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

Sea To See

No longer an ocean between us
Only a turbulent sea
My light infiltrates your darkness
But it’s still too murky to see

No forest or mountains oppose us
Nor rivers that run to the sea
Your light penetrates my darkness
Not quite enough to see

With the water beckoning to us
Who’s the first to dip into the sea?
Your darkness my lightness coalesce 
And it’s all that we need to see

The Cafe

He waited at the window table so he could watch down the street. She was late, as usual. She would have the same excuse she always did. “It was the rain, darling.” Or “the train was behind schedule.” And he’d smile and accept it. Like he always did.

The red umbrella stood out against the grey sky. He knew without seeing the person beneath that it was her. She came inside on a gust of wind and brought enough water to create a puddle. Her laughter charmed the host and he waved off her apology as he ran to get the mop.

She turned, her eyes scanning the cafe until they settled on him. She smiled and his heart went to his throat. With purpose, she crossed the room and slid into the chair beside him. Not across from him, no. Beside him. So they could touch each other. Her knee rested against his leg as she leaned over to kiss him softly. She smelled like rain and lilies. He breathed in her scent as their lips touched.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” she said. “The rain has everything slowed down.”

He laughed out loud and kissed her again. “You’re wonderful.”

She touched his cheek. “You’re happy today.”

“Yes.” Happier than he’d been in the last five years. Maybe happier than he’d ever been in his life.

The waiter brought a basket of fresh bread and soft butter. He broke off a piece and buttered it, held it out to her. “Eat.”

As she took it from him, she asked, “Are you going to tell me why you’re so happy?”

Melting butter dripped onto her fingers from the bread. He watched it run in a tiny rivulet from one finger to the next. He wanted to lick each little drop. Instead, he waited as she chewed and swallowed before speaking. “It’s official,” he said and placed the documents on the table in front of her.