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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Cline Barton

Veronica's #WritersDiary: It's Complicated...When Romance, Mystery, & Suspense Collide

Updated: Aug 19, 2023


“Because when you’re in love, you think you’re invincible. It blinds you. And you don’t seem to care.”

Agatha Christie


What happens when love takes a deadly turn? It's a question that is posed and answered frequently in cozy mystery, suspense, and thriller tales. Greed, revenge, and unhinged madness often result in murderous acts of rage.


Today I wanted to discuss this topic in a bit more detail from a cozy mystery perspective. I've mentioned in previous posts I'll be participating in a panel covering this topic at the Bouchercon mystery conference in San Diego at the end of the month.


The Mystery and Suspense of Romance: Love Triangles, Dating, Marriage, and Death... what can possibly go wrong? Unlike my Rom-Com writer colleagues and their HEA endings, in the cozy mystery world, romantic encounters involving suspense and mystery often take a darker turn and result in deadly intentions and deeds. #DunDunDun

I happen, ahem, to have a bit of experience infusing romance-gone-wrong into my cozy mystery stories. In the first book, my main character, Gemma begins her sojourn to England when she catches her Malibu boyfriend cheating on her. She needs a change of scene, and luckily for her, Cherrywood Hall has plenty to offer in terms of friendships, a new career, and a love interest who manages to capture, and gently mend, her broken heart. And, it all occurs as bodies are dropping all around. #WatchYourStep


In Cast, Crew, & Carnage--jealousy runs rampant on the Castlewood Manor set. Gemma and Kyle have others competing for their romantic attention which causes moments of friction, and the leading man on the series has not one, not two, but three romantic trysts going on at the same time (including a royal eyebrow raiser that involves a mother and daughter...). What can possibly go wrong?


Deadly Receptions starts off with a royal wedding scene like no other when the grandson of the queen does the unspeakable at the altar, leaving Gemma to save the royal's day as the monarch faints dead away on live TV.


The romantic drama continues when Gemma's father announces his engagement to a much younger woman, and an ex reappears on the scene in a last-ditch attempt to win back what he callously threw away. Heartbreak unleashes lethal anger, infusing a madness that enables the unthinkable... In most cases, fate takes a tragic turn for the scorned characters.


Speaking of weddings in a mystery, I do love them, LOL! After an exhausting set of murders, mayhem, and ne'er-do-wells spoiling the peace, what better way to unwind than with a splashy, glamorous, nuptial event! The planning gets tense at times, but when it does finally come together, all is forgotten as the characters relish the day.


Gemma and Kyle have their special day at my favorite royal abode, Hampton Court Palace in Mistletoe and Mayhem (I still shed a tear or two in Chapter 20). Pssst...#BarbieAlert The stunning gown she wore in the book was inspired by the Oscar de la Renta Barbie--I have it displayed proudly on my writing room wall.


Some engagements take a rockier path (Mama and Chef Karl come to mind) or sneak in under the radar (Aunt Margaret and Freddie) as we learn in Twins in the City and Blood on the Vines. Clandestine affairs and revolving partners are a huge invitation for trouble as the models and designers found in Murder on the Runway... These do make for a juicy (and many times, deadly) storyline, indeed!

Enough about me, what stories caught your romantic attention in a whodunnit? Some can be quite bizarre...Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie had tones of incest when a brother's love goes too far. In Murder is Easy, an unhinged woman unleashes her rage, causing deadly havoc on those who have scorned and threatened to expose her. Let's not forget Death on the Nile and its torrid, deadly triangle---with a surprise ending that still gives me chills.


Speaking of, ahem, brotherly love, The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham had an eye-popping reveal and ending for Barnaby's first case (does anyone survive a visit to Midsummer?).


Hitchcock's classic, Strangers on a Train features a deadly, quid pro quo proposal to murder the wife of a man locked in a loveless marriage. One of my fav, noir mysteries is the film, Laura, featuring Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb, Dana Andrews, and Vincent Price. Talk about a love-quadrangle: a charming, cheating BF, an obsessed, possessive mentor; and the detective who falls in love with the woman in the portrait---as he's investigating her 'murder'. Brilliant!


M.C. Beaton keeps us romantically on edge as Agatha Raisin and her on-again-off-again relationship with the reluctant James Lacey pans out during her cases. I love the romantic friction between the daring Phryne Fisher and Detective Jack Robinson in Kerry Greenwood's Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries stories---will he ever be able to tame her adventurous spirit?


The world of romance plays nicely in the cozy mystery world providing a plethora of motives for deadly deeds, character interactions, and the much-needed, flirtatious salve at the end once the mystery is solved.


Affairs of the heart add bizarre complexities to the mystery and suspense genres. When things are humming along, life is good. But, for those jilted victims suffering from unrequited love or breeches in trust, beware. Fiends are often spawned, and yikes, do they love their revenge (bunny boiler memories, anyone?). I have no doubt we will be enjoying stories about the trials and tribulations brought about when love takes a deadly turn for some time...


What are some of your fav twists when mystery, suspense, and romance collide? I'd love to hear all about it... It's Wednesday, time for #DearDiary:



Thanks for all the book reveal love for Shadow Reflection!

Bibiana and I truly appreciate the great comments and RPs (formerly RTs) for our Shadow Reflection cover and story reveal. If anyone is interested in reading the ARC and doing a book review, please let us know. We'll be having some great giveaways too as we get closer to the release. Stay tuned! #BOO


A bizarre case takes a deadly turn and local heroes battling the Martians this week from the writers of X (formerly Twitter)...


Author Anthony Horowitz, The Word Is Murder, 5

In this first book of the Hawthorne and Horowitz mystery series, a baffling murder draws Author Horowitz (as himself) and retired (somewhat disgraced) Detective Hawthorne together in an unlikely alliance to help the police solve the case. The victim visits a funeral home to make her final arrangements. Six hours later she is found murdered. Is it a tragic coincidence? Or a devious, planned homicide?


As Hawthorne and Horowitz investigate, a past tragedy involving the victim emerges, exposing a plethora of suspects who may have been out for revenge. The victim's son, a successful actor with a fondness for drugs may not be so innocent. Family secrets emerge, will there be more carnage before the murderer is found?


Author Horowitz spins another baffling whodunnit with a trail of clues that will keep you guessing until the end. I thoroughly enjoy the twist of him playing himself alongside his MC detective. The exchanges are fresh, witty, and brutally honest at times as they carve out their sleuthing relationship. Highly recommended for mystery and suspense fans!

Author C.A. Powell, The Last Days of the Four Horsemen, 5

The Martians are in their last days and are growing desperate and more ferocious in their destruction of anyone and anything that attempts to stop them. Their hope is to reach the barrel towers in Scotland that will take them back to the red planet before they expire. Will the few remaining townspeople and infantry that remain be able to finally rid the Earth of these marauding invaders?


A clever plan is deployed by a professor determined to wipe the Martians out, once and for all. Bravery comes forward from unlikely sources. Will it be enough to overcome the Martian treachery?


Author Powell's latest installment is a page turning read. It gives readers yet another exciting escapade in mankind's attempt to thwart the efforts of these alien invaders. A highly enjoyable read--perfect for science fiction fans who can't get enough of 'what might have happened next' after the War of the Worlds...


Next up in the reading queue:




Art Colonies at the Laguna Festival of the Arts, Pageant of the Masters!

It was another grand evening under the stars this year at the POM in Laguna. This year, art colonies and their creative works from around the world were highlighted, taking us from France, to Italy, to Harlem, to Taos, to East Los Angeles. If you are in the SoCal area during July and August, this is a must-see experience!


Welcome to my world. Until next time, have a good one!


Crowns and Kisses,

Veronica


P.S. Stay tuned for the next post--the OH and I are visiting the shores of Long Beach to see a haunted Queen... Gemma and Rikkhe approve 💖👑


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