Bad Romance

Adventures in editing.

As I wait (still!) for answers from the second agent to whom I posed questions regarding the querying potential of my self published novel series, I have been keeping busy revising and editing the second book in the collection. Meanwhile, the fifth Bucks County Novel: Breaking Bread, has been in the hands of my beta readers for feedback. My backup plan is to pitch this book if the others in the series are untouchable, with the hope that if this one book catches an agent’s eye, then it might open the door for the other titles. 

My beta team is made up of 3 women and 2 men. Overall, reaction to the story was good. But like some of you who read it here on the blog, two of the beta readers thought the romance was lacking something. One of the women and one of the men agreed with some of the comments I received from you, my blog readers, that there wasn’t great chemistry between the couple. My male beta reader said it didn’t ‘sparkle’ the way the romances of the previous novels did. Obviously, I have some revising to do.

I admit to not feeling the romance between Maya and Brad myself, but I’m at a loss as to how to fix it. Does it need more tension? More heat? (FYI, I don’t write sex in my stories so it has to stay in the PG-13 realm. The four previous books were free of it and the romances worked without it.) Do they need more interpersonal communication? Or perhaps more internal dialogue to reveal what they are thinking about each other? Every romance needs an issue to resolve, something that prevents the couple from falling for each other immediately. After all, where’s the fun in that? 

I gave Maya and Brad two main issues work out. The first is that they’ve known each other as friends ever since they were kids. There is a history there that prevents Maya from seeing Brad as anything but her best friend’s brother. Although Brad has had feelings for Maya all those years, she never had any clue, nor were they reciprocated. Now as an adult, she has to begin to see Brad in new light: as an attractive man she could find love with in an entirely different way.

The second issue is that Brad has inherited a whole truckload of money and he wants to spend it on Maya. However, Maya is fiercely independent as a result of having no support either emotionally or materially from her family. She refuses his help even in little ways. It’s extremely frustrating for both of them. I thought… I thought… I addressed it pretty well about halfway in. 

Or maybe, just maybe…. the romance has to go.

Maybe I’m really not cut out to write romance. I may have exhausted my reserves with the other stories and I don’t have anything left to give these two. And I refuse to recycle the kind of thing I’ve already written. With some ruthless editing, I could still have an exciting mystery and the romance could just go away. Brad stays in Boston with his job and his friends and never even makes an appearance. Maya still has Olivia and Juan Paolo and Detective Jack Staley for company and finding love is not part of this novel. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, would it?

Any ideas, my friends?

Header image: Lady Gaga, video screen shot Bad Romance

47 thoughts on “Bad Romance

  1. Oo, you can’t take that relationship out. The story would be a bit flat without it. We don’t need steamy sex scenes, oh no.There are plenty of those about without you adding to them. I think it stands well as a gallant knight riding in to protect the damsel in distress. If it aint broke…….!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Keep the romance, Meg! 😊 ‘Sparkle’ reveals itself slowly in a romantic setting. What would each character want to know about the other, and at what time? Is it the little things? What are they thinking, are they holding anything back? You are doing a great job! 😊

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re welcome! It’s your story Meg. That’s what makes it beautiful – another thing to keep in mind during the process. Looking forward to holding the book in my hand while sipping coffee, in the future 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Not having read your other books I can only go by what my wife tells me. She’s a rabid Nora Roberts fan. Nora Roberts almost always has some kind of animal as a relief valve. Tension, of some kind, usually builds up does something till the animal does something and the tension is relieved. Have that animal push them together so they become something other than what they are -good friends.

    You said yourself Maya can’t stop seeing Brad as anything but her best friends brother. But there must be some part of Maya that cries out for something other than a best friend relationship. Have Maya suddenly take Brad by the hand to the threshold of the bedroom doorway. She secretly wants to be swept off her feet and carried into the bedroom. Brad picks her up, they enter the bedroom, and he kicks the bedroom door shut. Period. No description. Let the reader decide what’s going on behind that door. But give the animal some credit. “He curled up on the floor and went to sleep. But if you looked in just the right way you could see something that looked like a smile”. Sometimes an animal can see the obvious, when all we see is baggage. Give the animal a goofy name and sort of physical attribute that endears it to the reader – big, floppy ears which it constantly trips over. And attach the name to the physical attribute – Tripper.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Excellent turn of events for you, Meg. I think Tom has the right idea. There is a car commercial that came out recently about a woman and her dog where she and the new boyfriend go on a camping trip. The dog always growls at the boyfriend when he tries to get close to the woman. But when the boyfriend does a seemingly innocent gentlemanly thing like wrap a coat over her, the dog lays its head in his lap. Something about that screams romance and could almost be a plot in itself. Animals are the romance on four legs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love the idea of a dog or cat in the story, I’ve included animals in a couple of my other books. This time I couldn’t make it work, though! My MC is working all the time and her love interest has been living in an apartment up to this point. I’d have to change too many things to add a pet to the mixture. Thanks for the good idea – I will save it for another tale!


  4. If I recall, Brad was a little jealous of JP. If it was ramped up a bit, for example, JP wanting to be more than friends with Maya… or on the flipside, Maya seeing someone really smitten with Brad and him flirting back. It might make her see him as more than just the kid she knew. There’s nothing like pushing someone out of the “friend zone” like thinking they could lose out.
    Not much help, I know. That’s why YOU’RE writing books and I haven’t even posted anything in weeks!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No this is just the kind of feedback I was hoping for. Thank you! A great idea! Hmm, I need to introduce another female character, just a minor one to flirt with Brad. Maybe one of the servers at the cafe? Thanks so much Rita!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I was a little reluctant to suggest it because it would involve another character, but one of the servers or even a customer trying to hit on him (or gushing about him to Maya) might make her think “wait a minute! he is actually pretty hot!”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Let me bounce this off you: there was a client of Juan Paolo’s who was in the cafe during the mouse incident. She comes in and talks to Maya and Caitlyn and tells them about the woman with the oversized tote bag… What if she is the one? I forget what I wrote now but I could find a way to work her into the scene a little more thoroughly. Like she’s a regular customer and sees that Brad has moved in upstairs and asks about him. What do you think?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes! And doesn’t Brad spend some time at the coffee shop with his laptop? The customer could always be coming in and parking herself at his table, flirting, etc. Showing an obvious crush. Brad needs to kind of feed it – in order for Maya to take it seriously. The girl needs to be a realistic threat rather than an over the top creeper. Haha!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ohhhh that’s good! How about… she owns the independent bookstore (there really is a successful one in Doylestown) and she has tickets to go see a superstar writer (let’s say Scott Turow or another male author who Brad would be interested in) in Philly and she invites Brad?

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  5. Guilty party stepping forward…

    I didn’t feel like the two of them had chemistry. Brad wanted her the whole time but she wasn’t interested and then suddenly, without much interaction or conversation or anything, boom! She was into it. (It’s been a while since I read this so I may be forgetting things!) I felt like she had more chemistry with Juan Paolo. It could certainly just be me, but I saw Brad as kind of a puppy dog always there… wanting Maya to fall for him and wanting to do things for her… but she is, like you said, independent and didn’t want his help. And as far as her falling for him, it just sort of happened.

    You know me, of course, and I am in love with romance. (And I suck at the mystery stuff that you do so well.) As for suggestions… I can try to give it some more thought. But I have to run to pick up kids now……

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My friend Evan said almost exactly the same thing you did. And he’s a dude! Anyway, you are right. I need to add something and maybe have Maya be thinking how nicely her friend turned out. Like she’s secretly attracted to him but doesn’t want to admit it to herself. Do you want to rad it over again? I deleted it from the blog but I’d be happy to send you a copy. Let me know!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I wonder if having Brad get injured, possibly severely, in one of the sabotage scenes, and Maya suddenly realizes she really cares for him? I don’t know. But I do not think removing the romance is necessary. It’s a secondary story within the primary story, but it adds personality, something completely relatable, and appeals to a broader audience. And sales you may not get otherwise….hopefully. 😃😃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is also a great suggestion! What about this: Maya and Brad have had a falling out and she doesn’t realize he’s not at home when the cafe catches on fire? Those hours of panic, not knowing where he is makes her realize how much she cares for him?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes!!! That’s what I was talking about! That moment of, “Oh my god! What if he’s hurt?”, moving into, “Oh. I don’t like the thought of him not being in my life.”. Then move on from there. Maybe have that moment of clarity early in the story, then meander and manifest that love throughout the story, only to have the moment of reveal for the very end?

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  7. All fabulous ideas. I think if you decide to keep the romance in you need to let it grow throughout and work in little bits throughout as the story builds. I think Maya can be genuinely surprised to find she has feelings for Brad. The jealousy ideas would work beautifully! Good luck with all the changes. I think it will turn out wonderfully ❤

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