May 6, 2010
8:00 AM | Edit Post
Ticking Clock, Romance Locks, and Screwing With The Formula...There’s Fun In Them Thar Tropes!
I make a habit of going against the grain. Most of the time I do it quite unconsciously, but I usually end up doing things very much the opposite of the way most other people do it. As a consequence, my kids have grown up being able to tell their friends that their dad is a professional wrestler and their mum (never “mom”) is a romance writer, that their accents are Australian, and they moved here when they were five and eight, because I met my husband on the Internet before most people were really sure what the Internet was (that was in 1996). When they were still in school, and depending on the context and my kid’s moods, that was sometimes a good thing or a bad thing. These days, they just find it all hilarious.
When it came to Dead Again, I also screwed with the formula there, too, and again, it wasn’t intentional.
Most romantic suspense derives its tension from the immediacy of the problems harassing the hero and heroine. They’ve captured the heroine’s baby sister, so naturally the hero and heroine must act immediately before the bad guy does nasty and unspeakable things to her. Or the bad guy is going to blow up the city in twelve hours. This second example is what is called a “ticking clock” in the movie trade – a device that sets a countdown going in the storyline. The ship is going to sink in 90 minutes: Titanic. When both suns are eclipsed in twenty minutes, the carnivorous, unstoppable creatures are going to take over the planet and eat everything that moves: Pitch Black. The bad guys are coming to town at high noon to kill the sherriff: High Noon. If Marty doesn’t get back to the future before the picture of himself fades away he’ll be erased from existence: Back To The Future.
In all these movies and in a high proportion of all thrillers, suspense and romantic suspense movies, there are two factors that make them work apart from the ticking clock factor, which is not essential to the plot (although it always helps!).
1) The story takes places over a fairly short space of time. A couple of days, if not a few hours. The more tightly compacted the timeline, the tighter the tension can be ratchetted up. The movie Angels & Demons took place over four hours once the initial set-up was finished, and you felt like you barely had time to draw breath. Nor did the main characters.
2) Particularly in romantic suspense, the hero and heroine should be thrown together and kept together in tightly enclosed, intimate conditions, whether they like it or not, for as long as possible. North by Northwest is a good example of how even a non-romantic suspense managed to squeeze in at least twelve hours of intimacy for the hero and heroine in the midst of some of the best and classic suspense/thriller action of the last fifty years.
Dead Again did neither. First, the story is spread over nearly nine years in time. And during that time, the hero and heroine spend years and weeks apart. There is no enforced intimacy anywhere in the book at all, except at the beginning, and there’s a factor that prevents that intimacy from being anything but romantic.
But it is still a romantic suspense, and judging by the reviews I received from the first edition of the book, a damned good one. The dictionary defines suspense as “apprehension about what is going to happen,” and Dead Again must deliver on that score, for the first edition reviews said, and I quote: “The suspense is beautifully dragged out... so full of suspense... a suspense-filled book.”
So I feel fairly certain that once again I’ve managed to do the complete opposite of what I’m supposed to, but still deliver the goods.
Have you ever read a book that was so totally against type, but still a damned good read, all the same?
Dead Again by Tracy Cooper-Posey
A small plane crashes in the Rockies, and the only two survivors, Jack and Sophie, help each other live until rescue arrives, seven days later. Only Sophie goes on to pick up the pieces of her life, which has now been irrevocably changed by big, gentle Jack’s love…and death.
But Sophie learns that Jack’s death didn’t close that chapter of her life, after all.
A drifter called Martin holds the key to her heart, alongside a deadly secret. Combined with a corrupt and desperate police chief and her pressure-cooker life as a single mother in a small town, they plunge her head-deep into the after-shocks caused by those seven days in the mountains. The consequences will reach out to rock state governors, district attorneys, and one of the deadliest crime lords in the land, and all of them have reason to react. For Sophie, life is about to change again…for the worse.
In ninety minutes, he had stripped the plane of hundreds of yards of electrical wiring, which sat in a stiff spaghetti nest to one side. The sun was up high now, bathing him with unrelenting light. At this altitude there was little bite in it. The day was barely warm but he was sweating anyway and his heart was pounding as it worked to compensate for the altitude. He went back to the gouge in the ravine and called down, “You okay?”
“Not long now,” he assured her.
On his way back to the wreck, he checked out the distance of the nearest tree to the edge, estimating he’d need thirteen extra feet.
For the next two hours, he wound strands of wire around each other, braiding himself a rope half the thickness of his forearm and the twenty-five feet long he needed to get to the ledge, plus thirteen extra feet. By the time the wire rope was long enough, he’d run out of collected wire and gone looking for extra, digging through smaller pieces of fuselage and ripping up a seat or two for the wiring inside.
Finally, he was ready. He picked up his rope and dragged it to the cliff edge. Damn but that sucker was heavy.
Fifteen minutes later, he finally reached the ledge and saw her for the first time.
Absurdly, happiness touched him as she lifted her head to look at him.
She lay on the damp ground, half-in and half-out of the sun. Even if she hadn’t told him, he would have guessed her leg was broken by the odd way she tried to sit up, as if her leg was glued to the ground.
Jack crouched down beside her. For a moment, he stared at her, too pleased to be face to face with someone else to be able to speak words of concern or comfort. Then, he saw blood matting her red-gold hair and shivers racking her frame.
“Here.” He offered her a sealed bottle of Evian, which he’d salvaged.
“You remembered.” Her voice was croak.
After cracking the seal, he gave it to her. “Drink up. We can get more. Water isn’t going to be one of our problems.”
She drank, very nearly draining the bottle with two or three deep swallows. Jack studied her while she sipped the last inch in the bottle, wetting her lips and clearing her throat, coughing, water dripping onto the white silky shirt. Sensible trekking gear, it was not.
He’d seen her come aboard the little aircraft at Vegas. She was all legs and pedigree and the smart business suit she wore told him more plainly than words that she was as far removed from his world as a woman could get. The impossible-to-bridge gap allowed him to watch her with a detached interest as she pushed a heavy briefcase and day-old L.A. newspaper beneath the seat in front of her and buckled her seat belt.
She hadn’t given him so much as a glance. Instead, she sank into her seat and turned her head to stare out the window into the night. One row ahead, he could see a sliver of her profile between the seats. Her chin was sharp, with that little outward thrust that most people took for stubborn assertiveness.
He was well acquainted with aggressive females. Isobel had it in spades. It made him uncomfortable—the constant need to be on guard.
He’d given a mental shrug, dismissing the redhead. The endless legs weren’t worth the price.
But, her calm acceptance of his long delay getting down to her didn’t seem to fit his first assessment of her. He’d actually thought it had been the one other woman on the plane—a middle-aged woman, who had settled down to read a two-inch thick paperback as soon as she was seated and hadn’t looked up once throughout the taxiing, take-off and steep ascent to cruising height.
This woman before him put the empty bottle on the ground beside her. “Aahhh, that was good.” She smiled. “I think my leg’s busted in a couple of places and it hurts like hell. So does my head. But for the last couple of hours, all I could think about was water. Crazy, huh?”
He considered this. “No. It’s just your survival instinct at work. Priorities first. Water is the critical one.”
“You know something about this stuff, then. Thank god.” She grimaced. “Wilderness survival doesn’t seem like all that big a deal when you live in the middle of L.A. but I’ve been lying here most of the night wishing like crazy that I’d read at least one book about it.”
Jack moved, so he could study the angle of her leg. “Well, I’ve read zero law books in my life, so we’re even.” It was a tiny lie, a drop in the bucket, comparatively.
“How did you know?”
“That you’re in the legal profession?” He shrugged. “Lucky guess. The suit and the big heavy briefcase you lugged on board helped.”
“And the expensive, useless look?” she asked, with another small smile. “I’ve heard all the jokes about lawyers at least twice over.”
He felt a twinge. Even though she was being cynical about her profession, it was a paraphrasing of the conclusions he’d drawn about her personality when they’d been taking off.
“What’s the S.K. stand for?” he asked, deliberately changing the subject.
“Of course, my briefcase. Sophie Kingston.”
He nodded. “I’ll have to straighten out your leg, Sophie.”
She grimaced. “I would have done it myself but every time I tried to move it, it hurt so much I quit.”
“I’m just going to feel for the bone, first,” he warned her as he reached for it.
Her lips compressed as he probed gently, feeling the angle of the leg through the soft fabric of her trousers.
“I think you’re right. Two places at least,” he said. “Ready?”
Gently, he straightened her leg. Her steadiness was another surprise. All she did was chew her lip and, once, suck in her breath, whistling it through her teeth, although, he knew damn well that the pain was enough to make her want to scream. She turned chalk white and for a moment he thought she was going to pass out but she only blinked for a few seconds.
“Thanks.” Her voice was husky. She tilted her head back, exposing a long column of throat, looking back up the cliff.
“Not a hope,” Jack said quietly.
She didn’t pretend to not understand. “I won’t last long on this shelf…just getting through the last few hours of the night since the crash was bad enough.” She bit her lip. “The plane didn’t catch fire, did it? There might be food, warm clothing…”
He looked back up the cliff himself, then back at her. There was no entreaty in her eyes or irresolute hope. Just steady determination.
He realized then that he’d been wrong. Sophie wasn’t aggressive. She wasn’t out there claiming victories for womanhood, racking up a tally of smaller souls destroyed in her wake. No, she was serenely getting on with her life, going her own way. There was a quietness about her that he’d overlooked until now. A sense of wisdom. Maybe, old hurts buried deep. All good roots for strength of character that had nothing to do with aggressiveness and everything to do with purpose and resolve.
For the first time since the plane had lurched without warning to one side and begun its long sideways slip down through the night sky, Jack felt his guilt lighten a little. This woman was a born survivor. A fighter. He’d promised himself he’d get her out of this but now he knew she would be doing her best to make sure it happened too.
Abruptly, he felt their fledging relationship shift from rescuer and victim into something warm and comfortable. Partners.
“We’ll just have to bring it down to you, won’t we?” he said.
The climb back up nearly finished killing him. He’d slipped three or four times, only to lunge for the wire just in time to hold himself up. Each little fall jerked on his ribs in a way that sent hot pokers of agony through him and made his vision swim. But after his sight cleared, he doggedly carried on, aware of the woman sitting below him, watching and listening to every move he made.
By the time he climbed back onto on the edge of the cliff, his whole body trembled and his muscles and sinews shrieked white agony.
For a very short moment, he rested on the edge, while his heart settled back into something that could be called a rhythm and his head stopped throbbing from the thick rush of blood. The throbbing underscored a sore spot at the back of his skull. With careful fingers, he probed under his hair and found a place so tender he jerked his fingers away. But there was no broken skin—the thick thatch of his hair would have helped prevent that—and his fingers were clean, so no blood. He couldn’t even remember being hit.
Considering the others, he’d been lucky.
He grimaced but before he could drift off into that black pool of guilt again, he got to his feet and strode to the broken fuselage. Sophie was waiting for him to return.
He let the memory of those startling, sea-green eyes swim into his mind, the eyes with the ancient, wise soul staring out of them. The quiet determination he’d felt emanating from her when he’d looked into her eyes washed over him now like a calming tonic. His mind floated in that serene pool, while he worked at scavenging through the wreckage, stripping it of anything that would aid their survival.
He had been speaking a simple truth when he’d told her water would be the least of their problems.
Now he realized that the arrival of a rescue party would not be quick.
Given the circumstances, rescue wasn’t even guaranteed.
To buy Dead Again, click here.
Don’t forget to leave me a comment! I love to chat!
GIVEAWAY - GIVEAWAY - GIVEAWAY - GIVEAWAY - GIVEAWAY
Tracy is giving away a copy of DEAD DOUBLE, another romantic suspense, to one of the commenters. Click here for details on DEAD DOUBLE.
The winner will be selected on May 14th and the giveaway is open worldwide.
Just tell Tracy and me what you think of against the type books...and you'll be entered.
Nice to meet you!
- 39, married to my real life romance hero, addicted to TV shows, reading romance novels and Twitter. I'm a chronic (e)book hoarder and my absolute favorite genres within romance fiction are contemporary romance and romantic suspense, but I don't shy away from historical, paranormal or erotic romance either. Even the occasional (urban) fantasy romance, futuristic and sci fi romance may make it to my Mount TBR. This is my corner of the world wide web where I let you know what books I'm hoarding, reading and reviewing.
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- Unforgivable - Laura Griffin
- Snapped - Laura Griffin
- Darkness at Dawn - Elizabeth Jennings
- Sizzle and Burn - Alexis Grant
- No Mercy - Lori Armstrong
- Animal Magnetism - Jill Shalvis
- Crazy for Love - Victoria Dahl
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- So Sensitive - Anne Rainey
- Dark Taste of Rapture - Gena Showalter
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- Stranger - Zoe Archer
- A Taste of Desire - Beverley Kendall
- Mistress by Midnight - Maggie Robinson
- To Desire a Devil - Elizabeth Hoyt
- To Tame a Dangerous Lord - Nicole Jordan
Digital TBR Next
- Driven - Jayne Rylon (reread)
- Shifting Gears - Jayne Rylon
- Beg Me - Shiloh Walker
- Tempt Me - Shiloh Walker
- Jazz Baby - Lorelie Brown
- Playboy Prankster - Pamela Britton
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- My Gigolo - Molly Burkhart
- Scent of Persuason - Nikki Duncan
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- Double Review: Rocky Mountain Heat & Haven by Vivi...
- Guest Review at Fiction Vixen: Seducing the Highla...
- Review: Lover Mine - J.R. Ward
- Challenge-Review: Something About You - Julie Jame...
- Mistress By Mistake by Maggie Robinson
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- Seduce Me by Robyn DeHart
- Requested Review: Dead Again - Tracy Cooper-Posey
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