While I was at the beach for a few days some time ago, I craved — what else? — some beach reading! My ever-resourceful sister Steph came to the rescue with a novel by Nora Roberts. Nora’s a phenom — a bestselling romance writer who’s penned a hundred tales or so of longing and lust over the past 20 years. She’s also an incredibly disciplined writer, and while she’s no Shakespeare, she definitely knows how to spin a yarn.
I’ve read a couple of her books now, and I can say with some confidence, that she’s a master of the romance genre. Does she write dangerously? Perhaps. She’s broken out of the romance mold and written a detective series, so she’s definitely pushed past her comfort zone and managed to write successfully in two genres, which is no easy feat.
But back to the romances. What is it about them that makes them compulsive reading? How does she take the same basic formula and infuse it with freshness in each story she writes. And how does she create page-turning excitement?
I’m not sure I have the answers to these questions, but here’s what I do know: She always picks appealing settings — the seaside, beautiful homes, unusual estates — lush worlds that the characters create for themselves. Her women are always independent and pursuing off-the-beaten track careers: racehorse trainers herbalists, wedding planners, and so on. They are also strong but fragile, and always on the lookout for love. Their love interests always appear early in the story and bring a raft of complications along with rapture. Nora’s heroine’s always seem to be surrounded by funny, loyal friends who know their foibles and love them anyway.
Appealing characters and settings, witty friends, tricky obstacles — it’s a combination that seems to work over and over and over. Something to ponder as we write on!