Amy Wallace

Amy Wallace is the author of Ransomed Dreams, Healing Promises, and Enduring Justice, a wife, homeschool mom of three, speaker, Bible study leader, and avid chocoholic. She loves crafting high-action suspense that delves deep into heart issues, but who she really is can be summed up in a few short words: Amy is a daughter of the King learning to live and love with laughter. Visit Amy at her Heart Chocolate home on the web at

It Was a Dark and Romantic Suspense

If that line conjures no semblance of a memory, then you probably aren’t familiar with my favorite writing book, Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life. And that’s fine. But while you might not know Snoopy’s writing book, I’m fairly certain you’ve at least heard of Snoopy’s famous line, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

A paragon of literary genius that serves as an inspiration for all suspense writers, yes?

Okay, maybe not. But Snoopy touches on a few vital elements that all suspense writers utilize. Starting with “dark.” Suspense novels—from thrillers and chillers to romantic suspense—all deal with some aspect of darkness. As a vast genre, suspense is well-known for showing the dark world of danger, the depravity of sin, and things that make our hearts thud in the night.

That includes the romantic suspense subgenre. A romantic suspense story might not keep readers up all night shaking or take their breath away like a thriller, but it will have a sense of impending doom that provides the framework for the novel.

Another facet of Snoopy’s suspenseful opening line is the sense of something dangerous brewing that’s encapsulated in the word stormy. Just as all great suspense delves into some aspect of the dark, so also, they showcase all things stormy through powerful, charged, and building conflict. Writers know how vital conflict is to any story, but suspense kicks it up a notch by adding a ticking bomb that hurtles the characters toward the conclusion. Romantic suspense adds a twist of relational conflict to ratchet up the stormy.

Taking these two elements, dark and stormy, let’s go deeper into what sets romantic suspense apart as a popular suspense subgenre.

First, the romance element of a romantic suspense must be central to the story. If the suspense drives a story without the inclusion of romance, it doesn’t fit the expectations of romantic suspense.

That doesn’t mean a straight suspense can’t have romance, but it’s not the primary focus of the novel. For example, my debut novel, Ransomed Dreams, includes a fast-paced suspense storyline dealing with kidnapping and Crimes Against Children FBI agents. The romance element of the story is entwined in the suspense and neither stands alone. Book two of the series, Healing Promises, is a straight suspense. Married characters take the lead and the romance elements of the book flavor the suspense, but the focus is suspense.

The second thing that sets romantic suspense apart is the level of darkness readers experience. Typically, romantic suspense doesn’t detail a homicide scene or tackle the demented inner workings of serial killers. It can, but usually the amount of suspense is tempered with the equally engaging romance.

Another delineation between straight suspense and romantic suspense is the type of stormy conflict included. A straight suspense might deliver large doses of the main character’s internal conflict or conflict with others at a pulse-pounding pace, but romantic suspense blends the relationship conflicts of unmarried characters into a fast-paced story.

If you stick with straight suspense, or intermingle romance, heart-pounding danger, and relational conflict, you can’t go wrong if your suspense includes Snoopy’s two vital ingredients. Regardless of whether your story takes place on a dark and stormy night . . . or not.

Amy Wallace Books