By: Allison Brennan
I recently read SPILLED BLOOD by Brian Freeman which, though certainly a thriller with a fantastic plot, also had an integral subplot about the hero’s relationship with his ex-wife and their daughter. In fact, the book couldn’t have been written without that complex relationship because family relationships were at the core of the story. Without this storyline, the book would have been just another well-written thriller with nothing that made it stand out; with it, this book is now one of my favorite reads of the year.
Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller books have been among my favorite since I first read THE LINCOLN LAWYER while on a plane flying back from my first International Thriller Writers conference. This was one of those books where I stood in the baggage claim, my luggage at my feet, driven to finish it before the long drive from the airport home. I really love Mickey’s relationship with his ex-wife, and the natural conflicts that arise from her being a prosecutor and he being a criminal defense lawyer, as well as how they both love their daughter. While these books aren’t romances, they added benefit of the personal stakes and how decisions impact the personal relationship takes the books to a higher level for me. (Not to mention, Connelly is a master storyteller.)
Too often, thrillers that are otherwise great books suffer (for me) because of their lack of relationship development. The women, in particular, come across as two-dimensional or stupid. I want REAL characters, male and female. I think it’s important to state I don’t always need sex or even a romantic relationship in my books, but must have complex, real, meaningful relationships between the protagonist and other characters, whether it’s a spouse, a child, a sibling, a parent, or even a partner. (Love me a good buddy book! – read: give me more Elvis Cole and Joe Pike!)
This is why I’ve found that some of my favorite authors started in romantic suspense. Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, Tami Hoag—they naturally, intuitively understand that it’s relationships that drive the story, and how the protagonist is impacted by these relationships (and the external conflict/plot) that affects the characters. So while they may have left the genre, they haven’t pulled up their roots, and their books are better for it.
Are there any books on your keeper shelf in romantic suspense where the relationships outside of the romance are just as important as the romance and makes the book a better, stronger read? (And no, you can’t say J.D. Robb – she IS the master of this!) Are there any thrillers/mysteries you’ve read where you’ve been pleasantly surprised that the author developed these complex and real relationships with other characters, even if not a romance? I’m always looking for great books to read! Share your favorites!
Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 20 books and numerous short stories. Her most recent release is “Reckless,” a digital novella, out March 12. It’s followed by the sixth book in her Lucy Kincaid series, STOLEN, in June. Visit her website allisonbrennan.com for more information and excerpts!