good romance novel work. There’s that whole bit about them each needing to have some kind of baggage, something that keeps them apart even when they are drawn to each other. I’m starting to sense the rhythm of the novels, which isn’t a bad thing. Sure, we know what to expect in a romance–we know there will be a HEA (happily ever after). And no surprise who the gal ends up with, as the guy has a pov as well.
But as I’ve begun writing (and planning more) novels with an eye to this imprint, I can see that not just any garden variety of conflict will do. Whatever separates these lovers needs to be more than a minor misunderstanding that they could clear up in five minutes of decent conversation.
Return to Love is the story of Gracie Broussard, a penguin keeper at the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans. Her main goal is to raise enough money for an addition to the penguin exhibit–and to forget Carter Alexander, who had been her best bud during their school years but walked out on her when she needed him most. He left seven years ago to become a rock star, and now he walks back into her life claiming to have changed. She doesn’t want to trust him, but when he offers his talents to help her raise funds, she can’t turn him down. The penguins need him, even if she doesn’t.
So what is the big story issue, the baggage that keeps them apart? A secret. Carter’s father, now deceased, was the pastor of Gracie’s church and a man she looked up to greatly, having no father of her own. But Carter knows things about his dad that Gracie will never believe.
I think Betsy St. Amant managed to create a believable reason for this pair, just starting to find love again, to be pulled back apart. And besides the analysis? A fun read. Who wouldn’t want a story about penguins?
Check back tomorrow when Betsy St. Amant will guest blog here about writing with her muse.