Keeping the Love Alive

Valentine’s found my husband and I sitting on the couch in the throws of the stomach flu. My husband was sipping 7-Up. I was still puking about every half hour. The whole room smelled. It wasn’t too bad, though. In between my pukes, we watched The Nice Guys, a movie with Ryan Gosling and some guy who wasn’t Ryan Gosling–I forget.

At one point my husband looked over and said, “This is nice. We haven’t watched a movie together in a while.” He was right. For once, the kids were actually in bed (it took the stomach flu to incapacitate all three at once) and neither of us had a laptop out. The whole thing struck me funny, especially because I write romance. My actual life is mostly about puke.

In a book, romance can never leave the initial passionate phase of the relationship, at least if you want  people to buy the thing. The author has to constantly think of ways to keep the romantic tension alive. It’s much harder than being in a real relationship where you can just give up. Romantic tension mostly arises by keeping characters apart through obstacles of one kind or another. The minute the author lets the characters settle into a happily ever after–poof!–the tension is gone and the story is over. Characters can’t relax until the bitter end.

In the case of a series or a television show, the author or screenwriters have to keep romantic tension alive for years, an almost impossible feat–ask anyone who’s been married for more than two years. Basically, they have to artificially suspend the relationship in a phase that might last a couple of months in real life, if you’re lucky. I have yet another sick kid, so I’m not going to go on too long today. Instead, I’m going to list some romances that never quit (mostly because they never really get started). I haven’t had coffee yet, so I’m definitely going to miss a few!


  • I can’t even remember how many books are in the Stephanie Plum series, funny because numbers are in the names, but there are a lot. Janet Evanovich kept Stephanie’s romance fresh throughout.
  • Charlaine Harris is a master. Sookie Stackhouse and her “should I pick the vampire or the werewolf?” dilemma puts Twilight to shame.
  • Kate already mentioned Lowcountry Boil, but that is a good one.
  • When I was a kid, I remember watching Moonlighting. My mom was in love with that show. Pretty sure it qualifies.
  • More recently, Castle did an amazing job of keeping the tension alive.

Hope you all are all staying healthy! Anything to add to the list?






7 thoughts on “Keeping the Love Alive”

  1. Oh Sam! Hope you are all feeling better. Isn’t it funny how in fiction the romance does seem to be “stuck in time” – well past the point in real life when “romance” means you get through a dinner without the kid throwing food on the floor! LOL We had a couple nights recently where both kids (teens) were out and it was so quiet. The Hubby and I got to curl up next to each other, each with a book. At one point he looked at me and said, “Is this what it was like before kids?”

    Writers have to keep the romantic tension alive, but we also have to work to keep it from being “tension for the sake of tension.” Eventually something has to give somewhere. I seem to recall “Moonlighting” being an example of how NOT to resolve it. Once The two characters got together there was nothing.


  2. Liz, you are so right. I hate when the tension is contrived. I usually put the book down. And Moonlighting–I had no clue! All I remembered was my mother’s reaction to it. I guess I could have done a case study in that one. 🙂


  3. Ross and Rachel, Blair and Chuck (Gossip Girl), Logan and Veronica — I think these romances worked so well because they were riddled with conflict. The lovey-dovey stage was short lived. Romance stays hot when it doesn’t fall into the doldrums of real life. Like who’s turn is it to walk the dog.


  4. I just finished Denise Swanson’s Murder of a Bookstore Babe, which is #13 in the series. I’d only read the first one, where the sleuth has chemistry with the police chief, and sure enough, in #13 they are now engaged. But the tension wasn’t over, because they have a complication in arranging the wedding date, and then there was a serious misunderstanding. Makes me wonder if later books in the series might see the relationship flounder.

    Hope you and your family gets well soon!


  5. I hope you and your family feel better, Sam! Your post made me think of that scene in You’ve Got Mail where Tom Hanks visits Meg Ryan’s character when she has a terrible cold and it’s so sweet and romantic ❤ Luke and Lorelei are another couple that come to mind as having obstacle after obstacle thrown at them.


  6. Sam, you make it sound oh so glamorous. I’m thrice-divorced so I know nothing IRL. But I noted that when Castle got married, I quit watching. PS. Team Jacob here.


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