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The Romantic Suspense Romance Genre

What is the Romantic Suspense Romance Genre?

The Romantic Suspense genre is obviously the combination of two much larger genres – the romance genre and the suspense genre. This genre is equal parts romance and suspense, with equal focus being given to the sinister plot and the developing romance. And, unlike “regular” romance genres, there is always a villain and a timetable to solve the crime that creates a sense of urgency.

This genre usually features confident and independent heroines who are put in dangerous situations. Sometimes they are the victims of a crime (or attempted crime) and sometimes they work in a dangerous line of work, but regardless of the situation they always encounter a macho hero who either works to protect them or help them solve the mystery.

What to Expect in the Romantic Suspense Genre

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  • The heroines tend to be independent; heroes are often saviors/alphas

  • Novels are definitely plot-driven

  • Feature realistic characters in contemporary settings/situations

  • Hero and heroine work together against a common enemy while their relationship is developing

  • Features one or more of the following scenarios: mystery, on-the-run, thriller, mistaken identity, woman-or-child-or-both in danger

Romance Suspence Characteristics

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  • Level of Angst

    On a scale of 1-10, the level of angst in this genre is usually close to 10. There is nothing like the threat of being killed to encourage a character to reach for/find some happiness/satisfaction before they go!

  • Character Development

    In order to have a successful romantic suspense novel it is essential that there be good character development. The hero and heroine need to be smart, capable and likable. The villain needs to be just as smart and with a motive that isn’t just “s/he’s crazy.” In other words, more than with some other romance genres, the characters in this genre need to be well-developed and three-dimensional.

  • Plot Strength

    The plots for these novels are usually pretty intense – the suspense tends to create instant tension which draws in the reader. The romance part of the genre requires effective (and believable) chemistry between the hero and heroine, along with the usual internal conflicts. The characters mostly get to know each other (at least initially) through conversation in this genre, so developing meaningful, insightful dialogue is critical.

  • Romantic Tension

    There is quite a bit of romantic tension in this genre since we are concerned about the wellbeing of the heroine and/or her uncertain future and whether the heroine (and/or hero) will survive whatever threatens them.

  • Level of Eros

    The level of eros is kind of moderate in this genre. The sex can tend toward “hey we survived, isn’t that great” sex, although some of the novels in this genre still have some pretty hot sex scenes once the crisis has been/is on the way to being resolved. The problem is that if the author is doing their job we are drawn into the crisis being experienced by the hero/heroine, and a lot of times that means the last thing on their (our) minds is sex…although when there is down time (waiting for the train to arrive, waiting for the phone call, etc) certainly some writers take advantage of these circumstances to have the characters engage in some pre-sex behaviors/groping/etc as comfort in the face of stress. You know they say that sex is one of the best stress-relievers out there…

  • Prose Quality

    The prose quality for these novels either works or it doesn’t. Essentially the writer needs to create two completely separate stories – the romance and the suspense – and seamlessly merge them. Sometimes the romance writer just adds in a little suspense and the suspense writer just adds in a little romance, but these efforts are not true to the genre, which needs to be equal parts romance and suspense. If you can have one without the other, the writer has failed.
    So, the ability of good writers to fuse these two genres into one usually makes for a really fun and engaging read.

Related Romance Subgenres

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  • The subgenres for this genre include contemporary romance, historical romance, alpha romance (since a lot of the heroes have alpha characteristics) and sometimes paranormal romance.

Romantic Suspense Romance isn't for you if

You don’t like mysteries, you don’t like a flair for the dramatic, and you don’t like the story to be distracted from the main characters.

Romantic Suspense Romance is totally for you if

You enjoy a little mystery and suspense. You enjoy reading about danger/dangerous situations along with sexuality. You are willing to delay gratification of the characters until near the end of the novel

Popular Romantic Suspense Romance Books
  • 1 Northern Lights (2004)


    By Nora Roberts. Is a standout among Roberts’s numerous books in print. It tells the story of a brooding, mysterious hero who becomes the police chief in a town called Lunacy, Alaska. Taking advantage of the novel’s setting, he gets to rescue some stranded climbers, one of whom, of course, has discovered a corpse up on the mountain. Add in his attraction to the daughter of a woman who keeps hitting on him, and you have a classic Roberts tale.

  • 2 Betrayed (2016)


    By Kaylea Cross. Is the story of a female assassin who is focused on revenge after losing everything that once mattered to her. However, once she discovers the man she thought was dead is very much alive, she needs to face the reality that he is back, and he wants answers. But before that can happen, they need to find a way to stay alive!

  • 3 Black Ice (2012)


    By Anne Stuart. Is a story that is a set in Paris and features an American book translator who would give anything to add a little spice to her life. But once she finds that she has been hired by the mob to do some different kinds of translating, she soon comes to know far more than she should and finds herself on the run with the most intriguing man she’s ever met.

  • 4 When You Dare (2010)


    By Lori Foster. Is one of three novellas in the “Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor” series, but this one is by far the best. This story focuses on a professional mercenary who knows better than to get involved with his clients, but when he is asked to help a woman track down the man who kidnapped her, he quickly finds that he might not have any choice!

  • 5 Devoted (2016)


    By Lexi Blake. Tells the story of a woman who fought tooth and nail to rescue the family company from her corrupt father only to face some of his old business rivals who apparently wanted more than just his ouster. When she finds her company the target of a hostile takeover, little does she know that that the engineer of the takeover is also a man she has come to know and trust as her business training partner.

  • 6 First Impressions (2006)


    By Jude Deveraux. Features a woman who moves to a small town in North Carolina after inheriting a home there. Quickly finding herself pursued by two men, she quickly comes to find that one of them is more interested in what is in her house than in her. She soon realizes that she will need to rely on one to save her from the other.

  • 7 Behind the Mask (2015)


    By Carolyn Crane. Is the intense story of a woman who finds out that her prostitute sister was won in a card game by the leader of a brutal drug cartel. When she takes her sister’s place, she comes face to face with the killer she has been hunting for years.

  • 8 Die for Me (2007)


    By Karen Rose. Is the story of a detective and an archaeologist who are called together to work on a murder, and discover that there are more planned. Featuring a more complex (and gruesome) plot than most, this novel does a great job of balancing true suspense with somewhat unlikely romance.

  • 9 Hot and Bothered (2009)


    By Susan Andersen. Tells the story of a woman whose vacation fling resulted in a baby, one which she chose to keep to herself. However, when her father is murdered and her half-brother is unjustly accused, she finds herself needing the help of the detective she thought she’d left in her past.

  • 10 Dangerous (2015)


    By Patricia Rosemoor. Is about a female homicide detective who is doing everything she can to stop a sexual predator from murdering anyone else. Unfortunately, once her off-the-books investigation is discovered, she is suspended and takes matters into her own hands. When that puts her young neighbor in danger, however, she finds that she has no choice but to turn to the one person she swore she would never ask for help.