Guest Arlene Kay

Edith, north of Boston

We’re pleased to welcome Arlene Kay, our fellow New England Sister in Crime, to the blog Arlene_Current_Largertoday. Listen to what this author who does NOT write cozies has to say.

Sister Act

At first blush, cozy mysteries and romantic suspense resemble sparring siblings rather than members of the same genre. The proper cozy eschews depictions of sex while arching a disdainful brow at her uninhibited sister. Romance lovers often dismiss cozies as inhibited relics of a Puritan past. As a writer (and fan) of both sub-genres, I submit that while the antics and locales may vary, the underlying themes of cozy mysteries and romantic suspense are remarkably similar.

Swann Dive - 600x900x300My Swann series is a case in point. Three of the novels take place in Boston; one is based on Cape Cod. Although the vibe is big-city snarky with a dollop of sex, the focus is clearly on friendship, family loyalty, betrayal and the tug of war between law and justice. These same issues permeate cozy mysteries from Christie to contemporary authors. Their timelessness provides enjoyment and a sense of satisfaction to a wide swath of readers.

One final observation: Character and plot, not technical mumbo jumbo, are core components of both cozy and romantic suspense novels and indeed of all good writing. If a book lacks compelling characters or a logical plot it is a husk, an empty shell that pleases no one. Both sub-genres typically serve up a cast of sidekicks who supplement the skills of the heroine or fill in the gaps. These reflection characters also serve an important function: they are free to Man Trap - 600x900x300express the emotions of the reader. How many times have you yearned to throttle the hero who plunges into a situation fraught with danger or makes a serious blunder? Sidekicks have no problem stating the obvious question. “Are you crazy?

Even Malice Domestic, that bastion of cozy mysteries has adopted the big tent approach to the crime genre. A recent panel discussion at Malice 2014 tiptoed around the sex issue (Shot Through the Heart: The Role of Romance in Mysteries) and, in an asterisk to the Cozy Mystery Definition, noted that “adult situations” were now becoming common even in traditional mysteries.

Bottom line: romantic suspense and cozy mysteries share the same classic bloodlines and often appeal to the same audiences. No need for a family squabble.

Arlene Kay’s most recent books include the Boston Uncommons Mysteries Swann combologo150x150DiveMantrap, Gilt Trip, and Swann Song, published by Belle Books. Arlene is a former federal executive with one of those alphabet agencies, who traded the trappings of bureaucracy for the delights of murder most foul. She wisely confines her crimes to fiction. An artful combination of humor, sex, and savagery make Arlene Kay’s mysteries unique.

Readers: Do you read romantic suspense? For you, what’s the same and what’s different between romantic suspense and cozy mystery?Or pop Arlene a question – she’ll be stopping by throughout the day to answer.

6 Thoughts

  1. I enjoy both genres. Why limit yourself? There is so much good stuff out there to read – a buffet 🙂

  2. Thanks, Arlene for visiting the Wickeds! A a kid, I discovered Daphne du Maurier, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. I gobbled them down and have had a taste for romantic suspense ever since. Sometimes nothing hits the spot like a mystery set in a creepy house overlooking the sea.

  3. Nice to see you here, Arlene! And I agree with you. There is no wall between romantic suspense and cozy mysteries–it’s all a matter of where along the spectrum you feel most comfortable as a writer. There is probably more tension in suspense (including the “will they or won’t they” question, not to mention “when?!”) I for one can’t quite believe in any character who has no romantic interest at all, and that includes Miss Marple (heresy!).

  4. Welcome, Arlene. I don’t read romantic suspense, at least I don’t think I do. But I do agree that all subgenres include ingredients of the others, in varying intensity, and we can all learn a great deal from one another.

  5. I’ve stayed away from the sub-genre because I rarely read “suspense,” but maybe I’ve been shunning books I should read. Great, a larger TBR pile. Just what I need.

    In all seriousness, the other reason I’ve stayed away is the “Romantic” part of the sub-genre title. That and the covers are enough to get me even more strange looks than I get with the cozy titles I already read.

    Stupid? Probably. Am I letting what others think dictate my own choices? Unfortunately. But that’s another reason I haven’t given the sub-genre much thought.

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