Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Can a mystery writer write a romance?

I've recently found myself indulging in romantic fantasy.  Well, truth be told, my characters are indulging in romantic fantasy. So I asked myself that question: Could a mystery writer write a romance novel? Not romantic suspense, which in truth could be classified in many cases as a mystery, but a true romance novel. I wasn't sure, but the characters refused to be silenced so I put them on paper. In days I found myself amazed at my progress and a little disappointed that I couldn't quite keep out a mysterious passage and dark character. I could take it out, but it seems to fit. Should I or shouldn't I?

A short synopsis:

Six months after her mother's death, Gabriella Carson receives a package from her mother's best friend and a letter from a law firm in Madrid requesting she immediately come to Madrid to settle a business arrangement between Armand Ruiz and her mother. The package contains a letter from her mother, her mother's diary and an antique locket she requests Gabriella return it to its rightful owner, Armand Ruiz. After a fight with her boyfriend Gabriella decides to go to Madrid and return the locket.  Upon arrival she learns the locket was not the unfinished business between her mother and the Ruiz family. Her mother had arranged her marriage to the debonair, handsome Ruiz heir, Antonio.

Chapter One:


Gabriella Carson stretched as she enjoyed the view of Saguria Canyon. Spring was coming early this year and wildflowers were already starting to bloom. In another week, two at the most, life in the canyon would be thriving. Lovers would walk hand in hand, seeking out private trails, stopping for a kiss under the cherry blossoms. But not you. Her shoulders slumped as the thought saddened her. Robert just wasn't the romantic type. She turned to stare at the trail. And he definitely wasn't the hiking type.
The blare of a horn broke her reverie and she turned to wave at Maddy. The heaviness lifted for a moment. Being down in the dumps when Madeleine "Maddy" Jones was around simply wasn't allowed. She couldn't help the grin that spread across her face as Maddy extricated herself from the fire-red jaguar. Even dressed in over-sized sweats without a touch of makeup, Maddy looked like a movie star, or super model. Her long blonde hair had been tied back carelessly in a pony tail and the baggy sweats did little to disguise what everyone called a "curvacious" figure.
"Ready?" Maddy asked before swinging into a set of stretching exercises that would have left Gabriella gasping for breath. "A good four mile hike will get your blood pumping and your artistic juices flowing. Spring has sprung and love is in the air."
Gabriella tried to smile, not quite pulling it off. "Life is all around me and yet I still feel dead inside."
Maddy wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "It's only been six months, Ree, and most of that you've spent finalizing your mother's estate. Another month and you'll be back to writing sizzling romance novels for all your fans."
"I hope so. I finally finished Cold Heart and sent it off to Marjorie last week."
Maddy pulled her toward the hiking trail. "Good. Let's go find some inspiration for the next one."
Gabriella followed, thankful the friendship between the two didn't require a lot of small talk. She'd woke up frustrated and angry without an outlet for either. The four mile trek up the trail might help with the frustration, but the anger was something totally unfamiliar. New territory she didn't know how to navigate through. And she definitely didn't want to dwell on the reasons behind it. She'd almost called off the hike, but she didn't want to disappoint Maddy.
"Have you thought about going back to school?" Maddy stopped on a small outcropping of rock, bending to examine a small stonecrop flower growing beside the boulder. "Beautiful isn't it?"
Gabriella studied the small flower clinging to the side of the boulder. It look lonely and vulnerable. Just like she felt. She wanted to hide it, protect it from the hikers that like them, would stop on the boulder to enjoy the view. "And like most beautiful things, endangered because people want to possess them. I wish there was some way to hide it."
Maddy sat on the boulder and patted the spot beside her. "I wondered when that was going to happen."
"What?" Gabriella sat next to her but moved as far from the edge as possible.
"The anger and resentment." Maddy shot her a sympathetic smile. "It's perfectly normal. You gave up two years of your life to nurse your mother. Now that the grief is subsiding other emotions are fighting for control."
"That's not...." Gabriella stopped to examine her feelings. Did she resent the time she'd spent taking care of her mother? Was that why she was so angry all the time. "I loved my mother."
"Of course you did. But you were jerked from a life of fun, parties and friends to a life of seclusion, sickness and pain. No matter how much we love someone there's a part of us that's just a little selfish."
"You're going to make a great doctor, and therapist." Gabriella stated. "It wasn't all bad though. I became a bestselling romance author and I met Robert."
Maddy stood up and dusted off her sweats. "The writing I totally get, but Robert is something you're going to have to explain to me. He's the most unromantic, emotionally unresponsive man I've ever met. He's not right for you, Ree, and I wish you could see that before it's too late."
Gabriella searched for words to defend Robert, but came up with nothing. Fortunately her cell phone interrupted the conversation. "It's Marjorie. Should I take it?"
Maddy laughed. "Definitely and put it on speaker. I love her accent. She sounds like one of those old movie drama queens. I can just see her with her long cigarette holder waving it around as she exclaims "But darling...."
Gabriella placed her fingers across her lips, mumbled "shh" and pressed the speaker button. "Hi, Marjorie."
"Helena darling, we simply must talk about this manuscript."
Gabriella bit her lip to stop the giggle rising in her throat as Maddy waved her imaginary cigarette in the air.
"The story, as always, is superb. But, darling, where is the passion? The spice? Our readers want to feel their blood boiling and their toes curling."
She turned her back to Maddy but couldn't quite keep the laughter out of her voice. "I have another call coming in, Majorie. Send it back and I'll work on it."
"All right, darling, but don't forget we have a deadline. Your readers are waiting, and waiting readers are fickle. If you make them wait too long they'll simply move on to someone else."
"Bye Marjorie." Gabriella hit the end button and glared at the number ringing in. Robert knew she was hiking with Maddy this morning. And she really didn't want to deal with his reservation confirmations at the moment. Maddy leaned over her shoulder. "Let it go to voicemail."
She let it go to voicemail and stood, turning to face a grinning Maddy.
"I was waiting for the cheerio, darling."
Ignoring her, Gabriella dialed her voice mail and listened to Robert's droning voice. "Wanted to give you a heads up. We can't get reservations for Girando's until tomorrow night so we'll cancel tonight and I'll see you tomorrow at seven."
She'd forgotten the phone was still on speaker until Maddy piped up, her voice filled with disgust. "You should play that for Marjorie. Maybe then she'd understand why there was no passion or spice in your writing. That guy would have a heart attack if you even mentioned blood boiling or toes curling."
She shook her head, biting her lip again to stifle a giggle. She lost the battle as an image of Robert's prim and proper face popped through her mind and she laughed out loud. He probably would have a heart attack if she mentioned wanting him to "curl her toes". "Stop it Maddy. Robert's a good man and I was lucky to find him. He'll make partner by next year."
Maddy snorted again and took off walking. "You're selling yourself short," she paused for emphasis, "again."
The trail grew steeper and the two fell into a comfortable silence. Gabriella tried hard to concentrate on the sounds of nature around her, keep her breathing even, but Maddy's words kept coming back to haunt her. She was fond of Robert, and their relationship didn't take up a lot of her time. Dinner once a week, a movie on the weekend sometimes followed by a half hour of hand holding and Robert telling her about his latest case. He'd explained his need to work almost every night and weekends. If he was going to be a Supreme Court justice he had little time for anything else. Until now that had been enough. Caring for her mother and writing had filled the lonely hours from dusk until dawn.
She hadn't realized how deep into her own thoughts she'd been until she bumped into Maddy at the top of the trail. "Sorry."
"There's something I need to tell you." Maddy walked a few feet off the trail, putting space between them. "I'm leaving for England next week. I've been offered a partnership in a clinic there."
Gabriella felt her heart skip a beat, a feeling of loneliness settling over her. She wouldn't have survived without Maddy to lean on the last two years. And she certainly would never have submitted her first manuscript to Harcourt without constant prodding. She'd been more surprised than anyone when Harcourt not only bought the manuscript with a hefty advance, but offered a contract to purchase her next four novels. The extra money had allowed her to hire help with her mother, and over the next twenty four months she'd managed to publish six more books.
Staring down at the canyon below she concentrated on the vast golden fields before pasting a smile on her face and turning back to Maddy. "Sounds like a great opportunity. You'll do wonderful there."
The smile faltered as she took in the stiff stance, set jaw of her best friend. "Go with me, Ree. Remember the nights we sat up talking about the great adventures we were going to have. The places we would see? After England I'm going to Africa." Her light blue eyes darkened. "It's not too late. We can still have those adventures. You should be living romances not writing about them. This isn't you. Robert isn't you."
For a moment the old feelings of excitement threatened to emerge, but two years of penny pinching to afford her mother's expensive pain medications after the insurance had denied her claims had created a sensibility she couldn't quite overcome. Even with the advances and sales of her books she'd barely managed to keep them out of bankruptcy. "We'll see."

The trip back down the trail was much more somber than their past trips, the parting in the parking lot quicker as if both were anxious to put distance between them. "Call me and we'll celebrate the night before you leave."
Maddy waved at her as she pulled into traffic. "Next Wednesday then."

Gabriella stood watching the car until it was out of sight. The hike had been planned to ease her feelings of loss. To jumpstart a new life and overcome her writer's block. Opening the car door she climbed behind the wheel. Maddy was sailing off into the spring of her life, leaving behind the cold, stark winter that had suddenly enveloped Gabriella.

Dark scene after breakup with boyfriend: This scene sort of snuck up on me in the writing. Do I keep it? Do I toss it and forget Robert Gray? What do you think?

Robert Gray drove slowly past the house, his hands tightening on the wheel as he noted the red jaguar in the drive. It was all that bitch, Madeleine's fault. Gabriella had been perfectly malleable before she came back on the scene. He cursed silently as he headed back into town. He'd wasted six months on this deal. Six months of chaste hand-holding and kisses when what he'd really wanted to do was push her down, rip off her clothes and watch her eyes widen as he took her, hands wrapped around her throat. Hear her hoarse voice as she begged him to stop. But he couldn't do that. Not yet. His client wanted that property, and he wanted to please that client. This was his future and no blonde bimbo was going to ruin it for him.
The thoughts of what he would do to Gabriella once she was really his excited his desire and he turned down a well-known street and headed for the last house on the right. He'd have to be careful this time. The last time he'd almost gone too far and killed the girl.

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