Alison Stuart’s latest book The Homecoming follows two old friends who are thrown together in a mission to solve a murder. To celebrate its release we asked her why romance and crime are the perfect genre complements!
I have a confession … I read and watch far more crime fiction than I do romance, so much so that I was once asked why I didn’t write crime fiction. That sent me rocking back on my heels … Why don’t I?
For all I love a puzzling mystery to solve, I do love a happy ever after. So faced with that dilemma I started thinking about the best way to cross over the two genres. As with writing romance, the reader expectations are clear. Solving the crime and seeing justice done is every bit as important to the reader of mysteries as ‘happy ever after’ is to readers of romance. However, from the writer’s perspective, weaving a murder mystery into a story is a lot harder than writing a romance. So many balls to keep in the air!
Once I started evaluating my own writing, I realised I was already travelling down that path. Crime and mystery had begun to leach into my romances … Lord Somerton’s Heir, for example, could just as easily be marketed as a historical mystery as a regency romance. At its heart is a death – in fact, there are two deaths to resolve by the end of the book all wrapped up with a growing attraction between two wounded people, Sebastian and Isabel, who deserve their happy ever after as well as seeing justice done.
And death stalks the valley of Maiden’s Creek. The Goldminer’s Sister revolved around a death of a beloved character from The Postmistress (sorry about that!) that occurred before the start of the book. On arriving in Maiden’s Creek Eliza Penrose is faced with the news of her brother’s demise, and suspecting that it is not as clear-cut as presented, she sets herself the task of getting to the truth about her brother’s accident with the help of the mine engineer Alec McCleod. In doing so the pair unearth so much more.
In my latest book, The Homecoming, I have put the cold-blooded murder of one of the town’s nurses at the front and centre of the action. This is the catalytic event that will throw Charlie O’Reilly and Danny Hunt together in the search for a killer in order to save an innocent friend from the gallows. I loved weaving the strands of a murder mystery into the story and turning it into a puzzle for the protagonists (and the readers!) to solve. Charlie and Danny work so well together, I can almost see them going on to a crime-fighting career in the dark streets of 1890s Melbourne. Can you? I would love to know if you think that idea has wings!
Romance and crime … crossing the genre is not new. On the small screen, the concept of a couple of crime fighters finding love among the bodies can be found in early TV shows such as Moonlighting (Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd). The trick is to maintain the URST and not lose the edge of the conflict when the two protagonists finally fall into each other’s arms. It doesn’t always work. I always felt Bones and Castle for example became far less interesting once the two protagonists became a couple.
So here are my personal top 5 crime-fighting romantic couples from TV (many of the best shows have their origins in books such as the first two on the list). I cast around to find historical mystery series with strong romantic couplings so they head up the list.
- Murdoch Mysteries (which has run to 16 seasons!): Julia and William.
- Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries: Phryne and the inspector. (Interestingly in the Kerry Greenwood books, the inspector is not Phryne’s love interest but he works so well in the TV series … the air positively crackles between them.)
- Miss Scarlet and the Duke: Eliza Scarlet and Inspector Wellington.
- Castle: Castle and Beckett. I would watch Nathan Fillion open an envelope and Nathan as a writer does it for me (not that you ever see him writing books!).
- Bones: Temperance and Booth.
And my top 5 authors and historical mystery series:
- Elizabeth Peters: Amelia Peabody series (Peabody and Emerson). My absolute #1 and a frequent reread.
- Rhys Bowen: The Royal Spyness series (Georgie and the gorgeous Darcy!). Good fun in the cosy mystery tradition.
- C.S. Harris: Sebastian St Cyr series (Sebastian and Hero). The top regency series IMO.
- Ashley Gardiner: Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries (Gabriel and Lady Breckenridge).
- A.M. Stuart: Harriet Gordon Mysteries … OK, blatant self promotion but I love Harriet and Curran and I have high hopes for them.
A special mention to the Heathcliff Lennox series by Karen Menuhin (another in the cosy mystery tradition): Lennox and Persi (Persephone) … although Lennox is an absolute idiot when it comes to even talking to women, Persi sets him straight. I love this series!
Of course, there is also plenty of unrequited love and ‘will they, won’t they’ stories … poor Endeavour Morse keeps falling for the wrong girls and we know he never finds true love and there is also Inspector Lynley and Barbara Havers who, sadly, will never get together.
This is far from an exhaustive list. I would love to know which historical (or other) cross-genre romance mysteries you would add to the list of either TV shows or book series (or both!).
And while you’re thinking about it … The Homecoming is available in all good stores (and as an ebook) from 4 January 2023. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Charlie and Danny’s future adventures!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alison Stuart
Australian author Alison Stuart began her writing journey halfway up a tree in the school playground with a notebook and a dream. Her father’s passion for history and her husband’s love of adventure and the Australian bush led to a desire to tell stories of Australia’s past.
She has travelled extensively and lived in Africa and Singapore. Before turning to writing full time, she enjoyed a long and varied career as a lawyer, both in private practice and in a range of different organisations, including the military and the emergency services.
Alison lives in a historic town in Victoria.
and don’t miss The Homecoming!
They might be able to solve a crime – but can they build a life together? A compelling historical romance with a murder mystery at its core, for readers of Darry Fraser and Tea Cooper.
1892. It has been almost twenty years since Charlie O’Reilly left Maiden’s Creek, the town where she once knew only injustice and fear. Now she returns as acting matron of the local hospital, determined to prove her worth – and to escape the attentions of a man she would rather forget.
Despite his wealth and busy practice as a criminal lawyer, Danny Hunt has never found contentment. He is still haunted by memories of his childhood in Maiden’s Creek and the strange and desperate man who was his father.
When a court case goes wrong and Danny’s life is threatened, he seizes the opportunity to visit Maiden’s Creek with his friend Robert, whose sister, a nurse at the hospital, is the only woman Danny has ever proposed to.
But danger follows Danny and Charlie and when a nurse is violently murdered, they are thrown together in a desperate bid to prove the innocence of a friend. When a devastating storm hits, threatening the hospital, old hurts and secrets come to the surface.
Both can see that they make the perfect team, but Charlie is committed to her work and has one secret she plans never to reveal …
‘Betrayal, secrets and dastardly deeds abound in this page-turning story of ambition, revenge, and love. Another thrilling book from Alison Stuart’ – Mary-Lou Stephens, author of The Last of the Apple Blossom