Are you a mystery reader with a definite romantic streak? Then HARMFUL INTENT is the perfect Valentine’s Day read for you. ~~FREE Valentine’s Day Weekend, Friday, February 13th thru Sunday, February 15th!!!
Betrayal runs in private investigator Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels’ family. So, why is she surprised when her husband of one year cheats on her? The real shock is his murder, with the local lawman pegging her as the prime suspect.
Ronnie Ingels is a Brooklyn bred private investigator who travels to west Texas, where her cheating husband is murdered.As she hunts the killer to clear her name, she becomes the hunted.
Deputy Sergeant Dawson Hughes, a former Army Ranger, is a man folks want on their side. Only he’s not so sure at first, he’s on the meddling New York PI’s side. As the evidence points away from her, he realizes the more she butts in, the more danger she attracts to herself. – Sweet, askance romance, warm intimacy,sophisticated themes presented tastefully. An added bonus is a sweet and funny senior romance between charming and quirky secondary characters.
The very talented writer Tammy Doherty and moi have been gal-pals almost since we met online (more years ago than we’d like to admit) in the Northeast Zone Group of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). One of the things we’ve always done is kick around questions and idea. So, we decided, for Valentine’s Day, we’d like to put our usual ramblings into a blog article about how much romance and grit is too much in crime fiction, and what’s going on in the Christian crime fic market.
Nike: I think in murder mysteries, thrillers, and romantic suspense getting the mix of romance and grit right is essential. In traditional murder mysteries, detective stories, and starker crime fiction, romance should be secondary to the mystery. The chase for the killer should be the main thing. When you get over into cozies, that’s a different thing, IMO. There can be a fair amount of romance, but of a gentle kind. In romantic suspense, the reader expects quite a bit of romance. I’m launching into a contemporary detective story series where the police procedure has to be right, and the investigation is the thing. Yet romance is there nudging its way in. HARMFUL INTENT, is the first in what I hope is a long “couples” series. Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels, private investigator and Deputy Sheriff Dawson Hughes solve a murder in Abilene, Texas. In the second novel, happenstance brings Ronnie and Dawson to solve a missing child case on the east coast. Later books in the series will have a different couple’s detective team.
Tammy: I agree with you, Nike. In a traditional murder mystery or suspense thriller, the crime must control the spotlight. But even in those stories, interaction between characters is what makes the story enjoyable to read. With Romantic Suspense, the very definition of the genre demands more than just interaction. At least two main characters must become romantically involved. Often, the suspense plot is what draws them together yet this isn’t enough. For the “romance” part of the title to apply, the hero and heroine must not only be drawn to each other but there must also be a genuine attraction worthy of long-term involvement. In other words, they need to fall in love. My new romantic suspener, gives them a common challenge to overcome. Still, once the suspense plot is resolved if there isn’t real romance and love remaining, the title fails. Later books in this series will feature other residents of Naultag, MA, the setting for SHE’S MINE, characters who will find love while facing and overcoming suspenseful conflicts. The key is in the balance: too little suspense and it’s just plain romance; too suspense will turn away the romance reader. So how much is too much grittiness?
Nike: I’m so glad you brought up grittiness. I was just thinking about that. I like realistic mysteries and detective stories. There’s nothing more disheartening than to read a story where the author hasn’t got a clue about police procedure and everything is pristine. To my mind, if there’s a murder scene depicted, it doesn’t have to be gory, but there has to be some grit, or I won’t believe it. Cozy mysteries are a different animal, they should be light on grit. In my novels, I like to rough up my main characters. I did that in my historical mystery series to several of my heroes and heroines. In HARMFUL INTENT, Ronnie practically gets the stuffing knocked out of her by one of the villains. She and Dawson will get worked over in book two. My novels have lots of action, twists and turns, romance, and some humor. My intent is that they will clearly depict good vs. evil, and yet uplift. I do have some grit, but I don’t write noir. I’d like to think I write grit with grace.
Tammy: Grit with grace, I like that! I’ve been toying with a tag-line for my writing and what I’ve come up with so far is “suspense you can fall in love with” or “romance that keeps you in suspense.” I think the second one sums it up best. In romantic suspense, the grit needs to be there but cannot overshadow the romance. I like romantic suspense with believable police and EMS procedural aspects, but because it’s romance there’s some leeway for literary license. In SHE’S MINE, I did the research to make sure all my fire scenes are accurate for this region. For example, my characters call for an ambulance not “a bus” as they might in a NYC. Bad things happen to Caitlin and Sean in this novel, what gets them through it all is the romance. The story is lighter than a straight mystery novel without being unrealistic or “fluff.” I like the interplay between your main characters but they’re still keeping it on the professional side. My characters delve into the romance aspect right away with the suspense being one of the obstacles to their happily-ever-after.
What I’m finding very interesting is the increase of crime/mystery fiction in the Christian market, particularly with the rise of Indie publishing. How people juxtapose their faith with the grittiness of this world makes for wide-open storytelling possibilities.
Nike: That’s a great line and it describes your work: “romance that keeps you in suspense.” You write romantic suspense. The romance is major in your stories, no doubt about it, but so is the suspense. That line says it. I also couldn’t decide between two tag lines, so I kept them both. I use the short one mostly, but do pop the longer one out now and then: “literature that reads like pulp fiction” also “I like my bad guys really bad, and my good guys smarter and better.”
What I’m noticing is more Christian men writing and what they’re writing is crime fiction and action-adventure. These are the two genres I like to read. Mostly the male writers such as Mark Young (who had a career as a police officer) get the police procedure right, and then there’s J. Mark Bertrand’s outstanding Roland March detective series. There are also women who are getting details about fire arms and fight scenes right. I’m proud to say, I’m thought to be one of them. I’m a research fanatic. I spend hours researching firearms and other weapons, tactics for a fight scene, and police procedure out in the field. But I’m not the only female Christian author writing technically correct gritty scenes. Luana Erlich (who leans more toward espionage) does this, so does Virginia Tenery. Tammy, you do, and there are others as well.
Since you are my guest, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that your outstanding western suspense novel CELTIC CROSS is going FREE this weekend and will be FREE from then on in.
Classical murder mystery readers often like a bit or romance in the story to make the main characters more emotionally vulnerable and generally to keep things interesting. Three of the novels in my Sanctuary Point series do just that (the fourth is a Christmas/New Year’s story).
—arson/murder, action, and romance
—Sweet romance, sophisticated themes presented tastefully
—Finaled in 2011 Grace Awards Romance/Historical Romance category
Earned Readers’ Favorite Five Stars
Can a sheltered young seamstress, disillusioned by the horrors of WWII, escape an arsonist/murderer who has killed her employer and mentor, while trying to decide if she can trust the dashing war hero who’s ridden into town on his Harley—who some say is the murderer?
Erica Brogna’s parents doted on her and taught her to think for herself. Many boys she grew up with had fallen in the WWII, shaking her childhood faith. In rides a handsome stranger, at the hour of her most desperate need. A woman who is her close friend and mentor is trapped in a burning house. After making an unsuccessful rescue attempt, Erica stands by as this man rushes into the inferno and carries her friend’s lifeless body out.
Lorne Kincade can’t out run his past on his Harley Davidson WLA, the civilian model of the motorcycle he rode in the war. He’s tried. He’s been a vagabond biker in the year since the war ended. His Uncle Ivar bequeathed him a ramshackle cottage in Sanctuary Point, on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY and now he’d like to hope for a future again, repair the miniscule place, and settle down. The only problem is, a young woman with hair the color of mink is starting to get under his skin and that’s the last thing he needs.
Pioneer newspaperwoman Kiera Devane is on a mission to prove a woman can do a man’s job, as she hunts a young coed’s killer? Ace radio broadcaster Argus Nye lost one love to a murderous fiend and his pulse races as he tries to protect Kiera from herself as much as from this killer.
Kiera was doted upon by loving parent, but they were killed when she was a girl and she was shipped off to live with a socialite aunt who had little time for her. In her aunt’s house, she learned life could be cold and cruel. As a result, she grew up to be an independent and demanding professional woman.
Argus Nye, still bereft from the loss of his first love, can’t understand why this female reporter is mesmerizing him. As she takes chances with her life trying to catch a killer, he’s determined to protect her.
DAEKEST HOUR ~
—a widow is framed by powerful people/the medical examiners knows she didn’t pull the trigger
—Sweet romance, warm intimacy, sophisticated themes presented tastefully
Amazon rated 4.6 Stars
A petite widow, secretary and sole support of her son and grandparents, is framed for the murder of her boss. Wealthy village residents conspire with the DA to indict her and stop further investigation. The medical examiner thinks the shooter was a tall individual and when his report is shoved aside, starts snooping trying to clear her and in the process falls in love with her.
Lucinda Byrne lost her husband and parents at sea. When she discovers the body of her boss, his A-List society fiancée, backed up by her powerful family and a corrupt DA, accuses Lucinda of murder. She struggles on shielding her five-year-old son, her feisty grandfather and arthritic grandmother from the ugliness of her situation. She mistrusts the dapper ME, thinking he’s a ladies’ man, but soon realizes he may be the only one in her corner.
Hank Jansen, the county ME who’s had his share of pain and loss, doesn’t know if this little widow was in on the murder, but he knows by the trajectory of the bullet she’s too short to have pulled the trigger. His professional opinion ignored, he begins his own investigation and at least one cop accuses him of an ethics violation. He certainly can’t deny he’s fallen head over heels for the accused, and also is crazy about her son. A huge problem is there’s a leak inside the investigation and the murderer is always one step ahead of them.
Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (colored might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.
Nike is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chairman, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. Her four novel Sanctuary Point series, set in the mid-1940s has won awards and garnered critical acclaim. Her new contemporary whodunit, HARMFUL INTENT released in the spring of 2014 under the auspices of her own publishing company, Crime Fictionista Press.