Thursday, July 8, 2010

When a Romance Is Just a Romance

I recently finished two of Debbie Macomber's novellas bundled together in The Manning Grooms. This was my first time reading Macomber, and her writing, both in style and content, took me back to my teens, when I first started reading romances. It's been a long time since I read a story that was just a romance.

Most of my romance reading these days falls into two categories: action romance and paranormal romance, with the occasional mystery romance thrown in.
In these novels, the romance is often the subplot or secondary plot; at most, it is run in tandem with the rest of the action. If it's a paranormal romance, the world often acts like a character of its own, demanding nearly equal time to that of the main characters.

I like these types of romances a lot. I like the weave of seduction and attraction around other events. I adore paranormal fantasy. It's the best of both worlds. There are even action paranormal romances, which are pretty heady stuff.

But I'd forgotten how sweet a romance story that's just a romance story can be. In these two novellas, the main plot is the characters' growing love and the surmountable obstacles that they face. The secondary plot is the small action in the background (a daughter's ninth-grade dance; the male character's campaign for superior court judge). The stories were written in the early '90s, but they felt more dated, like they'd been written in the early '80s, and I think it was merely because there wasn't a werewolf, murder, or magic-worker in sight, no aliens attacking, bounties to collect, or dragons to fight over treasures.

It was a nice reminder (for a woman plotting a new story and who fears not adding enough action) that a story is more than the plot. It's the characters, it's the development of their relationship. This idea transcends romances and is true for all genres. I'd forgotten that a little. It was nice to be reminded that characters can carry a story just as much as a plot can.

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