Monday, July 9, 2007

Laughing at Midnight

I'm currently reading "How to Marry a Marquis" by Julia Quinn - the second of her books that make me laugh out loud.

I didn't want to wake my husband so I also found myself giggling, snorting and nearly choking as I tried not to laugh loud and long at the pictures in my head. But I failed several times and ended up laughing out loud at the misadventures of Quinn's characters. This is actually the second of J.Q.'s books that made me laugh out loud, the other being "Brighter Than the Sun". The first book I read by the clever Quinn was "The Duke and I", which only made me giggle, although I had a silly grin pasted on my face for most of the book.

Romance can be funny - in real life it often is - albeit unexpectedly so, and the funniest stories are perhaps those which most closely resemble reality. I greatly admire Rosina Lippi for "Tied To the Tracks" for instance: literature that is not only romantic, but so humorous that in some catalogs it is listed under comedy rather than romance.

Romance writers must be an intrepid lot, with a stash of courage that exceeds that of scriveners who choose other genres. I think there are more traps for romance novelist than for, say, mystery writers. One thing that a romance must have is chemistry between the MCs, but how to accomplish that without over-writing the descriptions of their attraction to each other and their subsequent actions? Quinn does it with a light touch, as does Amanda Quick, another historical romance author whose prose has made me laugh out loud.

Even more difficult than funny romance, though, may be writing a heated romance that is also suspense, and managing to include a cause to laugh out loud - or at least induce good giggles - between the torrid scenes and the nail-biting action and suspense. S.L. Viehl, writing as Gena Hall in the Paradise series, (and later using the pseudonym Jessica Hall in the "Fire" duo and the "Blades" series), managed to startle some very surprised laughs out of me in the midst of her original, fascinating and hot romance-suspense works. I must compliment romance writers who can make me laugh because of their deft touch with the human comedy, and not, as happened this week with a writer I haven't named, because a scene is so overdone it becomes ridiculous.

And that is why I think romance writers are so very brave - it takes courage to address our deepest human hopes and fears - to be loved for ourselves and to not be ridiculed by someone else. It takes fierce determination, I would suppose, to write scene after scene with that exquisite sense of timing and honesty which makes the reader say to themselves "Yes, that is just how it is", and make them actually empathize with those emotions.

Tomorrow: the rest of my favorite romance writers, and why I like their novels.

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