RITA award-winning and New York Times best-selling author Laura Griffin knows a thing or two about creating the perfect blend of romance and suspense. Her Tracers series follows an elite crew of forensic experts who help solve the most difficult cases—while stoking the flames of their super-steamy love lives.
In this guest blog post, Griffin shares her thoughts on the key to balancing romance and suspense—particularly in her latest Tracers book, Exposed.
I love to read books in which the tension never lets up, in which the stakes start high and only get higher, in which I’m holding my breath while reading, wondering what’s going to happen next.
That’s a thriller, right?
Sometimes, yes. It can also be a romantic suspense novel. Romantic suspense is one of my favorite genres to read and write because tension permeates the entire story.
One of my favorite movie adaptations is The Bourne Identity, starring Matt Damon and based on the novel by Robert Ludlum. The first time I saw it, I was mesmerized. I loved trying to piece together the story puzzle, loved watching the chase scenes, loved the dizzying special effects. But amid all the action, I kept looking forward to the quieter scenes between Jason and Marie.
These scenes feel special because it’s in these moments that we get to see the emotional side of the characters. I mean, who doesn’t love watching Jason Bourne careen through the streets of Paris to outwit the baddies on his tail? But I like another later scene just as much . . . the one in which he cuts Marie’s hair to disguise her and then she kisses him. And the entire moment feels stolen because they’re on the run.
Danger and emotion. It’s a powerful twin engine that propels a story forward. I try to use it in all of my books.
Danger comes pretty naturally to the Tracers series, which focuses on an elite group of forensic scientists who help detectives solve their toughest cases. The books feature homicide cops, FBI agents and criminal profilers—along with an array of “Tracers,” forensic wizards who work their magic on the evidence to help identify and track down the bad guys. Most of the Tracers books begin, in some form or fashion, with a murder.
The newest book in the series, Exposed, features forensic photographer Maddie Callahan. When a photograph that she took turns out to be crucial evidence in an FBI investigation, Special Agent Brian Beckman meets Maddie and immediately takes an interest. He needs Maddie’s evidence, but he’s also intent on protecting her after he realizes that her life is in jeopardy because of something she saw through her camera lens.
Following a major loss, Maddie has closed herself off to people, especially men. But Brian is determined to get past her defenses and draw her out. Exposed is a mystery on the outside, but the heart of the story is the romance.
My favorite romantic suspense authors make me care about the outcome of the mystery because I care about the characters. Why do I care? Because between all the action moments I’ve had a chance to glimpse their feelings. I’ve become emotionally involved in their fate. Now I’m not just rooting for them because they are the “hero” or “heroine.” I’m rooting for them because they are determined, flawed, hopeful, resilient, vulnerable.
In other words, they’re human, not just superheroes. Characters like that come alive on the page and stay with me long after the story ends.
In my mind, that’s the hallmark of a good book.
Thanks, Laura! Exposed is out now. Will you be reading it?