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Guest blogger: Leah Ashton

24 March 2019

Why read romantic suspense?

After writing nine sweet contemporary romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon, I’ve now decided to focus on writing sexy romantic suspense instead—so, quite a change!

But the thing is, maybe it isn’t. I know I’m not alone in reading across many romance genres—my favourite is romantic suspense, followed closely by historical romance, and then (a little further behind) by contemporary romance. And when I think about it, what I love about all these books isn’t really the plot—it’s the romance.

The plot is of course important, but for me as a reader it exists only to heighten the romance—to be the reason to throw the characters together, to raise the stakes and to create all that crackling, electric tension that keeps me turning the pages.

Writing this blog made me think about what it is about suspense, or historical romance that makes me love these books so much, given I’ve just said I don’t really care about extraneous plot details! And I’ve realised it’s the potential these books have to make the romance as impossible as possible. Whether it’s a serving girl and a Duke (see Tessa Dare’s Any Duchess Will Do) or running for your lives in the Amazon rainforest (see Linda Howard’s Heart of Fire)—these books tell stories of love developing despite incredible obstacles—and then when they finally work together to reach their happy ever after … *happy sigh*. That’s what I read romance for!

This isn’t to say that contemporary romances can’t do this too—they can! And I certainly did my best to create believable, meaningful obstacles to love in all my sweet romances. And actually, those obstacles still exist in my romantic suspense novels. In my new release, Undaunted, Nate broke Luella’s heart a decade prior to the beginning of the book. His reasons for that, and also Lou’s (very understandable!) reasons for being reluctant to trust him again, must be overcome in addition to saving everyone trapped on a train with a gunman, and being stalked by vengeful bikies! Lou and Nate’s backstory could appear in a contemporary romance, or even a historical romance, and so the core of Undaunted—their romance—is actually not that different to my sweet contemporary romances (except a lot hotter!).

So now I’ve come back to the beginning of this blog, and can say that for me writing romantic suspense is not that different to writing contemporary romance. The emotional obstacles are still there, just you have car chases and explosions to ramp things up a bit (which I love!). But there must be more to why I love romantic suspense so much—even above and beyond historical romance.

And I thought about that for quite a bit, especially given some of the horrible events in the world recently. I hate violent and scary movies, so it probably seems especially strange that I read romantic suspense. There is a quote from Fred Rodgers that is often mentioned after unimaginable tragedy— ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ And that’s who my books are about—the people who are helpers, who save people, who get the bad guys, who believe in what is right and fair. My books are romance novels, and they are a fantasy—so in my books (and in every romantic suspense I’ve ever read) the good guys always win.

People who don’t understand the romance genre will never understand why these stories are important, but I know that in a complex world, I need to believe in love, and I need to believe in its power to lead to good always (eventually) triumphing over evil.

That’s why I read romantic suspense—and now, why I write it.

You can find Leah here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Why do you read romantic suspense? All ARRA members who leave a comment below will go in the draw to win an ecopy of Undaunted. The giveaway will close on 7 April. (The giveaway is now closed. The winner was Deb.)


A gunman. Five hostages. And her ex. Trapped. On a train.

A disgraced police constable

Luella Brayshaw is a great cop. Until she isn’t.

Dumped on desk duties and stripped of her firearm, Lou’s first task is a civilian role in a covert training exercise for WASP. But when that exercise goes horribly wrong, she’s stuck on a train to Fremantle with five terrified hostages – and the man who broke her heart more than a decade ago.

An elite tactical operator

Nate Rivers has dedicated his life to his career. That meant making tough choices – including walking away from Lou. But he’s never doubted that decision… until now.

Twelve years on, Nate is shocked to discover the connection between him and Lou is as electric as ever. But first – they need to get off this train.

A desire they never forgot

The gunman has no idea he has two cops on his train – but unarmed, can Nate and Lou keep everyone alive all the way to Fremantle?

And if they do, Lou knows she can’t make the mistake of trusting Nate with her heart again. But faced with a new threat, they must work together to survive as their passion ignites – and this time, there’s no way Nate is walking away.

Available from: Amazon | Booktopia

  1. 7 April 2019 5:03 pm

    I came to romantic suspense from crime novels and I always preferred those that had a romantic relationship in them, so RS turned out to be a perfect fit.

  2. 24 March 2019 7:52 pm

    Looking forward to this one Leah! AND that quote, about the helpers, is one I use so very often, and so love how you’ve explained this genre!

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