Romance 101: Stranded Stories
This is a guest post by Amanda Diehl. Amanda is a blogger and reviewer at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. A recent implant to Boston, she’s finally getting used to having seasons and is currently working on her MA in Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @_ImAnAdult.
I’m using term “stranded” loosely. I’m talking your favorite-pair-of-sweatpants-with-the-elastic-showing type loosely. Whether it’s inclement weather, mechanical malfunctions, even post-apocalyptic-type shenanigans will do, some people can’t resist a set of people thrust together due to unfortunate circumstances.
The Appeal: You ever just lapse into a hypothetical scenario about the attractive stranger sitting next to you on a plane? It’s a rarity to get that golden ticket where you aren’t sandwiched between body odor offenders or antsy children. But there he is: the roguish gentleman, still wearing his sunglasses inside the cabin, making a set of ratty earbuds look attractive. And you think, if this sucker goes down and we’re on an island, I’m calling dibs. Our love will be born out of survival and necessity while we spell out our SOS in the sand amidst a sunset.
Or he could just be a huge douche and prompt some Lord of the Flies-type intensity.
Regardless, you know you probably won’t see this person again and your flight is only a few hours. Chatting someone up, with the potential for social awkwardness at an all-time high because you can only escape to the bathroom for so long, isn’t a preferred way to spend the time.
Thankfully, you have the stranded romance, where strangers tend to have a good conscience and are willing to help one another out. Close quarters. Acts of kindness. Potentially life-threatening situations. If that isn’t a great “how’d you meet” scenario, I don’t know what is.
Even more so when the characters know each other. Being stranded, away from typical life distractions, allows the protagonists to realize that the solution to their loveless lifestyle has been under their nose the entire time. Cue collective sighs.
Pitfalls: Often in romances that involve snowbound or desert island stories, characters are in a limited amount of space. It can be difficult to keep things interesting, without defaulting to sex. There are rarely any sassy side characters, just perpetual waiting until the weather clears up or the car gets out of the shop.
Endings are tough to write. Anyone who’s ever had to write a paper for anything knows that bringing things to a close is more difficult than they look. Romances pride themselves on their happily-ever-afters. It’s one of the main reasons why they attract readers. No matter what crap happens to the heroine and hero, it’s almost a guarantee that they’ll get through it and be just fine in the end. With a stranded pair, there needs to be some incentive to keep things going. If they’re from different areas geographically, how is that going to work? I certainly don’t recommend ending it right after the couple is rescued. I need to know what happens! Where are they living now? Do they have babies yet?
Recommendations: High Risk by Vivian Arend. If you like your romance with a suspenseful edge, definitely give this a read. This is more about survival than anything, and, in the first book of the series, very little stranding happens. It more so plays out in the heroine and hero’s past experiences as a search and rescue team for mountain climbers. It’s also a little heavy on the sex, though I doubt that’s a problem.
Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I will probably ready anything Susan Elizabeth Phillips writes. This is book six of the Wynette, Texas series, though most of the books can be read as standalone novels, if you don’t mind missing out on the nod to recurring characters. After ruining a wedding, the heroine is now stuck in a town that hates her. Her car won’t start and there aren’t many people willing to help her out. It’s a little campy, but a whole lot of fun.
Coming in from the Cold by Sarina Bowen. This was originally released from Harlequin in a boxed set. It won’t be released as its own novel until May. Now this starts off as your stereotypical snowbound scenario. However, the characters are something I haven’t read in a romance before. Normally it’s a local and some city girl, or even a pair of coworkers stuck in the snow. Instead, you have an alpine ski champion, which will keep my love of men’s skiing gear going strong after the Winter Olympics. It also takes place in Vermont, and I tend to get excited when a book is set in a place I’ve been to before.
If you have any other recommendations, I’m always looking to add more to my TBR pile!