It’s not the destination—it’s the journey.
There are many out there who dismiss the romance genre as formulaic because its essentially defining feature is that there will be a HEA (Happily-Ever-After). How, critics ask, can you retain your feminist creds, your intellectual status, your literary chops if you pick up a book where you already know how it ends?
Well… tell me this. How many times do you plan a vacation where you have no idea of your destination? Not that often, I’d bet. My guess is that you’d say it’s the journey that matters, not the final result. And it’s the same with the romance genre. Sure, we expect that the two main characters will end up together. But the paths taken to reach that point are literally infinite in number. Just ask Elizabeth Bennett (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen), Claire Randall (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon), Kate Daniels (Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews) or any of the literally millions of romance heroines how they arrived at their HEAs.
Some of those paths are so well-travelled that the scenery is boring and the tour has become a cliche. Others, though familiar, still offer plenty of exciting, gorgeous, and just plain romantic scenery along the way.
“I did not see that coming.” —Said nobody at the end of a romance novel ever.
The Romance Novel Rehashed: Cliche or Trope?
The difference between a cliché and a trope is that tropes still work. Let’s say you just want to read a good, old-fashioned romance. The trope boils it down:
And the best part is this actually works. Through countless iterations, substitutions, shades, and the occasional glittery hoo-ha and/or vampire, romance stories are fun, satisfying, and endlessly varied.
For a look at a writer who nails the romance novel tropes, please see M.M. Jaye’s new release, Fate Captured.
Fate Captured by M.M. Jaye
Can two wrongs win Mr. Right?
Trish Swan is living her dream. She gave up chilly Boston for a sunny Greek island to write her novel. But she likes hot crime between the pages, not before her eyes. Yet, she doesn’t think twice about turning in a video she captures of a cop roughing up a man–but maybe she should because fate throws her a curve ball she least expects.
The mind-numbingly hot Greek from the bar isn’t just a cocky bad boy in need of a little love. He’s a shipping heir wrongfully accused.
Career in ruins, Markos’ life is a hot mess, all thanks to one sexy do-gooder who keeps popping up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Touching her becomes addictive, so maybe he could forgive her for doing her civic duty. But when she dredges up ghosts from his past, messing with his sanity, she gets a real taste of what he’s capable of.
With a man’s life on the line, Trish prepares for a head-on collision that will push Markos over the edge. What does she stand to lose anyway? Her heart?
He already owns it.
In her debut novel, author MM Jaye takes a double approach to romance writing by offering her story in two versions, clean and spicy. And lucky me—I got to read both!
Both books have all the right ingredients for a romance novel. First, of course, there’s the main character Trish. Trying to establish her own identity apart from her emotionally distant parents, she’s come to Greece to work on her dream of becoming a writer. I particularly enjoyed Trish’s rich and quirky internal life. With her secret belief that she’s both a bit psychic and a naturally adept detective, she doesn’t hesitate to step up when she thinks she can make a difference. Whether it’s secretly filming a crime in process, or intervening to fix the lives of those around her, Trish is a combination of klutz and heroine.
Of course, it’s what she doesn’t know that gets her in trouble, especially when it comes to the sexy man in the bar where she works. Marko, the estranged son of a shipping magnate, has been trying to live by his own code of honor. But that life has fallen apart, and he’s drinking to forget all the things that have gone wrong. Although the attraction between them is unmistakable, their first meeting leaves her infuriated and him wearing the drinks she’d been delivering. Or was that really their first meeting?
Fate Captured proceeds to tick off the elements of a classic romance—the meet cute, the initial mutual attraction, the explosion when each feels betrayed, the life and death decisions each of them faces. But author MM Jaye knows that it’s all about the journey, not the HEA at the end. She gives each of these elements a customized slant, and makes her characters work for their happy ending. Trish and Marko have to outgrow their preconceived notions about each other and their families. There are some cute touches along the way, such as the way the hero in Trish’s novel in progress begins to look suspiciously like a certain Greek. And that trademark heroine hair flick? Trish nails that one too.
Taking advantage of his momentary distraction, she threw out her hand, snatched his tumbler and brought that drink down on him as well.
His gaze dropped to his lap.
‘Now that was payback.’ She pivoted and tossed her long hair with such gusto, it had to have whipped his face.
There were a few places where the action seemed slightly disconnected, and where I had to backtrack to figure out who was doing what where. Plus there were a couple of places where skepticism had to be suspended. (I’m sure someone who had been working in law enforcement could enter a completely different career and in less than a month be closing multi-million dollar deals. Why not?) But overall the story was well-paced and the two main characters were three-dimensional and appealing.
And then there are those differences between the two books. True to her word, one of MM Jaye’s versions is a sweet old-fashioned tale perfect for anyone who wonders whatever became of those good old Mills & Boon or Harlequin romances. After I read the “clean” version, I braced myself for “spicy”. But I was pleasantly surprised to find myself liking it much better. The characters just made more sense. These are grownups with healthy libidos, but their romance is even sweeter, while still a far cry from even a whiff of porn.
So in our world of anonymous Kindles, my advice is to take that “spice”version with you the next time you want a nice light beach read…even if your beach isn’t any further away than your sofa. It’s a classic romance from a new writer to watch. I wouldn’t hesitate to give it four stars, and to look forward to MM Jaye’s next book in this new series.
***I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***
Book Title: Fate Captured
Author: MM Jaye
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: Istomedia Publishing (April 27, 2016)
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