That’s usually the case in romances, but what makes a great Romance Novel?
When it comes to the Millionaire sub genre of romance novels there are a few pre-requisites:
• A Drop Dead Gorgeous Alpha Male
• The girl of his affections
• The H/h’s Best Friends
• A smattering of additional characters
Drop Dead Gorgeous Alpha Male
It goes without saying that the Hero is Irresistible. What kind of Book Boyfriend would he be if he wasn’t? You want your readers to fall in love with your leading man. If you create your Dream Man chances are he’ll be your readers’ Ideal Man too. He can be whatever you want him to be: lean and athletic, muscle-bound beast, dark-haired, blond, green eyes or blue. As long as you conjure up the image in the reader’s mind and keep reminding them of it, they’ll fall for him. But don’t over describe him. Leave something to the readers’ imaginations. Everyone will put their own personal spin on him.
This is how Mia describes Nick Frost in Beguiled when the first sight of him leaves her speechless:
The air leaves my body in a rush.
Martin and the flings at Uni had been just boys in comparison to the male who’s approaching.
This is a Man. With a capital Muh.
I’m stunned. I think my heart actually stops beating for a couple of seconds. Oh my God he’s… Beautiful.
But his face is still strongly masculine. His dark blond hair is swept back from his brow, falling over his collar, it’s length a hint of defiance; a rebellious bad-boy edge at odds with his otherwise well-groomed, urbane appearance.
His jacket open, one hand in his trouser pocket he saunters over; his body moving with an easy, loose-limbed grace. A walk that’s simultaneously relaxed yet supremely confident.
And damned sexy.
His body is made for Armani.
Giorgio himself would weep at the sight of his creation adorning such perfection; the sleek navy Tuxedo doing nothing to hide the hard muscular physique beneath the exquisite tailoring. He’s well built, but not bulky; just sinewy, powerful and strong.
The Girl of his Affections
Yes she’s pretty, but doesn’t think she is and she doesn’t have to have a perfect figure, all the better if she has curves because let’s face it few of us in real life are cover model material.
Your readers have to find your heroine relatable.
“I loved Mia! She was the sort of woman I would have wanted as my best friend
when I was younger.”
Personally I like my heroines to be strong, to speak up for themselves and make the Hero work for them.
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The H/h’s Best Friends
These characters are not only useful devices so your H/h have someone to voice their doubts to or open up to, allowing you as the writer to show the reader what’s in the H/h’s mind rather than having them tell via inner monologues; they offer contrast to the H/h.
Whereas your Hero is full-on Alpha Male, his best friend can be more laid-back, more Mr Nice Guy, like Nick’s BF Aiden in Frost Trilogy.
“Aiden is the stand-up, go-to, will-always-clean-up-your-messes friend that
every guy needs in their life.
BUT, he is also a freakin gorgeous, panty-melting stud
that every girl WANTS in her life!”
The heroine’s best friend could be louder and brasher and offer comic relief as Jen does in Frost Trilogy.
“Jen is an absolute legend. I love her!”
Written well, the best friends can capture the readers’ imaginations just as much as the H/h and go on to star in their very own spin off book! Just like Aiden and Jen did in Torn.
A smattering of additional characters
How many and who these characters are will be determined by your plot and how many characters you feel confident in adding to your story. The two important things to remember are:
Even though they’re additional characters they still have to be well developed and you have to know their back stories
They don’t all have to be likable. In fact some need to be downright hateable. And they’re such fun to write why wouldn’t you have a baddie or two… or three…
They meet − Instant attraction. He knows what he wants − her, and he’s determined to get her. She’s hesitant − he’s too sure of himself, too full-on. He chases. She resists. He’s persistent. She buckles under the pressure of his relentless pursuit.
Yes this sounds like a formula, but that’s because it is. Although that doesn’t automatically make it formulaic.
The characters you create and what you put them through − the conflict in the story − on their journey to happiness are what elevates your book from run-of-the-mill, predictable blah, to something special; an unforgettable romance where love conquers all.
As one reviewer of Beguiled said:
“The plot is not really unique: H (Nick) is rich, alpha male, arrogant, gorgeous, and older than the h. The h (Mia) is this unassuming twenty something that may be a little jaded, untrusting, and flighty due to her past relationships. The H has secrets, but we also learn that the h may also have a few secrets of her own. Even though the plot has been done in different ways, especially when it comes to a series, it’s the details that make this story special. It’s who Mia & Nick are as people and their relationship together.”
Let’s talk SEX
Of course as the author it’s up to you how much sex you write, and how detailed. If you’re writing Young Adult (YA) where the H/h are both say, 18, then the rule of thumb is less is more. If you’re writing New Adult (NA) where the H/h are older, in their twenties, or in Nick and Mia’s case 35 and 25 respectively, or if you’re writing about proper grown ups then you can go for it, but only if you’re comfortable writing sex scenes.
If you choose to, you can imply, and not follow your characters into the bedroom. Or, like me, you can not only follow them you can explicitly record what goes on in said bedroom − or wherever they’re doing it. And in Nick and Mia’s case that was everywhere!
How much sex is enough? I asked that question of readers in a Facebook group and the replies I got confirmed what I thought. If the word count of the sex scenes accounts for ten to fifteen percent of the total word count then you’re on to a winner. I’m assuming you’re intending to write an actual story with a proper plot and characters that form a deep and meaningful relationship as the story progresses rather than, for want of a better term, porn.
Beguiled is the first book of Frost Trilogy and Nick and Mia are very new and in that stage when you can’t keep your hands off each other. So yes, there’s a lot of sex in book 1. Plus, Nick’s penthouse apartment is huge and as he promises Mia…
“I’ll use one of the other bathrooms.” Nick grins wickedly at my confused look, pulling me to him. “I’m assuming you want to shower too.”
“Well then. If you want out of here it’s best I shower elsewhere while you use this en-suite.” He nuzzles his face into my neck with a moan.
Or what? He’ll have me again in the shower? Good God, the man’s insatiable.
Nick raises his head from my neck, a look of absolute conviction on his face. “But rest assured Mia, I will have you in the shower. I plan to have you all over this apartment. You can count on it.”
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The trick is to make each sex scene different: location, position and, most importantly, the emotions.
Sometimes it’s fast and furious, passions overwhelming, and over in minutes.
Sometimes it’s slow and ponderous and worshipful, other times it’s healing; as it is for Nick and Mia in book 2 of Frost Trilogy, In Too Deep…
We stare at each other as he continues to move inside me; saying with our eyes all the things we can’t say out loud; our connection so much more than just physical. The emotional rift between us mended, bringing a renewed closeness as our bodies meld and move together in perfect harmony.
“Christ Mia, what you do to me. I don’t know what I’d do if you ever left me… I−” His voice falters. Emotion shines in his eyes, their gaze imploring.
My heart swells in my chest and I hold my breath; engulfed by the emotions I feel.
I lay my palm against his cheek. “I won’t.” How could I ever? I don’t know what I’d do without him either. I don’t ever want to know.
Putting the Love in a Romance
Regardless of how much or how little, how implied or explicitly recounted the sex is, the foundation of every good romance, even hot and sexy erotic romance is love. Because that’s what romance writers of all descriptions should really be writing… Love stories.
What holds the readers’ attention over the course of 300+ pages of a single book, never mind a trilogy is the developing emotional bond between the Hero and heroine.
As readers we have to feel the sexual attraction that brought our two protagonists together slowly transforming into love.
“How many times do I have to tell you..? I want to be with you Mia.
Just be with you. Jesus Christ, why don’t you get that?”
After all, that is the end goal… A happy ever after ending. Yes, an HEA is an absolute given. This is a romance after all. Personally, I think there’s a distinct difference between a romance and a love story. Whilst literary love stories can have a sad ending, I think a romance demands that the Hero and heroine live happily ever after. That’s not to say you make it easy for your characters to get there though. Which brings us onto…
Conflict − the emotional drive to your story
I love to put my characters through hell before I allow them their happy ever after. Why do I do that? Because in my own twisted way I find it fun to play with my character’s emotions.
But more importantly because the more they have to go through and overcome to achieve happiness the more it makes for a good story. And I want to make my readers feel…
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“Not many books make me cry. Yes, I can get teary eyed, but full out cry… nope.
This book made me cry… especially the last part… heart breaking.”
~ Review of In Too Deep: Frost Trilogy 2
“There’s times when I would have liked to smack both characters… times when I feared the couple wouldn’t make it. I really enjoyed how true to life their relationship is.
I was quite frankly a mess whilst reading it from crying to giggling to swooning.”
~ Review of Letting Go: Frost Trilogy 3
The conflict in your story can be as a result of all sorts of things, from emotionally holding back due to past hurts as Mia does at first, the inability to trust or open up and divulge secrets as in Nick’s case. Good grief that man has good reason to keep his past secret from Mia never mind the traumatic events of his childhood.
Or maybe the conflict is due to external pressures on their relationship. Again, this is driven by the plot of your story, but whatever the cause, conflict is essential. Our protagonists have to overcome obstacles. Otherwise it’s just one long happy, which makes for a very bland and unrealistic story that won’t have your readers turning pages.
So there you go. A gorgeous, persistent leading man with secrets, a strong leading lady, some interesting additional characters, a story with conflict, humour and tears sprinkled liberally with sexy fairy dust and you’ve got yourself one hell of a romance novel.
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