Everlasting true love is great and all, but the mere existence of it isn’t enough. You need a regular dose of romance to give you that gooey, melted feeling on the inside. And that feeling is what reminds you just how crazy in love you are. Readers who may not be able to work romance into their own busy schedules depend on getting it from romance novels. That’s right – we aren’t just writing boy meets girl love stories. There’s got to be heart-stopping, knee-weakening romance.
The thing to remember is that, although lovely, romance isn’t limited to champagne and roses (although far be it for me to ever turn them down!). One dictionary defines romance as “to try to influence or curry favor with especially by lavishing personal attention, gifts or flattery”. It can be easy to throw down a credit card and go the gift route (see the aforementioned champagne and roses). But as romance authors, we need to dig deeper. Our hero/heroine should ooze romance from their pores, and that means hitting all three areas, not just the old standby of gifts.
Let’s turn to flattery. This can be tricky, because flattery can often lean towards cheesy. Here is a quote from my first book, Carolina Heat:
Mark covered her hand with his. “I don’t believe I’ve taken the opportunity to tell you how beautiful you look tonight. Your hair is like a molten sunset spreading across your shoulders.”
Annabelle’s vision blanked, then hazed over with indignation. “I’m going to come right out and tell you there is absolutely no chance I’ll sleep with you tonight.”
Sure, she overreacted a tad, but his line – so obviously a line – verged on the ridiculously smarmy (I promise I did that on purpose). And timing is everything. They were on their first date, which was far too early to say something so over the top romantic. Sadly, this kind of hyperbole isn’t limited to the overactive imagination of romance writers. Years ago my best friend went to a concert in the park and hit it off with the man next to her. They went to a late dinner, and he proclaimed on the way to the car, “This is the night dreams are made of!” True story – I promise. Needless to say, she decided he was a nutcase and promptly got rid of him.
In my recent release Cruising Toward Love, a photographer suffering from PTSD feels broken. Sincere flattery from a beautiful woman starts to put him back together.
“You’ve really jumped right back on the horse, haven’t you? Don’t blush or anything, but you’re one of the bravest people I know.”
Yeah, and the moon was made of green cheese. Because what she’d said was equally ridiculous. “A brave man would head back to Iraq. Hook up with another platoon and cover the soldiers who aren’t given a choice about returning. About facing danger head-on every single day.”
She shook her head hard enough to spill silky hair across her cheeks like a veil of liquid gold. “Reed, you don’t have to single-handedly take on a pack of fire-breathing dragons to be a hero. Life and death situations aren’t the only ones that require courage. Facing every day head-on takes a lot. It boggles my mind to imagine how hard it must’ve been just to get out of bed each morning and face your fears. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, you discovered the only way to pursue your dream is to abandon part of it. And yet you adapted, forced yourself to find a way to still find joy in expressing yourself through your art.” Callie’s voice caught halfway to a sob, held back by her radiant smile. “Makes you every bit the hero in my book.”
For months he’d seen himself as damaged, useless. The doctors tried to tell him depression was an expected symptom, but he didn’t feel depressed. He felt like a windshield the moment after it’s hit by a rock—covered with a web of hairline cracks, on the verge of splintering apart. Waiting for the next tiny thing that might shatter him irreparably. In the space of a few heartbeats, Callie’s words glued him back together from the inside out.
Now that’s sincere flattery! As for gifts, they don’t always have to be tangible. Think beyond bracelets or candles. As an author, you can inspire your readers to dig deep and give thoughtful, romantic gifts. The main characters in Cruising Toward Love used to be high school sweethearts, but he left her on prom night. Ten years later in the middle of the ocean, Nate attempts to recreate that lost experience for Zoe.
Nate smiled, held her eyes until they softened into pools of liquid chocolate. “I can be chock full of charm—for the right reason. Giving you the magical night you deserve is a pretty big motivator.” Taking her hand, he drew her across the room to the marble topped bar. With swift, sure motions he uncorked a bottle of pale pink champagne and served them. “Do you remember the theme of our prom?”
It didn’t even take her a second to come up with the answer. “A Night to Remember.”
He guided her onto a stool and handed over a crystal flute. “Yes. And it was going to be. I bought you a corsage of peach roses.”
Her eyes widened. Recognition flashed across her face. “This room is full of peach roses.
Lavishing personal attention is easy in a romance. The characters want to be together, and we want to see that happen. But make the reason they are together more meaningful. In Act Like We’re In Love, perennially uptight Wes is encouraged by live-for-the-moment Ingrid to relax.
But tonight, as he thought about losing the only job he’d ever had, it was different. As though sharing his troubles with Ingrid had helped build a guardrail. Although still way too close to the edge for comfort, at least now something stood between him and the darkness.
Ingrid link hands with him and gave a mighty yank, which almost landed them flat on the grass. “Come on. Nothing looks quite so bad with a hamburger from Joe’s Garage in you.”
“That’s it? Dr. Dahlberg is out of session?”
“Cutie, I’m not really a shrink, not with these legs. It’d be a waste of God’s gifts. You got a few things off your chest, and now we move on to the fun portion of the evening. Consider it my prescription. Take one hamburger, a plate of fries, strawberry shortcake for dessert, followed by a full dose of my legendary smooches.”
Romance makes love fun. Romance keeps love fresh. It’s the fizz that elevates white wine to champagne, and turns a hum-drum love story into a sweeping epic. So don’t just write a romance novel – infuse your love story with romance!
For more information on all my books, please visit www.christibarth.com or http://christibarth.blogspot.com