Romancing the Series
by Claire Robyns
I read predominately romance.
I write romance.
And then I wrote A Matter of Circumstance and Celludrones, the first book of my new steampunk/paranomal series (Dark Matters) and I had to give this qualification a long, hard do-over.
Well, series… Do the same rules of romance apply?
Traditionally, I tend to think romance is qualified by two main points:
(a) The hero to the heroine is immediately obvious and, although the trials vary, the reader is never in any doubt that these two will end up together.
(b) These two do end up together by the end of the book and have some version of happily forever after or, in some cases, happily together for now.
But where does this leave us with a series? Many romance series stick to this, and then we see various other issues arise in the following books that threaten to destroy the happily ever after for the couple. But, because this is romance, love will conquer all by the end of each book.
And then there’s the series where the trials and tribulations overflow from one book to the next without a confirmed happy ending or confirmation of exactly which hero is meant for the heroine until the last book. But is this truly a romance? As a reader, are your expectations let down? This is the issue I had to deal with, and decided on labelling this book as “…with strong elements of romance.”
One of my favourite series in the steampunk/paranormal genre is Gail Carriger’s “Parasol Protectorate” series and here she cleverly combines both options. The hero and heroine find their love in the very first book, and although subsequent books might end on a cliffhanger with them estranged, the precedent has been set and, I believe, the reader is content that these two still belong together. Firmly romance.
For A Matter of Circumstance and Celludrones, however, this could never have been possible. My heroine, Lily, simply changes too much over the course of the first book and, more importantly, between book 1 and 2.
When we first meet Lily, she’s not the ass-kicking heroine we all love. She’s your average Victorian lady, holding out for love but starting to realise she might have to settle for less if she wants the independence marriage will bring her.
“If nothing else, Aunt’s latest whimsical has made up my mind. I’ll never be allowed an ounce of freedom until I acquire a husband.”
“And that’s another thing.” Lily glared her friend down for the interruptions. “What does Aunt Beatrice mean by removing me from London when the season has only just begun? I was holding out for love, not for spinsterhood.”
Then all hell breaks loose and she’s quite happy to jump behind the largest male in the room and panic while he makes the demons go away.
A rush of dread and pure fear kicked behind her knees. Lily clutched tighter to Lord Adair.
This was not the time to dither between reality and visions.
Everything she felt, every moment she was instantly reliving in her mind, was absolutely terrifying and ended with her dead. She hadn’t realised how badly she was shaking until Lord Adair’s hand closed over hers to still her trembling fingers.
Some comfort came from the warmth, but the woman’s strides brought her closer and closer and why wasn’t he doing something? Jumping into action as he had yesterday, issuing orders and shoving her out of harm’s way behind the pump house or something?
But she does have a formidable inner strength right from the start and even though she doesn’t realise it, Greyston (Lord Adair) does.
The image staring back at her was rather sad. The inches of bare white skin between the top of her short walking boots and the hem of the dress was shocking. Her hair, twisted into a single braid and secured at the back, had already fallen loose in places. The pitiful state of her person was insignificant in the face of everything else, but it was a symptom of the rot eating at the roots of her world.
What had Greyston said? You have a remarkable inner strength.
The man was deluded. She wanted nothing more than to slide into bed, hide beneath the covers and stay there until it was safe to emerge. Until the dull, thudding ache she’d awoken with quietened inside her chest. Until the demon had been evaded, trapped and banished.
By the end of Book 1, however, Lily knows it’s time to stand up for herself.
A firestorm of anger rose inside her. It was a torrent, burning through her veins, flushing out the helpless, useless, timid woman who relied on men to save the day and yearned to dive beneath the bed covers until it was safe to emerge. The weight slowly lifted from her chest and she could breathe freely again.
She may not be as knowledgeable or ruthless as Kelan, she may not be as courageous or as strong as Greyston, but she wasn’t a pawn. She was a weapon.
I don’t think any profound love could believably survive from the woman Lily was to the woman she becomes. This all changes in Book 2 (A Matter of Propriety and Parasites) thankfully, with Lily firmly on the road to love and I can comfortably slot myself back into the “romance writer” category without addendums.
I’d love to know how you, as a reader, feel about romance in series. What and where is that switch when a romance is no longer a pure romance? I’ll be giving away an e-copy of A Matter of Circumstance and Celludrones, so please leave a comment, whether it’s an opinion or a question or simply a shout-out.
A Victorian Steampunk/Paranormal adventure with strong elements of romance…
Lady Lily d’Bulier is prim, proper, and prefers to think of herself as pragmatic rather than timid. And avoiding life-threatening situations at all costs is just plain practical. But everything changes when Lord Adair tracks her down in London; searching for answers he seems to think she has.
Greyston Adair is a blackguard and a smuggler, although British Customs will have to catch him red-handed to prove the latter. Fortunately, the dirigibles they float around in have never been able to get near his air dust.