For as long as I can remember, I have loved a good mystery. Some of that love derives from the intellectual enjoyment of solving an intricate puzzle or the emotional investment of seeing wrongs righted and justice done. All these elements can make for a satisfying read, but combine the mystery with a romance, and I’m in reader heaven.
So, naturally, when I began to write my romances, mystery came along for the ride. It was not perhaps consciously planned–but intrigue and skullduggery soon slipped between the sheets (so to speak), adding further complications to the love story. And as much of a challenge as plotting a mystery in addition to a romance can be, I probably wouldn’t have it any other way.
In my debut romance, WALTZ WITH A STRANGER, the hero, James Trelawney inherits an earldom, a financially strapped estate, and all the headaches that go with them. His life is further complicated by his betrothal to a lovely American heiress and the mystery surrounding the death of his predecessor. Beset by malicious rumors that he had the previous earl murdered, James discovers an ally in a thousand: a young woman of heart, spirit, and boundless faith in him, who’s determined to help him clear his name.
The catch? He’s engaged to her twin sister. But when a deadly secret reaches out from beyond the grave, these forbidden lovers must rely on each other and their hidden bond to survive.
For me, the joy of combining romance with mystery is all about the detecting partnership: Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, Albert Campion and Amanda Fitton, Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson. Couples whose minds are so acute and so attuned to each other that a criminal just doesn’t stand a chance.
Of course, part of the fun springs from the couples developing that synchronicity. Because, more often than not, they begin at cross-purposes. Or in situations where their future relationship seems unlikely at best: Harriet Vane is standing trial for her ex-lover’s murder when her association with Lord Peter begins. It’s unclear whether she’ll survive to the end of the book, much less become his partner in detection and, ultimately, life. And Amelia and Emerson get off spectacularly on the wrong foot, bickering and sneering at each other, until their mutual passion for Egyptology and their shared concern for friends and family bring them together in every sense of the word.
Another virtue of the mystery/suspense plot is that it allows the hero and heroine to discover each other’s mettle, to learn their strengths and weaknesses, to form mutual trust and respect. Intimacy of the mind can be as heady as intimacy of the body. The sleuthing couple may begin on opposite sides of a crime and have different approaches to solving it, but in the end, both halves want the same thing: to see right done. And they’re prepared to risk their lives– or, at the very least, their security–to ensure that happens.
Finally, when a couple can survive being caught in the villain’s trap with the walls closing in, being cornered by knife-wielding thugs in an alley, or chased by evil henchmen through the forbidding wilderness or across the rooftops of some exotic metropolis, you come to believe that they’ll survive anything life–and love!–can throw at them.
So, dear readers, do you also love romances infused with mystery? And who are your favorite detecting duos?
Prize Alert: One lucky reader will receive a copy of Waltz with a Stranger from Pamela’s publisher. All you have to do is answer Pamela’s question via a comment below. (Only USA and Canada readers can win, sorry)
Congrats to Diane!