Lucky day! Nope it’s not me today on ye old blog today, but a good friend of mine and RWA/NYC chapter mate, Alyssa Cole here to talk about dark themes in romance. I do love it when things get a little dark and can’t wait to read Alyssa’s novel Eagle’s Heart. Take it away Alyssa (oh and don’t forget to comment for your chance to win a copy of Eagle’s Heart.
In general, when we read romance we’re trying to escape from the horrors of reality. We want to retreat to the safety provided by Scottish lairds and billionaire bad boys. But sometimes, we want something a little darker, a little grittier. We want our hero and heroine to really be put through the ringer, to get that vicarious thrill of danger and suspense as they struggle to find love in a hopeless place. (Rihanna knows what I’m talking about. Also, now you have that song stuck in your head. Mwahaha!) We’ll follow them along the tightrope of their story because the safety net of romance’s golden rule is always stretched beneath us: no matter what obstacles get thrown their way, the hero and heroine will make it to the other side, where a happy ending awaits them.
Writing a romance with dark themes is a balancing act for the author, too. My recently released novel, Eagle’s Heart, tackles some tough subjects. Organized crime. Child abuse. Human trafficking. These subjects are integral to the story that needed to be told, but I also didn’t want to overwhelm the reader or plunge them into despair. Romance is supposed to make you feel good! To keep things balanced for the reader, I tried to apply liberal doses of humor.
My heroine, Salomeh, is a high school English teacher who is falsely accused of a heinous crime. But comedy is born from darkness, and she uses her sense of humor to give her situation some levity:
“Marta, they’ve already won.” Salomeh picked up one of the less icky tissues and swiped at her nose. “I may as well be Hester Prynne, but instead of being branded with a scarlet letter, I’m photoshopped into a picture with pedobear.”
Julian, my hero, is a hunky Albanian FBI agent known for his ability to charm information out of people. Julian hides his tragic past behind his carefully constructed persona, using witty rejoinders as his primary means of communication:
“That looked like it went well,” Julian quipped as Yates climbed into the passenger seat of the beige minivan. “Isn’t getting information from the community supposed to be part of your skill set?”
“She only called me loathsome, so I’d say that it went better than usual,” she said. “And before you start critiquing me, you should remember that shooting people in the face is also part of my skill set.”
“If you shoot as well as you talk to strangers, I think I’m safe,” he said as he pulled off, navigating the car around a group of kids on bikes.
By giving my characters a sense of humor about the darker aspects of life, I hoped to make some of the more bitter aspects of the story easier to swallow for the reader.
What do you think of romance novels with dark themes? Have you read any that you really enjoyed, or any that were just too much for you? Comment below to win a free copy of the book!
Alyssa Cole is a Brooklyn-based science editor, pop culture nerd, and romance junkie. In addition to writing, she hosts a Romance Book Club and teaches romance writing at the Jefferson Market Library in NYC. When she’s not busy traveling, learning French, and, of course, writing, she can be found curled up in bed with her favorite books, Skyping with her fiancé, and watching cat videos on the Internet.
You can get Eagle’s Heart on Amazon here
And at Loose Id here
Thanks for being with us today Alyssa!
All the best,