Thrills and Swoon – On Secrets and Sadness

Thrills and Swoon – On Secrets and Sadness

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a romance novel in possession of substantial conflict, must be in want of a HEA.  And what could prompt conflict more than the keeping of secrets?

I’ve been reading the first book in Sarah Morgan’s Puffin Island series, First Time in Forever, and it’s full of the secrets of secrets that drive the narrative forward.  And it’s been through reading this that I’ve come to a couple of conclusions about romances.

Essentially, romance needs conflict to keep going; it’s what keeps the hero and heroine apart, before bringing them together, and this can be split into two types:

–  External Conflict:  Where outside circumstances force a situation into being.  In First Time in Forever, it’s the death of Emily Donovan’s half-sister that precipitates her return to Puffin Island, six year-old niece in tow.

–  Internal Conflict:  This is something that grows out of who a character is, and is usually linked to an event from their past and the issues that arise from it.  For example, both Ryan Cooper and Emily Donovan in First Time in Forever experienced childhood trauma that has impacted their current view on relationships and love.

It’s the way that secrets are interwoven into each of these conflicts, that makes First Time in Forever so compelling.  As readers, we align ourselves with Ryan, in wanting to understand what it is that Emily is hiding, and to discover exactly what it is that makes her tick.

Of course, secrets often hide sadness, and there’s more than a little of that in Morgan’s book.  As emotional conflict is often the most potent catalyst in romance novels, the secrets that the characters hide are often heart-breaking – whether due to actual romantic heartbreak or not. 

We can’t help but fall for these characters and this community, even as our heart breaks a little.

What are your thoughts on secrets and sadness?  Do you think that they are the best way to drive romance narratives forward?

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