Genre: Romantic Suspense

November 22, 2011 in Methuen at the Nevins Memorial Library from 9:45AM to 12N

Romantic Suspense assignments:

Benchmark: Nora Roberts’ Chasing Fire

Read a second title by any other Romantic Suspense author.

Appeal to be read for November meeting: Focus on all the appeal factors, but really think about the importance of the pacing and character in the Romantic Suspense genre.

Please register for the RA  Round Table by emailing Leane Ellis ( or using the MLS CE calendar.


Leane reminded participants to update the blog with their second titles.

Leane handed out background information for our next study: Graphic Novels. She recommended reading “Understanding Comics” by Scott McLeod if you have the time and inclination. She invited participants to share with the group other information on Graphic Novels between now and the January meeting.

While the kinks are worked out with registering the RART on the MLS website, Leane asks participants to email her directly if you will be attending the next meeting:

Congratulations to Shelley Quezada for being awarded the Emerson Greenaway Award presented by the New England Library Association.

Benchmark Book: CHASING FIRE by Nora Roberts

Discussion centered on many areas with this title:

Characters: Were the main characters realistic? Some felt the male protagonist was too ideal.

Plot: Suspense was less important than character in this novel. It is our job to try to determine what level of suspense and romance the reader is looking for. In “Chasing Fire”, character development and relationship was emphasized.

Roberts intertwines humor, quirky characters, romance and suspense in her romantic suspense novels. The appeal Roberts has for readers: character driven, interesting setting, pacing and suspense enough but does not overshadow character development.

Modern characteristics of romantic suspense are:

Pursuit is good; coercion is bad

Female being rescued is bad, but when both male and female rescue each other, it’s good.  It’s common that the two “complete” each other

That both protagonists are independent and fully capable of “rescuing” themselves, but make the choice to rescue each other is at the heart of the romance in romantic suspense.

Set in a world where characters have the tools to work out what they need to do.

Level of both romance and suspense vary from author to author

We discussed romantic suspense appeal factors for males, and possible authors/titles to recommend. We determined that the following elements would appeal to men: emphasis on fitness, the skilled job of a smoke jumper, the danger, the way the team of jumpers relied on each other, heroic action.

It was suggested that J.D. Robb’s “Dallas and Rourke”/“Death” series has many of the same elements of romantic suspense. Nicholas Sparks’ books are romantic. Robert Crais’ books focuses on strong male friendships/”bro-mances”.  Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter’s series is equally told from the point of view of the male and female characters.  Iris Johansen’s “Eve Duncan” series is more focused on the suspense than the romance and might work for males.

The key to finding a good match between romantic suspense and the male reader is, as always, identifying the appeal factors that the male enjoys and matching them to what we know about romantic suspense.

Classic Romantic Suspense is good for people who don’t want the graphic violence and sex that characterizes modern romantic suspense. Mary Stewart, “The Scapegoat” by DuMaurier, Victoria Holt…

2nd Title Shares/Focus on Appeal Factors:

UNDERTOW by Cherry Adair; Eileen Barrett (Reading PL)

  • Pursuit and sexual tension
  • Danger
  • Adventure
  • Sea plays a large part of danger and plot
  • Strong capable woman

DEFIANT HERO by Suzanne Brockmann; Diane Giarrusso (Tewksbury PL)

  • Fast paced
  • Strong sexual tension
  • Military Action
  • Historical WWII story intertwined
  • Relationship building

BREAKING POINT by Pamela Clair; Pat Graham (Nevins Mem. Lib, Methuen)

  • “Bromance”
  • Sexual Tension
  • Violence

DARK SKY by Carla Neggers; Shelley Quezada (MBLC)

  • Read previous books in the series to watch character development
  • Humor
  • Snarky dialogue
  • Character development
  • Sexual Tension
  • Sex

TAKE NO PRISONERS by Cindy Gerard; Molly Moss (Forbes Lib, Northampton)

  • Black Ops series
  • Good guys save the world
  • Lots of grim details
  • Rescue
  • Action-oriented.
  • Quick Pace
  • Sex

SENSELESS by Mary Burton; Sarah Woo (Danvers Middle School)

  • Fast paced
  • Strong female character
  • Well developed male character
  • Flashbacks support suspense and pacing and ties past with present
  • Smooth flow
  • Graphic, brutal violence
  • A bit of mystery

DEADLY INTENT by Kylie Brant; Michelle Deschene-Warren (Peabody Inst. Lib., Danvers)

  • Child abduction and molestation
  • Not recommended:
  • Not really suspenseful
  • Unrealistic
  • Flat characters
  • Like actors given a script; you know the words but not the intent behind them.

REVENGE AT BELLA TERRA by Christina Dodd; Tricia Arrington (Peabody Inst. Lib., Danvers)

  • Part of a trilogy about 3 brothers
  • Likeable characters
  • Detailed setting—occupation and details about wine
  • Mystery element leads you to read other titles in series
  • Big complicated family

WITNESS by Sandra Brown; Tatjana Saccio (Nevins Mem. Lib., Methuen)

  • Suspenseful

DYING TO PLEASE by Linda Howard; Jan Resnick (South Hadley)

  • Intense story
  • Good character development
  • Male and female characters are equally developed

BLUE SMOKE by Nora Roberts, Nanci Milone Hill (Boxford Town Library)

  • Forensic arson investigator—dedicated to her job, no relationships
  • Soon her friends are in danger
  • Romantic Tension is strong
  • Strong relationship with family
  • Fast paced
  • Liked better than CHASING FIRE

LETHAL by Sandra Brown, Leane Ellis (Lucius Beebe Mem. Lib., Wakefield)

  • Compelling, riveting at times
  • Female protagonist held captive by the man she rescues from her yard.
  • Conspiracy
  • Worth reading for the suspenseful twists and turns
  • Protagonist’s daughter is fully developed character
  • Both M/F protagonists are fully developed
  • Well & intricately plotted
  • Fast pace
  • Stereotypical villains, but there is suspense around who the lynchpin is

Recommendations for when reader has exhausted, Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown:

-Julie Garwood
-Linda Howard
-Karin Slaughter (dark & more suspense; good character development, violent plots—more like J.D. Robb and Robert Crais)
-James Patterson’s KILL ME IF YOU CAN is very good and is male dominated but relationship based.

Respectfully submitted,

Diane Giarrusso

Second Titles

Diane Giarrusso

The Unsung Hero – Suzanne Brockmann
Appeal Factors: Pacing: Steady, WWII subplot revealed over the course of the story, lots of dialogue, military action throughout; Characterizations: engaging and sympathetic hero and heroine, lost love found again only more mature this time, all main characters are developed equally well; Language/Style: Accessible and authentic writing, good mix of dialoge, description and flashback, romantic and passionate scenes are effective; Tone/Mood: Happy ending for all characters, mix of sweetness, despair, romance, humor, regret; subplots are also engaging: Frame: Contemporary with flashbacks and back story, military details are great; Storyline: Better than average for the genre. This was my first military romance (and I’m ready for more!!!), nice mix of action and interior (memory/remembrances) plots, all major characters move to a positive resolution.

Navy SEAL Tom Paoletti, back in his hometown after a near-fatal head injury, sees a terrorist who was thought to have been killed a few years earlier. While Tom struggles to be believed (and wonders if he really saw what he thought or is it just symptomatic of his head injury), he also struggles with his reawakened feelings about Kelly–now a vibrant woman who has feelings of her own for Tom. Subplot about WWII and a love affair, as well as one of young love, round out this great novel.

I found it quite interesting that I felt all through my reading that this was TOM’s story. Yes, it was about Kelly and Tom finding love, but this one is about Tom. Even the cover summary is only about Tom and uses references that relate to his character. I think it’s a very effective hook for female readers who want their heroes strong and vulnerable. This will not be my last book by Suzanne Brockman and I’m eager to get my hands on some more romances with military men!

Similar Authors: Nora Roberts’ romances, Katie MacAlister’s strong characters struggling with balancing their feelings with their obligations/duties to others. Her Dragon series is especially similar in tone to this one.

The Defiant Hero – Suzanne Brockmann
Appeal Factors: fast paced, suspenseful, strong protagonists, series w/Troubleshooters SEAL Team 16, likeable characters, graphic language and plot details, strong romance language, military details are plentiful, enjoy the flashbacks to WWII action with some characters, action oriented and happy ending!

When Meg Moore’s daughter and grandmother are kidnapped by political extremists, she is forced to kidnap a diplomat in order to save their lives. She needs help and knows she can call on John Nilsson, Navy SEAL to assist. Though Meg continues to try to save her family she lies to John, placing them in more danger and making his job of protecting her and loving her more difficult. I definitely love getting to know these characters and the strong bond the Troubleshooters and SEAL Team 16 have. I look forward to more in this series.

Leane Ellis

Lethal – Sandra Brown
Appeal Factors: Pace/Character/Plot

This was a compelling and riveting story–although I figured out who the real villain was before–Brown scattered at least 3 other possibilities and kept me guessing at least through 2/3rds of the book. Pace was page-turning and the characters were done well enough especially the 4-year-old child; the best friend Tori, and the 2 main leads: Honor & Lee Coburn. Bad guys were quite stereotypical for the most past. Nice twist at the end even if I saw it coming–it was well played. Place was important to the frame of the plot–Louisiana bayou country and small rustic towns. Overall–this is a good example of why Brown is so popular. Interesting ending–not what I’d call a perfect HEA–just possible HEA.

Jan Resnick

Dying to Please – Linda Howard
Appeal Factors: Fast paced; Characterization – heroic, believable; Language is
compelling, engaging; Story – character and plot-driven; Tone – suspenseful, steamy; Frame – contemporary, South Brook AL (south of Birmingham)

Sarah Stevens is a butler and a bodyguard with a dream of travelling the world. She protects retired federal Judge Lowell during a home invasion robbery and is interviewed for the TV news. Someone decides she should be his butler and
the object of his obsessions. Sarah’s clients begin to die. Detective Cahill investigates the first robbery and wonders if Sarah is the perp. As they become
involved, it’s a race against time.

Similar authors: Sandra Brown, Lee Child, Mary Higgins Clark, Catherine Coulter (FBI series), Lisa Gardner, Julie Garwood

Smoke Screen – Sandra Brown
Appeal Factors:: Fast paced; Characterization – familiar; Language – accessible; Story –plot-driven, intricately plotted; Tone – suspenseful; Frame – contemporary, Charleston South Carolina

Newswoman Britt Shelley wakes up naked in bed with a dead police detective. She concludes a date rape drug is why she can’t remember what happened.
Raley Gannon teams up with her since a similar episode with the same people ruined his life and career a few years before. Four friends hid a crime with a fire that got out of control and killed 7 people. As they tried to rescue people from the fire, those four people became heroes – some couldn’t handle the misplaced fame and became liabilities. The cover-up and the back story escalate to multiple murders.

Similar authors: Sandra Brown, Lee Child, Julie Garwood, Linda Howard, Nora Roberts

Fire and Ice – Julie Garwood
Appeal Factors: Fast paced; Characterization – Standard, good secondary characters; Language – engaging; Story – character-driven; Tone – suspenseful; Frame – contemporary, Chicago, Alaska

Sophie Rose is an honorable, responsible young woman who works for a small newspaper writing human interest features and dodges the police and FBI who want to speak to her about her Robin Hood father. She interviews and listens to (ad nauseam) William Harrington about his upcoming 25th 5K race and yet he disappears at the start. His body, or part of it, is found near Prudhoe Bay Alaska with Sophie’s business card in his sock. As she investigates his disappearance and her father looks at a retirement fund theft, Sophie is shot, but only slightly injured, due to distance and a good handbag. Is her danger due to her curiosity or to punish her father? Suspense escalates as Sophie and FBI agent Jack MacAlister head to Alaska and a shootout in the snow. Chapters of the main story alternate with anonymous journal entries about wolf studies in Alaska and a wonder drug being used on the wolves.

Similar authors: Sandra Brown, Lee Child, Catherine Coulter, Julie Garwood, Linda Howard, Nora Roberts

Wrong Place, Wrong Time – Andrea Kane
Appeal Factors: Fast paced; Characterization – well-developed; Language – engaging, compelling; Story –plot-driven; Tone – suspenseful; Frame – contemporary, upstate New York

Sally Montgomery is on the run after her weekend companion is murdered and the cabin they were staying in is torched. Her daughter veterinarian Devon and PI ex-husband Monty try to solve the case before Sally is harmed. Devon is courted by two grandsons: Blake, head of the family business & James, Grand Prix Jumper aimed for the Beijing Olympics. The rich and powerful are not terribly ethical.

Similar authors: Sandra Brown, Catherine Coulter, , Julie Garwood, Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Barbara Delinsky

Sarah Woo

Senseless – Mary Burton
Appeal factors: fast-paced; characters: well-developed, strong female character and appealing, sympathetic male character; frame: smooth-flowing with flashbacks interspersed, which keeps the reader involved and guessing as to the relationship between the main character’s past and the brutal murders of the present.

Eva Rayburn has recently returned  home to Virginia after an absence of 10 years, during which she has spent time in prison for a crime that we gather as the story progresses is related to a brutal attack she suffered 10 years before.  It becomes obvious that a series of murders happening in her hometown is somehow related to Eva. Detective Deacon Garrison is investigating the murders and is falling for her even as he is unsure as to whether or not she is the killer.  The fast-moving plot kept me guessing as to the identity of the killer until the very end; details and foreshadowing all made sense in retrospect.

I enjoyed this enough to begin the companion novel, Merciless by Burton. So far it seems to be similarly structured and equally as shocking.

Michelle Deschene-Warren

Deadly Intent – Kylie Brant
A Mindhunters Novel
Appeal Factors: Frame

Macy Reid, a forensic linguist employed by Raiker Forensics, a team of top notch scientists and criminologists, gets called in when an eleven year old girl is kidnapped for a second time. Forced to work with Kellan Burke, a man who left his mark on her after a previous one night stand, Macy must work against the clock to bring the child home safely.

Shelly Quezada

Dark Sky – Carla Eggers
Appeal Factors: fast paced, quirky characters

Deputy Marshall Juliet Longstreet must turn to a Special Forces officer when a former prisoner threatens to exact revenge by killing her and her family in this highly plot driven title which includes some characters from an earlier book. She finds the doorman of her NY apt, dead and teams up with another Special Forces officer Ethan Brooker whom she has encountered in earlier book, Night’s Landing. As part of the back story, this former prisoner was involved in the death of Brooker’s wife. They team up to search for the suspect while fighting their growing attraction to each other. This book moves from NY city where Juliet’s niece arrives and gets inadvertently mixed up in the events to Vermont where Juliet’s family still lives. Some sexual content that may either be “too much” or “not enough” depending on the reader.

Eileen Barrett

Undertow –  Cherry Adair
Appeal Factors: romance, lust, sex, adventure, danger, suspense, fast-paced

Cherry Adair’s Undertow is the first in a series of romance/adventure books about three underwater treasure-hunting brothers. The Dutch pirate ship, Vrijheid, had been sitting in the Caribbean since the 1600’s, and Zane Cutter of Cutter Salvage is about to retrieve the biggest treasure of his career. Unfortunately, the long-time ship master mechanic has health issues, so he suggests his daughter Teal replace him. Teal cannot stand the handsome Zane, “Casanova of the Caribbean”, despite the fact that she has been in love with him since childhood. As for the other treasure, the gold and jewels, Zane’s crew is not the only one with their eye on this prize. Whoever else is after the sunken treasure is not beyond sabotage or even murder. For Zane and his crew, it becomes a race not only for the treasure, but for their lives. In all honesty, this book is about as shallow as the ocean is deep.