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Pleasurable Plots

A writing professor once told me there are only two plotlines: “The Quest” and “A Stranger Comes To Town.” Since I consider the latter to be the reversal of the former, in my highly erudite and intellectual opinion there is, in fact, only one plot.

Given that, I don’t get real worked up when naysayers claim that romance novels are predictable. So what? I can predict that the key parties will find lasting love with one another. This brings me pleasure (Unlike stories about dogs or movies starring Sean Penn, which, I can predict, will always end badly.)

But the quest for love, and the consequences of the hottie coming to town, are always unique journeys, no matter how often I read them. During the holidays, especially, I snuggle in for certain habitual reading rituals and stories which bring me pleasure…

Holiday novels and movies. From Toni Blake’s new classic Holly Lane to the eternal heartthrob that is the “Buffalo Gals” scene of It’s a Wonderful Life, I love reading and watching stories that feed my sense that in the darkest time of the year, people seek and share love.

“Snowed in” stories. I love, love, love stories about couples stuck in close quarters during blizzards. Not only do they learn to rely on each other, but the lovemaking is as hot as the fire burning in the fireplace. Maybe they have to towel each other off and share body heat to stay alive. Maybe the warm whiskey loosens their inhibitions. Maybe they bicker, fight and then make up…excuse me, I need a moment to mop my brow.

These books are often a subset of one of my favorite storylines, the “too much too soon” tale in which strangers or long-lost lovers come together irrationally fast and must learn to develop an out-from-under-the-sheets rapport.

And, of course, you can always hand me a good “secret baby” plot (though I prefer the kid not grow up entirely with a single parent. So “secret pregnancy” works even better.) Once again, “real life” intrudes on the private romance, and the characters must learn to manage and meld both of these.

For me, true love does not and cannot exist in a vacuum. Sooner or later, the snow must melt and the couple must come out of the cabin. Momma Keri needs to see that these two crazy kids can hack it in the dark cold world. I need to believe that when the world throws rocks at my lovers, they’ll shield each other even after the last page closes.

What about you? What stories do you go to ritually, to snuggle up with in the dark of winter? Do you want novelty? Heartwrenching tragedy? The Bobbsey Twins? What?

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24 Responses

  1. Breaking news! Tell Harlequin just sent me TWO copies of Rae Ann Thayne’s A COLD CREEK SECRET which has (are you ready for it?) a BLIZZARD AND A BABY! And I’m giving them away to two of you. And if that ain’t hot enough for you, I ALSO am giving away a copy of Toni Alexander’s WHAT SHE NEEDS. So…be one of the three randomly-chosen-but-not-random commenters and win you a book!

  2. I, too, love the “snowed in” scenario, as well as the “stranger come to town.” You know, it really irks me when people look down upon romance, almost as if it’s not real writing, or something. Shame on them! A story with a satisfying, happy ending? The best! And Toni embodies this concept beautifully, with superb writing and comforting plots and characters. 🙂

    <—Just noticed Liz Talley's book on the right there! She's the president of our local RWA chapter, and we're so very proud of her. WTG, Liz! ❤

  3. Oh, and Keri Ford, too! Another fellow NOLA Star. I feel like I totally know celebrities, yo. *big smile*

  4. Have you ever noticed, especially when the “snowed in” story neccesitates the sharing of naked body heat, that the complete stranger she’s snowed in/stranded with is always smoking hot? Call me cynical, but I bet if I got stranded, it would be with a skeevy old woman with a mustache.
    Which is why I try not to leave the house when there is any threat of winter weather.

  5. I love the secret baby story ( *cough* Texas Two Step *cough*)

    And you’re right. OF COURSE we know the H/H will find everlasting love in the end. It’s the trip I enjoy.

    I also ADORE reunion stories…old loves who get a second chance to get it right.

    The “bad boy” comes home is another great trope.

    Fun topic, Keri.

    • What was that book again, Ms. D’Alba? TEXAS TWO STEP? Did you say TEXAS TWO STEP?

      ROFL – It’s like music. We like songs with verses and repeated choruses. Even with a familiar pattern, you can always find infinite variety in love stories! (Like, um, TEXAS TWO STEP!!!!!!!)

  6. If I’m going to be snowed in somewhere, there has better be a working hot tub or sauna, that’s all I’m saying. Considering how cold my feet get on a cold winter’s night in the part of California that gets no snow, I imagine that the poor hero flinching hard enough to put out his back when the heroine tries to warm up her toes on his thigh or somewhere.

    In any case, the HEA ending is precisely why I read romances. Of course, I also make sure I know the endings of movies BEFORE I see them and I have read the last few pages of a book FIRST. I don’t want to leave the theater or finish a book with a WTH or a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve been known to hold a grudge against a movie or a book for YEARS when they have disappointed me. Maybe that’s why I stick to kids films (like Pixar’s films).

    • Sheree, I was once in a hot tub in the Colorado mountains during the snow, with a glass of wine. It ranks as one of the perfect moments.

      I just read a book with a sad ending. I should have known from the author’s background (literary–so the Hero’s Journey is NEVER completed) that I was going to get that, but I foolishly hoped all the way to the end.

      The problem with a Kindle is you can’t throw it against a wall.

    • I’m with you on unsatisfying endings, Infinitieh. I have one, uh, two words: Nicholas Sparks. No, I’m not bitter about the hours I wasted, er, spent reading DEAR JOHN. Not at all.

      I don’t know why the “predictable” happy ever after bothers people so much. Would they enjoy a mystery where the detective didn’t solve the crime, or a thriller where the hero didn’t stop the terrorists? I doubt it. Those books aren’t any more predictable than a romance.

      Keri: I love when one of the MCs is undercover or otherwise hiding their true identity when they meet. I also like reunion stories and anything where they’re trapped together (hmm, might be why I like RS so much).

      • That’s why I won’t read Sparks. But my husband, who’s a flipper TV watcher, was watching Dear John one day. I told him it doesn’t have a happy ending, so he didn’t watch the rest. Then another day he was flipping and hit the movie in the last 20 minutes he’d missed, and he was mad at me! He said it had a happy ending! I told him they must have changed it for the movie. LOL

        But you said something that triggered an AH HA. You know what? A story where one of the main characters dies and there’s no happy ending? That can be just as formulaic and predictable as popular fiction is accused of being, especially if that’s all the author ever does.

        • I railed at a bookstore employee once, telling him that no way did Nicholas Sparks’ books belong in Romance since a book in which one of the leads DIED was not a romance! I think it was more info than he needed.

  7. I love friends-to-lovers like *cough apple trail books Through The Wall, On The Fence & Making Her Nights cough* # they’re already making it as friends, so I can see them really making it down the long road.

    #nod to cyndi for the good idea. 😀

  8. I’m a sucker for a bossy boss and his secretary, and the friends to lovers tropes. Love them.

  9. I’m contradictory. I got sooooo tired of secret baby plots years ago, because they all (the ones I read, anyway) followed the same pattern. But it’s been a long time so I know I’ll love Cyndi’s Texas Two-Step. 😉 Anyway, I also shrug at reunion stories, because there seem to be way more of them than would really exist.

    Which is a stupid way to look at it, because my favorite is friends-to-lovers, and that’s just as common as reunion stories! I really like forbidden love, too. I wrote a short story called Letting Go, where the heroine got snowed in over Thanksgiving with her son’s college roommate. It’s a struggle to find a happy ending in a situation that could be a big turn-off! 🙂

  10. Congratulations, winners: Voirey Linger, Teri Anne Stanley and Alyssia Kirkhart. Please email your shipping addy to keri at keristevens.com so I may send you your books!

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