Some of the most memorable couples in books all have something in common – a hefty dose of passion along with a good amount of trials. And I think that combination is what makes the difference between a good read and a really great one. Think about it. If a couple has an easy time of it – either in coming together or staying together – then what’s the hook in the story?
And every couple, like every story, has to have its conflict. I’m not talking arguments (though those can add to the fireworks, too), but outside and internal influences that pull at the guy and the girl. What’s really difficult for a writer is finding new ways to play up old themes to grab a reader’s attention. If you throw divorce at me, I’ll immediately think of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Give me misunderstood intentions and I’ll talk up Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. Ask me about star-crossed, “can’t be any more in denial than they already are” lovers and I’ll bring up JR Ward’s Qhuinn and Blay.
These stories, and the stories about characters I truly come to care about, are messy. They may have a happy ending (or not). They will have a certain degree of angst. The stars will not always align, and if they do it will only happen after some, or a lot of, challenge. Some of it may be in good fun. Some of it will be bittersweet. And some of it will make you downright squirm in your chair.
Oh, I know all about the HEAs. But I prefer a read that takes what we experience and feel in life and throws twists into it. Something that feels real but that ramps up tension. That makes it into something more.
Yeah. That’s what gets me all jazzed about a book that I’d ultimately label as a great read.
In honor of couples and challenge, I’m going to share a short scene from my latest paranormal romantic suspense, Covet, right after protagonist David finds a photo of the love of his life kissing another man. A tease that shows how just when a character thinks his (or her) life is pretty good, things are about to change. Forever.
A rustling magazine woke me up.
I felt like I’d run a full marathon and blamed jet lag and too many nights with too little sleep in Turkey for my exhaustion—though Lottie had done a solid job of finishing me off last night. If I could have spent another day doing nothing but sleeping I’d have done it, but the magazine rustled again and curiosity got the better of me. I rolled over, grunting through sore muscles and a foggy brain, and found Lottie propped up against a pillow, reading. Her hair hung loose, making her look like a raven-haired Rapunzel. Her black eyes were narrowed and focused, and her mouth moved every now and then when she read. I remembered the things that mouth did last night, felt all my blood rush south, then remembered the image of that mouth planted on another man.
“Something on your mind?” Lottie asked.
My gaze slid up, met hers, and held.
“You let out a really loud sigh,” she said in answer to my unasked question. After placing the magazine on the nightstand, she focused on me. “Sleep well?”
She ran fingers through my hair and studied me like she was looking for something deeper. Then she frowned and sank into her pillow so we were at eye level. “What’s wrong, David? Your mom was right last night. Something’s on your mind. I can tell.”
I didn’t want to spoil the morning after even though I’d already done enough damage. If I had my head on straight, I’d have hit Lottie up about the photo last night and not tumbled into bed with her. But I had my priorities at the time.
Lottie rolled on top and straddled me, misinterpreting my meaning. “I like later,” she said, pressing her warm lips against mine. A warm, woodsy scent that was distinctively hers and that always made me weak in the knees fired up my blood. “What do you want to do for our first day of vacation? Throw on some sweatshirts and go for a walk on the beach?” Her mouth worked over my chest. “Head up to that bed and breakfast we found in Massachusetts?” Her tongue made its way past my stomach and kept going. “Stay right where we are and see where this bed takes us?” She pushed the sheet from my thighs and moved in on her goal.
I grabbed her by the arm and stopped her.
Her head came up. “What’s wrong?”
The damned photo.
This is what happens when you let yourself slide into denial. You always pay the price for it later.
Terri Herman–Poncé is the author of Covet and In This Life, and looks for any opportunity to make stuff up. She thinks anything that can’t so easily be explained is worth an extra look and often makes a great story. In love with red wine, sunrises, Ancient Egypt, and the New York Yankees, Terri is the youngest of five children and lives with her husband and son on Long Island. In her next life, if she hasn’t moved on to somewhere else, she wants to be an astronomer. Terri’s fascinated with the night skies almost as much as she’s fascinated with Ancient Egypt.
Terri is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America. You can read about Terri and her stories at http://terriponce.com/ and can find her on Twitter and Facebook.
GIVEAWAY: Terri is graciously giving away 2 e-copies of COVET to winners here! Simply comment to enter. Giveaway is open until 4-19-13 at 11:59pm EST and winners will be announced shortly after. Good luck!