Posts Tagged ‘romance


The Age of Romance

Historical romance heroines have a tendency to be much younger than their contemporary counterparts. Blame it on fact (women used to get married much earlier) or fiction (it’s hard to keep a historical heroine the requisite un-self-aware virgin once she’s reached her mid-thirties), but the reality is staring us right in the face.

Regency Heroine, aged 19:

“Look at me! I’m young and headstrong and deeply in love with a hardened rake ten years my senior! Watch as I lure him with my precocity and innocence, redeeming him from his womanizing ways with the solace of my perfectly rounded and pert bosom!”*

Contemporary Heroine, aged 19:

“I am a mere foil for my older self. At 19, I made incalculable errors with the love of my life and we parted ways. Only 10 years from now, when I’m older, wiser, more experienced, and have a career of my own, will I be able to reconnect with my one true love for our happily ever after.”

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions to these rules. Some great historicals deal with women who have moved beyond their schoolroom miss days by at least a good decade, and most of contemporary urban fantasies and paranormals I’ve read have heroines in their young- to mid-twenties (it’s the ideal butt-kicking age, I imagine). But the overarching framework states that authors are allowed to have young heroines ONLY as long as it’s at least 100 years ago. A young heroine today would become part of a Young Adult novel, with sex scenes cut back appropriately.

Here’s my problem with this: I met my husband when we were both 17. We started dating at 19. We married at 21. Eight years later, we’re still very much happy and in love and planning to continue that way. By virtue of romance novel “rules,” however, such a story would most likely never hit the shelves.

  • Because it’s far too rare? Nope. My brother and several of my friends married equally young.

  • Because our story isn’t compelling? Well, yes, it’s not really all that exciting. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t embellish and plot and make it into romance novel fodder.

  • Because we were emotionally unprepared for marriage at that age? Possibly. But we’ve worked through such shortcomings as a couple since then.

I don’t really have a grandiose closing statement bringing down the romance industry for it’s strict view of age or making a plea for more 19-year-old contemporary heroines. In fact, I probably wouldn’t read a straight contemporary with a heroine that young, and contrary to my own story, I think marriage is an undertaking best saved for at least the mid-twenties.

I just think that although we often address the romance double standard of men being allowed to be sexually promiscuous while women must remain untouched, we rarely consider that discounting young, contemporary love is equally limiting.

*I write and adore Regencies, so I mock with love. Always love.


Sandra Sookoo Paranormal Romance Author

Romantic Journey welcomes paranormal romance author Sandra Sookoo! Multi-published, Sandra’s take on paranormal is a fresh break from the usual darkness. Here’s your chance to get to know her and check out her stories.

1. How did you first get published?

It was during a period of time when rejections were plentiful from both publishers and agents alike. I had convinced myself that being an author was an insane dream but I still had submissions out there. Simultaneously during Thanksgiving week last year, I was offered a contract for two short stories. Things pretty much took off from there and I haven’t stopped since. I can’t wait to see where 2010 takes me.

2. Do you have another job – what is it?

I do not have a job. I was laid off from the real estate industry and decided that since we could handle life (barely) on hubby’s paycheck, I’d work on my writing full time. In 2010, I might need to go back to work at least part time, but we’ll see. Until then, I’m learning everything I can about writing and how to make my work better. I wouldn’t change a thing about the past few years. One step closer to the dream.

3. Who’s your fantasy man? If it’s not a particular person, then what blend of qualities do you appreciate?

Hmm, that’s a tough question. I don’t that there’s one specific person, but I like these qualities in a guy: honesty, humor, loyalty, the ability to take care of his woman and lay down the law occasionally even if he knows his woman’s really the one in charge 😉

4. Are you a chest or buns woman?

Totally the chest, especially with a bit of a furry mat. It’s pretty darned sexy.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what two things would you need with you?

A big pile of money and some sort of device that will connect me to the nearest passing ship to get me the heck home (which is where the money comes in to secure the pick up)! I’m not a nature girl and being stranded is way worse than camping.

6. Did you have a certain song or inspiration that prompted this book?

Yup. A good friend suggested I write a story about a firefighter, but what really sent it over the top was Elvis’s song “Burning Love”, the version sung by Wynona. That’s when I decided to put a paranormal twist in the story. I hope it was a good gamble.

Safe from the Flames by Sandra SookooBlurb: Darren Kaestle wants nothing more than to do his job. Putting out fires and keeping the community safe is his idea of a good time until he finds an unconscious woman in an abandoned house fire. Only then does he get a glimpse of her paranormal abilities.

Hadyn Bernson has harbored anger and fear deep inside herself until it manifests in a rare phenomena. She can burst into flames whenever her emotions get out of control, and they threaten to do just that when she opens her eyes and finds a sexy firefighter staring back.

Together, these two people from opposite ends of the spectrum must find a way to settle their differences and quench the flames inside before the real terror of a dangerous blaze ends one, or both, of their lives.


“Ma’am, can you hear me?” Unwinding a green scarf from her head, masses of wavy red hair tumbled into his gloved hands. “Ma’am, are you hurt?” He yanked off his helmet, throwing it to the ground and did the same with the heavy gloves. He brushed his fingers over her cheeks, which were cool to the touch, and streaked with soot. “Talk to me.” Darren leaned closer and put an ear to her chest. Her heartbeat was strong and steady. Nothing like he would have expected from a woman who’d just been through a traumatic fire. He lifted his head, scanned the area for the EMTs “Medic!”

Relief surged through him as effective as a rush of air conditioning when she stirred. He always hated losing at the rescue game. Nothing crushed his spirit more than reaching a body and realizing they were dead upon arrival. When her gaze met his, it pinned him in depths so blue he could almost feel their coolness.

Time slowed down for him in that one moment, and it seemed that destiny barreled into him with the force of a Mack truck. He felt as if his entire life had been training for this moment, but he couldn’t explain why.

He shot to his feet when a couple EMTs arrived, jostling for position around the woman.

“Move Kaestle. We need to work.”

“She’s fine, no smoke inhalation, and no burns, just exhausted. Better keep an eye on her just in case.”

“Yeah, we got it. You did your job now let us do ours.”


As he gazed down at her face, saw the splash of freckles over her cheeks and nose, he made a spur of the moment decision. Like the gut instincts that had saved his life countless times during countless jobs, that same unexplainable feeling told him this woman needed his help. He didn’t understand it, but there was no way in hell he would ignore it either.

Kneeling down, regardless of the annoyed looks from the medical personnel, he smoothed the sweaty hair back from her forehead. “What’s your name?” The pale flesh of her exposed midriff as her tank top rode up drew his gaze. He quelled the urge to touch her with less than professional attachment. Not appropriate, Kaestle. “Any identification?”

One of the EMT workers shook his head. “Nope.”

Darren frowned as his gaze raked the legs of her snug jeans. “What’s your name?” This time, his request was more forceful.

“Hadyn Bernson”

“Hi, Hadyn. I’m Darren. You’re gonna be just fine.”

Her fingers gripped his arm so hard he could feel them dig into his skin through the heaviness of his coat. “Please don’t take me to the hospital. They won’t understand what I am.” Her lips twitched as if she intended to smile, but then her eyelids fluttered closed and she fainted with a tiny sigh.

The first emergency worker detached her fingers from his arm. “Sorry, sir, we have to get her to the hospital now.”

“Sure. Sorry.” Darren stepped out of the way as the EMTs lifted her body onto a stretcher. “Which one? Which hospital?” Once he had the vital information, he nodded and promised himself he would drop by for a visit. He wanted to know why she was so adamant that she not end up under professional care.

Visit Sandra Sookoo on the Internet:


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The Strong Silent Type

In the movies, one of the most popular heroes is the strong, silent type. Think Jeremiah Johnson, or many of Clint Eastwood’s western characters. In a movie that can be very effective.

But in romance writing, it can kill your story. The only way we have to know your hero is through internal narrative. Too much internal narrative drags down the pace. Or worse, readers skip the large paragraphs and get to the dialogue. How much of their story did they miss?

You can show his reluctance to speak. Give him short, curt sentences. Use body language in briefs sections. This type of word usage will get the point across that he’s not a yacker. And it will keep the reader interested.

What is your favorite type of hero? The guy who spills his guts easily, pours on the compliments? Or, the one who says little, but when he speaks, he packs a punch?


Plotting Can Be Your Friend

Plotter or Pantser? New writers hear this question often. A plotter diagrams where the story is headed before she gets started, so when she finishes a scene, she knows right where to start the next one. A pantser sits back and watches where the story takes her.

But it’s not as simple as that. Plotters are letting the story and characters take them on the same road, they’re just using a map to find the most direct route. Think about it: You’re driving from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale. Do you plan your trip, decide what cities you’ll need to fuel in and what hotels you’ll sleep in, or do you head east on the I-10 and take a guess at every junction which will get you there faster?

If you have plenty of time it might be interesting to be a pantser, as long as you pay attention to those signs saying “Next Gas 80 Miles”. If you get off-track you can always find your way back. You’ll get there eventually. But the quickest way, assuming you pay attention to the road signs, is to have a plan.

With plotting, you start with the conflict. What goals to the hero and heroine have and how do those goals clash? Yes, they can have the same goal and have all their battles be against an enemy, but what about character growth? What will they learn while working side-by-side to make them worthy of winning love?

Plotting works hand in hand with conflict. If you start with the question, “What does he want and what keeps him from getting what he wants?”, the plot is what’s keeping him from reaching his goal. Most scenes need conflict. If it doesn’t have conflict, it needs to be adding character development or a similar element to the story. Don’t let a scene pass where nothing happens, then you have no plot.

For each scene, answer your question of what stands in his way. You can be as detailed as you like. A pantser might just want to use a single sentence, allowing the scene to develop as you write. A plotter can give an entire overview of the scene.

While looking at the scenes, watch for your turning points:
Point One – life as the hero knows it changes, he has a goal. Usually about 10% into the story.
Point Two – change of plans. Either he realizes his plan isn’t working, or the heroine has set up a new road block. 25% of the story.
Point Three – the point of no return. He’s gotten himself in deeply enough he knows he can’t walk away. 50% point of the story.
Point Four – major setback. It’s really beginning to look like he can’t reach his goal. 75% of the story.
Point Five – climax. The turning points have been building in strength, the boulders in the road getting bigger. This is the spot where he has to bring out the dynamite, put his life on the line, prove to the heroine that she can’t live without him. 90 – 95% of the story.

As a pantser, you might just list those points and let the story take you there. I prefer to at least make note of the scenes in between, the conflict in between, to keep my fingers moving on the keyboard.

Even after you’ve sketched your plot, you might find new ideas flowing when you see where the characters take you. But you know the next spot you need to read on your map so you can easily find an alternate route to get there.


Conflict – It’s a Good Thing

I admit it, I am a very non-confrontational person. If I can get away with letting something slide, I will. In real life, it generally means I’m easy to get along with, a good thing. When it comes to your characters and plot, this is a very bad thing.

Think about it. Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. The end. Where’s the story? They didn’t earn a happily ever after. He didn’t slay dragons to save his lady fair. She didn’t have to give up her long-standing mani-pedi appointment to have lunch with him before he leaves the country for six months. Do we really care that they got together? We probably didn’t stick around long enough to find out.

But try this: Boy meets girl. Boy’s company wants to buy the house her grandmother was born in so he can tear it down and put up a super-mall. Boy forgets to tell girl he owns the company she’s now fighting in court. Boy seduces girl with his sweet-talking ways, the same ways that built his enterprise of super-malls. Girl sleeps with boy, offers her heart, goes to mediator the next morning and finds boy sitting on the other side of the table ready to take away the home she wanted to turn into a recovery facility for returning soldiers suffering PTSD.

Are you going to turn the page to watch the sparks fly? Sure, you know it’s a romance, so they’ll end up happily ever after. But aren’t you salivating at the thought of fireworks, name-calling, uncontrolled passionate kisses against their better judgment? I know I want to finish plotting the darned thing to see how they work this one out.

Girl has a goal that means the world to her. Boy stands firmly planted in her only known path to the goal. Boy stands to lose business/income/status if he lets girl win, and maybe Daddy will take away his key to the board members gym.

That’s conflict. You know you can’t let the hero win, everyone will be rooting for those soldiers. Now you need to find the twist, the ending that we’re totally not expecting. A resolution that makes the reader want to hug the book and clear a spot on her keeper shelf. But don’t let us know until we’ve given up hope that girl will get to save those war heroes. Keep them fighting, keep her losing until we can’t see how on earth you’re going to fix it for us.

When you let us see the magnificent solution we never would have thought of, yet seems so obvious we’ve decided you’re a genius, then you know your story is done. You’ve kept us hooked, kept us up until two a.m., made us find the charger for our ereaders because the battery is dying. Then you know that as soon as we read, THE END, we’re connecting to the internet to buy everything else you’ve ever written because we now trust you with our hearts.

Many happy sales!


April 2020

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