Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Romance Plots & Giveaway

Last night I was going through my books and boxing them up for a friend who’s salivating at the idea of inheriting my library. (For those of you new to this blog, I’m in the middle of preparing to move from Japan to New Zealand.) During the process, I, of course, got distracted by fun titles and shiny covers, but I also discovered something very interesting.

I have quite a few category novels that I picked up during the Romance Writers of America NY conference (which I attended just before I arrived in Japan). I’ve read several of them but pretty much every single unread one involves a secret baby plot. I hadn’t realized how much that device does not work for me until I saw that pile of books.

I’m a big believer in honesty in romances and for me, the secret baby is one lie that crosses the line in the wrong direction. I want a really, really, really good reason for the secret being kept, and in most cases, I don’t accept the rationalizations offered by the heroines. The other thing that makes me leery of this is that I see in the secret the evidence of a huge communication problem between the two protagonists. And if that kind of problem can occur once, what’s to stop it being repeated later on down the road on a different issue?

Am I being too tough? Maybe. There are authors who have probably done this very well and I just haven’t been exposed to them because the idea turns me off. However, the prevalence of that plot device in category novels tells me that it works for a lot of people. If it does for you, want to convince me of the error of my ways? Perhaps I’ll just have to write a secret baby book of my own to work it out. Then again, I’d probably have the heroine keep the secret for about two seconds before blurting it out. (Have a read of the first line of Secrets in the Marriage Bed if you don’t believe me).

So are there any particular romance plots or themes that don't work for you? Which ones do?

And just because I feel like it, I’ll draw a random name from all comments on this topic that come in before midnight Fri PST (extended to midnight Sun PST) to win either a copy of something from my backlist (subject to availability), or a pdf ARC of Slave to Sensation (winner’s choice).


Unknown said...

Well I've found that the one plot device that hasn't worked for me is the arranged marriages you find in historicals. I can't get into those books. And if someone gives me one, which is often the case, it gets donated to the library immediately.

Love the new cover by the way.

Gina Black said...

The secret baby device doesn't work for me either and for the same reasons. I find the lie untenable. Fathers have a right to be involved in their children's lives and children deserve to know their fathers. So that's one kind of romance I just can't read.

On another note...moving from Japan to New Zealand? I just got back from Japan and discovered (to my surprise) that I adore it there. I must return.

KimW said...

haha! Yes you didn't keep the secret very long in your story. Loved the excerpt! I can't really think of any romance plots or themes that I would say I don't like. I mix up the romance stories I read to get a variety so I don't get bored. Often times when I'm reading, I can't picture that happening in real life but I still enjoy the story.

Emma Sinclair said...

Well, I stated to post several things but then could think of an exception for each one, lol.

I usually don't like "marraige in jeopardy" stories, but I loved Secretst in the Marriage Bed. And I could think of a couple secret baby stories I enjoyed, too.

But I can't deal with amnesia stories. One person is taking advantage of another persons physical ailment?!?! And that's supposed to be heroic 'cause it's all in the name of lurve?!?! I don't think so (the movie Overboard comes to mind immediately).

Anonymous said...

I am glad that I'm not the only one who gets turn off by secret baby plots. It’s just a very unrealistic plot on these days.

I know many people will disagree with me on this one. Another turn off for me is plots about police officers falling in love with their protectors; it’s a plot that is extremely used. I don't know I get a really hard time to believe on that. I know it can happen but I usually avoid buying books with that description. Sorry!

As for my favorite plots: I love best friends and ex-brothers in law relationships.
I have a weakness for that kind of plots.
I also love Royal stories because it’s like reading adults fairytales you always guarantee a happy ending.

Emma a good book about amnesia that I really enjoy is "The Ultimate Seduction" by Janelle Denison. It gives a complete different prospective than the usual amnesia books.

Nalini Singh said...

Shonna, hey! It's so funny - I love the arranged marriage historicals. I like the fact that they're in a confined situation where they have to interact.

Thanks for the compliment about the cover! I can't take any credit for it though - the Art team at Berkley did a fantastic job!

Nalini Singh said...

Hi Gina - yep, those are some of the same reservations I have about secret baby plots. It just feels wrong.

Japan tends to get into your blood doesn't it? I've lived year three years and I'm going to miss so much about it. Were you visiting or did you stay here for a while?

Nalini Singh said...

Hi KimW, thanks! Lol, no the secret wasn't kept very long was it. I'm a little envious of your ability to read across the board - you must get exposed to quite a variety!

Nalini Singh said...

Hey Emma - yay on Secrets for leading you astray! *g* I wrote an amnesia story once. It wasn't published but during the writing I could see why the plot worked so well. You have immediate built-in tension - ie. what happens when memory returns???! But I've realized that I don't tend to read a lot of amnesia stories nowdays either. Maybe it's the same trust issue?

Nalini Singh said...

Hi Barbara - I love adult fairytales too!

But I admit that I also love the cops falling for their charges stories. Sometimes I don't believe it'll last after the adrenaline rush wears off, but when done right, I think it have real emotional impact.

Oh and best friends, that's one I like too. Nora Roberts did one for Silhouette years ago that I have back home in NZ. Falling for Nick? It's a goodie.

I'm loving this discussion everyone - funny how what works for one person definitely doesn't for another.

eatrawfish said...

Oddly enough I was talking to my mother (Gina Black) about this very plot device and she mentioned I should swing by this blog.

The Secret Baby is probably my least favorite plot device. In addition to what you said, I started reading romances at a young age and when I was a teenager and knew a lot of kids who had trouble with their parents. The idea of a mother lying to her child like that "for the best" always left me with a really sour feeling because I knew how much it would hurt the kid in the long run. So the adults could settle down in bliss at the end of the story, but the poor kid is due up for therapy in about ten years.

On top of that I'm not a huge fan of second chance at love stories, where the characters had a relationship once and it didn't turn out well. More just not to my tastes than anything else, and secret babies always fall into that subsection.

I do like arranged marriage stories though, when done right of course. :)

Nalini Singh said...

Hi eatrawfish (so um, do you like sashimi by any chance?)

I totally agree with you re the bad feeling that comes with knowing the effect it might have on the child later on. That especially strikes me when the secret 'baby' is older and in school.

But I gotta disagree with you on the 2nd chances stories as a group. I love reunion stories!! (Even wrote one myself). I find that the fact of two people having grown up and changed, brings a new maturity to the story.

Cyn Bagley said...

I really enjoy romance stories with a mystery or a paranormal twist. Or both.

What I don't like is tired plots. For instance, some writers use a plot that is fresh and new... but then uses different characters plugged into the old plot. After four or five of these ... (you see it in all genres), I put the author down.

If the author is still there in two to five years, then I may pick them up again. By then they may have changed the plot. :-)

Nalini Singh said...

In that case Cynthia, you might *ahem* like Slave to Sensation ;)

Ok, commercial break now over.

I've experienced the that 'same-plot' effect as well, but for me, some of these authors become comfort reads. ie. I know exactly what I'll be getting. Does that ever happen for you?

Cyn Bagley said...

nope... ;-)

Oh.. and I should disqualify myself from your contest since I won the last one.

Ummm... I do enjoy same characters.. like Kinsey Milhone (sp) or Jack Reacher ... or LKH's characters... but their plots are like life in that the same thing does not happen over and over. BUT it is comforting to know how the character is going to react and twists are extremely fun.

Gina Black said...

I have to admit it was all eatrawfish's fault that I went to Japan. ;) Her best friend (who is Japanese) got married there and they wanted me to come, so I did. I had no idea I'd fall for the place so hard. I could climb through the torii at the Fushimi Inara shrine once a week for the rest of my life. :)

I think the reason eatrawfish (with all due respect to her < g >) isn't as crazy about the second chance at love stories is that she is a true romantic (in the best sense) and underneath it all doesn't think that people who are meant to be together should ever part, which would preclude their getting back together.

Diana Peterfreund said...

I'll read just about anything if it makes sense to me. I have a special affinity for historical arranged marriages though. I love the idea of finding love after you've already formed a partnership, etc. that song in Fiddler on the Roof, "Do You Love Me?" always kills me. Since so many marriages were arranged and it is somethign so distant to my realm of experience, I find it romantic.

I suppose that this could be done well, but I've had it up to here with bachelor auction plots. Are these really so common? The "I'll pay you to pretend your my fiancee/mistress/wife" ones squeeve me out as well. And I think I've had enough of matchmaking towns. Never say never though. usually as soon as I say I don't like something, I'll find a really good one.

Isn't it weird though that my favorite genre in the hisotrical is my least fave in contemporary? I think it's that I can't suspend the disbelief in the contemp. People AREN'T trapped into marriages and have to make the best of it. Women have a lot more choices. Etc.

Nalini Singh said...

Gina - hmm interesting point about eatrawfish being a true romantic. I'd apply that definition for myself and I hate reading books where the hero and heroine have been apart for decades, but I can handle a few years.

Hey Diana - I totally agree about the difference between historical/contemp as to what we're willing to suspend disbelief for. The whole mistress thing drives me nuts, cause how many people these days would consider themselves a mistress?????

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

No plot points come to mind right now {:0

I love a good reunion story too . . . among several others ;)