by Bianca Mori
Here’s what I know:
- I love romance. I love all the trope conventions: the meet-cute, the escalating tension, the conflict, the love-making (THIS) and the all-important happily ever after. It’s a pleasure to read, and a well-done romance can be satisfying like nothing else. A well-constructed romance can also deliver smart social commentary. Some of the strongest and most affirming statements about agency, consent and diversity I’ve read were between the pages of a so-called fluffy book about boy-crazy ladies. (Riiiight.)
- I love action. Heists, mysteries and thrillers just do it for me, whether it’s Cormoran Strike limping through London or the somber Cold War sensibilities of George Smiley. There’ a thrill in placing your trust in an author, knowing they’re purposely hiding things from you. That trust is rewarded handsomely when the reveal is deftly handled, a tricky premise that ensures the climax surprises the reader, but is also hinted at enough to not be totally out-of-left-field.
It’s true what they say that we write what we want to read. I don’t know if the market wanted something that combined my two favorite genres, but I did. That may not be the soundest or most market-savvy approach to publishing, but that idea took root and thus began the Takedown trilogy.
Throughout three books (In Too Deep, Peyton Riley and Scorched Earth, which is coming out… soon), I tell the story of a complicated girl who is amoral at best and ruthless at worst. There is also the art thief who kidnaps her for a heist and falls for her in the process.
The setting jets between Asia and Europe, the action heavy with double-crosses and conspiracy, the characters flawed and sometimes unlikable. There are no virgins here, no Greek chorus of advice-spouting best friends. I think some bits are funny, but it’s not a rom-com either.
You’ll find it under romantic suspense or women’s fiction > crime on Amazon, and yes, it’s certainly not top-of-mind when one thinks “romance.” But I’m okay with that. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned from reading romance, it’s that it’s for everyone. The genre is broad and the tropes/conventions flexible enough to adapt to whatever it is that floats our boat. Because love, and desire, comes in many forms—and the genre that explores that follows suit.
In season one of Game of Thrones, the much-maligned Ros says: “There’s a lid for every pot.” I can say the same about romance. There is enough space in the genre for different stories and characters to exist—from college girls confronting the world in New Adult to the ladies who wonder about getting it on with shifters, vampires and wizards. For characters who are flawed, who aren’t “good,” damaged and acting in ways that are sometimes deplorable. For sexual agency or inexperience, space to explore same-sex relationships and space for stories about what happens after marriage.
It’s all out there, being written by authors who love and revel in the genre’s conventions. They are often independently published, and at prices that are literally a steal.
This is the point in my piece where I ask you to take courage. Dive into those wide open spaces. You might find something that you might like—even love. You might not find it at all, that’s true. But wouldn’t it be a great adventure to give it a try? ☁