Feb 28, 2011

Romance is like Peanut Butter (some like it crunchy, some like it smooth.)

by Nikki Logan

Purists would say the best romance is one that simply focuses on the romantic relationship of the characters involved; that their developing love story is ample to centre a book on, that you don’t need the distraction of other elements.

Others would disagree. They look for more crunch in their romance habit.

The emergence of sub-genres in romance points very clearly to a great desire across the board for love stories with other stuff going on to support it, to complement it. Sometimes to contrast it. Romantic Suspense layers a strong intrigue arc alongside the romantic one, Paranormal offers such high-stakes fantasy plots to support the romantic story, and Historical (in its many forms) offers such richness of setting and world-building. These are the literary peanut chunks that make it all so much more tasty for some readers.

Me? While I appreciate smooth, I love chunky. I like a book which has a strong romantic thread woven convincingly through a strong story arc. I definitely like something else going on. Not because I have anything against pure romance, just because—for me—I feel like I get value for money with a well-crafted, multi-layered story. And I like to have my cerebral self and my emotional self triggered at the same time.

With contemporary category romance and its super short wordcount it can be a challenge to properly tell the story of two people falling in love within a crunchy ‘something else going on’ plot inside twelve chapters. The risk is that one or the other gets compromised. That’s a very personal balance and two people reading the same book might declare it sitting in very different places on the see-saw.

So the best rule of thumb is to write the book I’d like to read.

My March (AU)/April (US) release ‘Friends to Forever’ has a lot going on. And not everyone has liked it. I have old high-school best-friends coming back together after a decade of not speaking and they’re stuck together over one agonising night in the shallow waters off south-western Australia keeping a stranded whale alive. On top of that the heroine is desperately trying to keep a secret. A big one. She’s living with alcohol addiction and addiction is the one thing in life that the easy-going hero can’t stomach having lived with it his whole life.

Crunchy-plus. And only time will tell whether I’ve got the balance right for most people.

So a question… How do you like your romance peanut butter? Smooth or crunchy? Do you know why? Are there things you don’t like to see in your romance sandwich? If you’ve read F2F already, where did it fall on the see-saw for you?


  1. Nikki

    I like some crunch in my romance reading as well I like some juicy plots that keep me in suspense as I read thru to the HEA and I guess the reason why is it keeps me intrigued as long as it doesn't slow things down too much and I love to see the hero and heroine over come problems.
    I look forward to reading this new one NIkki

    Have Fun

  2. Ooooh that sounds good Nikki! When's it on the shelves - early March?

  3. I too like lots and lots of crunch! Nothing like peeling back the layers (g)
    And your story sounds fabulous!

  4. I love crunchy peanut paste (I'm from Qld, we have paste here ;)). And I really love super crunchy. And I love smooth too. And I love lemon butter. And passionfruit butter.

    With romances, I think it all comes down to the writing. Susan Elizabeth Phillips does a contemporary romance with an entire town and all the layers that produces. Love it!

    But if someone can draw me into a romance that's tightly focused on the hero / heroine, then I'm mesmerized there too.

    As always, for me it's all about the writing and the author. I love a whole smorgasbord of romance delights. :)

  5. I'm a bit like Rachel, I like both! What I like most is a book that makes me turn the pages faster and faster, and has me just *dying* to know what happens next. Sometimes that can be because of the plot (I love a good romantic suspense) but other times because of the characters (particularly a delicious hero).

  6. Fabulous simile, Nikki! I've never thought of romance novels as being like peanut butter before!

    I like crunch, especially if it involves some suspense/intrigue/adventure and/or a historical setting. F2F sounds fabulous -- must grab me a copy!

  7. F2F does sound great, Nikki! And March is just around the corner... er, tomorrow in fact!

    I like smooth or crunchy as long as the story and the characters grab me so I want to keep turning those pages.

  8. I usually prefer crunch, but sometimes I like smooth when it can keep me turning the pages.

    And Rach, glad to hear ofsomeone else who calls it peanut paste.

  9. I love layers so I'm looking forward to reading your latest, Nikki, especially as I also love whales. I'm in awe of short contemporary writers who can fit a lot into a tight word count.

  10. Helen - such a good point. You don't want it to be like an anchor slowing the story. And therein lies the challenge really, finding just the right mix of all the elements.

    Kaz - it's out right now. But apparently was on some shelves last week. Yay!!

    Mel - crunch-lover's unite. Wait, that sounds vaguely grotty... how about 'lovers of crunch' unite!

    Thanks ladies for popping in.

  11. Rach, Anita, Sharon & Leah - all smorgasborders, hey? Yes, the key is in it being tight and engaging regardless of the texture of the paste (you know I had to go and check the pantry and yes, ours is called paste, too, but I still call it butter...why?). And sometimes the delight is in trying something new and finding it's fabulous.

    Emily - another crunchy. I'm wondering now whether there is any such thing as a 'smooth'. Maybe by virtue of being tight and well written and engaging a smooth becomes crunchy?

    Zana - Yes, the wordcount certainly is a challenge if you don't want to rob one or the other. Which might explain why my editor had to remind me on my last (59K) submission that 55K max meant 55K max. LOL. Or maybe I'm just a super-writer in disguise ;)

  12. Crunchy! Defiantly! Life’s too boring without the nuts! *wink* (LOL! Made myself laugh at that one!)

    Haven’t read F2F, but it looks amazing!

    I don’t think there’s much I don’t like in my ‘romance sandwich’. I like hot love scenes, a web of ups and downs as well as the ‘hubba hubba’ moments thrown in by authors to make you swoon. I love that no matter what sandwich you pick up, they’re all different. But bring on the crunch! *wink*

  13. I'm definitely an omnivore - I like the smooth, and adore the crunchy. Congrats on your latest book hitting the shelves Nikki - have to make a trip to the shops!! :0)

  14. Quality post!!! it is a nicely written post with so many good facts ! thank you for sharing it with us !