As some of you are aware, my mind has been changed lately by historical novels. Mostly in part by the wonderful books I've been reading by some very talented YA authors. And this is definitely the case for Smuggler's Kiss by Marie-Louise Jensen. I loved the adventure and politics of this book very much. I loved the transformation of the characters. The thing I loved the most? This slow build-up of romance. Which is why I'm absolutely thrilled today to have Marie-Louise Jensen here writing about that very thing...
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by Marie-Louise Jensen
That doesn’t mean you can take a girl and a boy, invest them with wonderful virtues and throw them together. That would be dull to read. Ideally, the characters need flaws which make them interesting and more real. If you think about any great literary love interest which has stood the test of time (take Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre for example) will find plenty of imperfections. These give a character a chance to learn, grow and change – an important aspect of romance. I like it if my characters bring out the best and the worst in each other and offer each other opportunities to develop as people. And I like them to show kindness to one another.
The other important aspect of developing a romance in fiction is creating a situation in which two characters – who perhaps don’t warm to each other on first sight – are flung together and are forced to become better acquainted along the way. Alternatively, if it is a case of love at first sight, you need to find a reason or a plot device to keep them apart (think of Mr Rochester again – he is married and socially way above Jane Eyre).
Done well, romance is a hook that can pull the reader right the way through the book; from the earliest pages to the last paragraph. The more you care about the characters, the slower the romance burns, the more tantalising it is. I know all about this, because, for me, it’s often the biggest pull in a story and has been since my earliest teens.
Both are keeping secrets; from each other and from everyone around them. The secrets keep them apart, but they also give them something in common and the slow reveal to one another and the reader is an important part of the romantic tension.
The part of the love story that always requires the most rewriting (in my books at least) is the actual getting together; the kiss. It is really tricky to get right and I often have to write the scene over and over, changing it and trying out different ways of keeping enough description to make it satisfying but avoiding the cringe factor. Luckily it’s an enjoyable part of the story to write. The characters and their love for one another become very real over the many months it takes to write a book and I’m longing for them to get together by the end just as much as any reader could be.
Thank you for that Marie-Louise!
Which are your favourite couples that experience this slow build-up romance?