Genre-blending-- bringing together the elements of two categories of fiction-- is becoming more and more popular these days. Romance + fantasy, romance + mystery, romance + horror, romance + westerns, romance + post-apocalyptic science fiction... I've even seen romance + cookbooks. And of course, there's no reason for authors to limit themselves to only two genres; take a powerful female mage, a handsome elven police detective, and throw in a magical murder, and you've got romance + fantasy + mystery.
I plan to talk about several of the more popular types of genre-blended romance over the next few months, but right now I'll start with the most time-honored: romantic suspense.
Blending romance and suspense takes no great leap of the imagination. Suspense fiction's defining elements are tension, uncertainty, danger, and terror. In frightening, high-stress situations, it's natural for two people to seek comfort and reassurance from one another, to reaffirm life in the face of death. (And hey, if you're looking for a great stress-reliever....) Consider how often couples go to see thriller movies together, for the opportunity to cuddle during the scary bits. And if you think about it, fear and arousal can feel awfully similar-- is her heart beating fast because they're hiding from the killer, or because the hot cop protecting her has his arm wrapped around her waist?
If you're fond of alpha males, romantic suspense is a rich hunting ground, providing the opportunity for the hero to show his strong, protective side in the face of danger. If you like a strong female lead, romantic suspense can offer that too. These days, the heroine is just as likely to be a fierce protector herself-- an FBI agent or a tough police detective who pairs up with an equally strong-and-savvy guy to catch the killer.
Most romantic suspense novels are set in contemporary times, but there are plenty of romantic suspense historicals around, too, as well as a few futuristic ones (if you like all three, try Jayne Anne Krentz or one of her many psudonyms). Gothic romance, which is usually historical-set, shares many similarities with romantic suspense, athough it tends to be "eerier" and have a stronger emphasis on melodrama. And of course, the most famous serial killer of all time comes from the Victorian period: Jack the Ripper.
Authors in this genre cater to all tastes, whether you're seeking some tense intrigue with your romance, a love story complicated by psychological suspense, or an all-out, spine-tingling, heart-pounding thrill ride. Romantic suspense is so popular that there are several category romance lines devoted to it: Harlequin Intrigue, Silhouette (now Harlequin) Romantic Suspense, and Love Inspired Suspense. If you're looking for some steamy action and a thoroughly gripping read, romantic suspense is definitely a genre you need to check out!
(A few of the authors in the list below use pen names for other series. Where the pseudonym is also used for romantic suspense, I've made a note of it.)
Rescue Me by Cherry Adair, Lora Leigh, and Cindy Gerard (PbkRomance Rescue)
The Darkest Hour by Maya Banks (PbkRomance Banks)
The Beginning (The Protectors) by Beverly Barton (Fiction Barton)
Speak No Evil by Allison Brennan (PbkRomance Brennan)
Breaking Point by Suzanne Brockmann (Fiction Brockmann)
Chill Factor by Sandra Brown (Fiction Brown)
Now You See Him by Stella Cameron (Fiction Cameron)
Desperate Deeds by Dee Davis (PbkRomance Davis)
When You Dare by Lori Foster (PbkRomance Foster)
Heartbreaker by Julie Garwood (Fiction Garwood)
Drop Dead Gorgeous by Heather Graham (a.k.a. Shannon Drake) (LP Graham)
Untraceable by Laura Griffin (PbkRomance Griffin)
Zach's Law by Kay Hooper (PbkRomance Hooper)
Dying to Please by Linda Howard (Fiction Howard)
Wicked Game by Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush (PbkRomance Jackson)
Fatal Tide by Iris Johansen (Fiction Johansen)
The Givenchy Code by Julie Kenner (a.k.a. J. K. Beck) (Fiction Kenner)
In Too Deep by Jayne Ann Krentz (a.k.a. Jayne Castle, Amanda Quick) (Fiction Krentz)
The Untamed Bride by Stephanie Laurens (PbkRomance Laurens)
A View to a Kiss by Caroline Linden (PbkRomance Linden)
Cover Me by Catherine Mann (PbkRomance Mann)
Hot Night by Shannon McKenna (PbkRomance McKenna)
Watch Over Me by Lucy Monroe (PbkRomance Monroe)
The Widow by Carla Neggers (Fiction Neggers)
Dead Right by Cate Noble (PbkRomance Noble)
Revealed by Kate Noble (PbkRomance Noble)
White Heat by Brenda Novak (PbkRomance Novak)
Murder in Plain Sight by Marta Perry (PbkRomance Perry)
The 1st Wife by Tara Taylor Quinn (PbkRomance Quinn)
Rescue Me by Christy Reece (PbkRomance Reece)
Guilty by Karen Robards (Fiction Robards)
The Search by Nora Roberts (a.k.a. J. D. Robb) (Fiction Roberts)
I Can See You by Karen Rose (Fiction Rose)
Freefall by JoAnn Ross (PbkRomance Ross)
First You Run by Roxanne St. Claire (PbkRomance St. Claire)
Mercy Street by Mariah Stewart (Fiction Stewart)
Touch of Evil by Colleen Thompson (PbkRomance Thompson)
Hard to Hold by Stephanie Tyler (PbkRomance Tyler)
The Missing by Shiloh Walker (PbkRomance Walker)
Everywhere She Turns by Debra Webb (PbkRomance Webb)