A Kiss and a Yawn

The bane of romances, especially ones in the contemporary category, is keeping your protagonist and his or her love interest from their HEA in the first chapter. After all, if these two were meant to be together, why aren’t they already? Sometimes, an old boyfriend/girlfriend is standing in the way. Sometimes, a misunderstanding. Sometimes, circumstances beyond their control. They didn’t exchange phone numbers after that one hot night, and until they find one another, baby doesn’t have a daddy.

What keeps them apart isn’t as important as HOW it keeps them apart. A recent review I read dealt with a too good to be true romance that had everything to recommend it but fire. The couple (in this instance, two women) were so perfectly suited to each other that they instantly hit it off, going from strength to strength. Unfortunately, this didn’t make for a very exciting or satisfying story. When the writer reached the point where she had to close this tale of two ladies in love, she had to come up with something over the top to threaten it. How can you have a convincing black moment when there’s been nothing but sunshine from page one? The writer was forced to execute a soap-opera-ish denouement that disappointed several of her readers. Clearly, she hadn’t paced the angst properly. The ending was, as a result, too obviously contrived.

Starting conditions are everything. Determine from the get-go what is going to stand in the way of a happy ending and capitalize on that.

If I may use my own first novel as an illustration. A history gay romance, the main characters are a Polish partisan named Jacek Tarasek and an Englishman named Owen Linet, who is visiting Warsaw with his architect father. Jacek has been tasked by the leader of his group to get information on Owen, who is supposed to be the son of a German general. Though his reasons for coming to Poland seem innocent, Owen could be a German spy. Jacek attempts to discover the truth are complicated by his growing feelings for Owen. If Jacek learns that Owen is a spy, will he be able to expose him—possibly kill him—to protect his country from the enemy? To complicate matters still further, Owen uses what is in essence “black magic” to stop Jacek from doing something they’ll both regret. If Owen was a threat before, as an evil mortal man, how much more so, if he proves to be an evil IMMORTAL one?

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