Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Romance and Mystery with Amy Corwin

Thank you Amy for coming by today!

One lucky commenter will win a $25 Amazon GC! So make sure you follow the tour with more chances to win! Click here to find the tour.

Romance and Mystery, the Dynamic Duo of Fiction
Romance and mystery is like chocolate and peanut butter, chocolate and strawberries, chocolate and…heck, just about anything. Threads of romance run through almost every genre you’d care to mention. Even the venerable Science Fiction genre more often than not has a romantic subplot, allowing the roguish captain of the starship to court and fall in love with the green-skinned native woman. It’s part of the human condition and some might say, the best part. It’s difficult to have a story about people without having some kind of romance and love involved.
But what makes romance and mystery such a killer combination? There are lots of reasons, but mostly, the murder mystery brings a lot of elements into a romance that can really strengthen the hero and heroine’s relationship, which is the soul of the story. Although it would be a romance to relate how girl meets boy, they fall in love, and they develop a committed relationship, it’s not a great story because there’s nothing for the characters to overcome, no challenges, no hardships, no tension.
One of the more annoying traps authors can fall into in trying to develop tension is to make the hero and heroine argue all the time. But in point of fact, if two people do nothing but argue, they aren’t nice to hang out with and no one really wants to see them get married. You think, hmmm, after they marry, the clashes are going to turn into full-scale warfare.
However, if the characters get along, what’s keeping them apart? The thing that’s keeping them apart is what interests us. It is the story.
As Mickey Spillane once said, “When you can’t think of anything else to do, have someone walk in with a gun. That’s where a mystery subplot can turn a ho-hum story into a page-turner, turn a listless romance into one where you’re passionately hoping the hero and heroine will finally find happiness in each other’s arms.
So exactly what elements does a mystery bring to the romance table?
The element that makes a book a page turner is tension. It’s the questions the reader is asking as she sits on the edge of her seat, reading as fast as she can. Is the bad guy going to kill Mary? Who is the bad guy? Is the killer (God forbid) John, the brooding and perhaps quite mad hero? All mysteries present the reader with questions and the best present more and more intriguing questions that don’t al get answered until the end.
This can be a good thing in a romance as it imbues the characters, Mary and John, with a certain amount of their own mystery. Some stories suggest that the unknown murderer may even be Mary or John, making their growing attraction even riskier. Is John falling in love with a black widow, or has Mary been unjustly accused? In fact, in my novel The Vital Principle, Knighton Gaunt is none too sure about Miss Prudence Barnard and she quite naturally resents his suspicions.
The mystery can also produce tension by introducing an element of danger. John may have to protect Mary as they try to find the murderer. While this is a classic “damsel in distress” story, it’s a perennial favorite because no matter how strong and independent women are, deep down they long for a man to stand between them and the terrors of the unknown. This storyline speaks to that deep desire.
While mysteries can increase the tension in the story, it can also be a source of conflict between John and Mary. It can be “what is keeping them apart.” The old Gothic romances, which I still adore, often used the mystery element in this way.
The young heroine, Mary, arrives at the castle to be a governess and discovers that the master’s wife recently died under mysterious circumstances. Did the brooding and grief-stricken John, the master and hero, kill his wife? Is his grief really just guilt? As Mary grows more and more attracted to John, she searches for the truth about his wife’s death, but at every turn, John seems to block her efforts. He seems more and more guilty, despite her growing love for him. Could her heart be wrong?
John, however, knows that his mentally disturbed brother murdered his wife by accident. He doesn’t want him punished because the man is not competent to know what he’s done. He therefore works against Mary’s efforts to uncover the truth, even though he is growing to love her and would do anything to shake the burden of guilt and knowledge burdening him.
That is the classic combination of romance and mystery and it never fails to intrigue and ultimately satisfy readers as it provides a conflict between the characters without making John and Mary simply incompatible as constant arguments does.
A Common Goal
Finally, many mysteries combine romance and mystery to give John and Mary, our favorite characters, the opportunity to combine forces. Mary may be a detective on the police force, while John may have had a family member murdered. He wants to work with Mary to find who killed his brother. I always love these kinds of scenarios because it affords so many areas where Mary and John are thrown together to get to know each other and yet Mary may be required by her job to keep information from John. There’s a natural tension there that can be used to be the yeast in the bread of their growing romance.
Well, I could ramble on forever about this as it’s one of my favorite subjects. But in the final analysis, romance and mystery just go together. Because they do.

One lucky commenter will win a $25 Amazon GC! So make sure you follow the tour with more chances to win! Click here to find the tour.

A Brief Bio
Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and recently joined Mystery Writers of America. She has been writing for the last ten years.  She writes romance, historical and cozy mysteries. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.
Amy’s books include the three Regency romantic mysteries, I BID ONE AMERICAN, THE BRICKLAYER’S HELPER, and THE NECKLACE; Regency mysteries, THE VITAL PRINCIPLE, and A ROSE BEFORE DYING; and her first cozy mystery, WHACKED!, will come in in 2012 from Five Star.

Join her and discover that every good romance has a touch of mystery.

Blog:          http://amycorwin.blogspot.com

Back Cover Blurb for A Rose Before Dying
A murderer is stalking the streets of London and the evidence points to Sir Edward, the uncle of Charles Vance, Earl of Castlemoor. The first victim is none other than Sir Edward’s mistress who threw him over for a younger man, giving him a clear motive to kill her. However, Charles is convinced Sir Edward is innocent and enlists the aide of Mr. Knighton Gaunt of the Second Sons Inquiry Agency. When more clues surface, including roses hinting at another victim, Charles steps in and takes control. He can’t let his uncle hang for murders he didn’t commit, despite his uncle’s foul temper and abundant motivation.
Charles teams up with noted rosarian Ariadne Wellfleet to decipher the clues and prove Sir Edward’s innocence and stop the murderer before he can strike again.

In this excerpt from A Rose Before Dying, Charles Vance, Lord Castlemoor, has brought a rose to the Wellfleets, hoping someone can identify it. The rose is the only clue he has to identify the next victim of a vicious killer bent on framing Charles’ uncle.


He pulled out the small bundle containing the rose. He knew it was useless, her father, the rose expert, was dead. But he couldn’t stop a small spurt of hope. “I’d like to identify this rose. Do you recognize it?”
“I supposed you’re only asking me as a last resort. Because my father is no longer with us.” She held out a peremptory hand. “Let me see it.”
Her face was a smooth, expressionless mask. However, he detected traces of tired resignation at the implication that she could not be expected to have the depth of knowledge exhibited by a man.
When he placed the limp spray in her palm, she held it up to her nose and breathed in several times with closed eyes, cupping the flowers in her hands. Then she gave it a cursory examination before pulling the petals off of one flower.
“Stop!” He reached over to wrench it out of her hand. She turned her shoulder, blocking him. “What are you doing?”
“Counting the petals. Why?”
“You’re destroying it! How shall I identify it if you ruin it?”
She held it out. “Take it. Plant it, or allow me to root it. Or graft it. If it grows, you can ask your friend, Mr. Lee, to identify it in two or three years from the shape of the bush and bloom habit. Most men who grow roses agree that it takes at least one cycle of blooming to identify a rose with any assurance.”
“Two years!”
“Yes—if you want to be sure. And isn’t that why you wish to identify it? So you can purchase a specimen for your own garden?”
He gazed into her coolly discerning eyes and realized she was aware that he was not being open with her. But given Mr. Lee’s reaction, he could not bring himself to tell the complete truth. The rose wouldn’t last long enough to find another master gardener, assuming he could even locate one in London. “It’s…a wager. Silly, I know, but one of my friends said I couldn’t identify this rose.” The tips of his ears burned.
“I see.” Her eyes grew colder. “This is all a wager?” She glanced at Rose.
“No, of course not. Not Rose—she’s not part of it.”
Miss Wellfleet’s fingers pushed the petals into a line on the table and hovered over them. Thirteen petals, thin and wilting, spread in a tattered line. The slender spray was dying. The small, tight buds had already blackened and hung limply. His chest tightened with frustration.
Then with a theatrical gesture that suggested more defiance than scientific inquiry, she ripped apart the remaining flowers. She arranged the petals in three parallel lines, one for each flower. The roses didn’t all have the same number of petals. The first had thirteen petals. The next had eleven. The final rose had seventeen.
After examining what remained of the stalk, the yellow stamens, and leaves, she looked at him.
Although she didn’t precisely shrug, there was a quality in her expression that spoke of disdain when she said, “Rosa Collina fastigiata.”
“That’s it?” His tired disappointment reminded him of the lateness of the hour. Useless. He needn’t have come here at all. Lee had it right the first time.
“Well, yes. What were you expecting?”
“Something…more. A name….”
“That is a name.” Irritation sharpened her voice. “Or Flat-Flowered Hill Rose, if you prefer an English one.”
“You’re sure?”’
Her eyes hardened. “As sure as I can be from this small spray.” She flung the petals and twig onto the table. “No one can be absolutely sure without seeing the bush and knowing the growth habit and bloom cycles. Have you any idea how many roses there are?”
“That’s why your friend made a clever wager—if wager it was.”
“No. Truly, I apologize. I sincerely appreciate the name.”
“It’s late. You have your name. I hope you win your wager.”
With a coolness he deserved but saddened him nonetheless, she gestured for him to leave. The butler, Mr. Abbott, waited just outside the French doors to the greenhouse. His silent presence ensured Miss Wellfleet had never been truly alone with Charles. Somehow, this reminded him of how attractive he found her, and he flushed when he caught Mr. Abbott’s curious gaze.
However, his embarrassment faded as he remembered his purpose.
A life could be saved if he interpreted Rosa Collina fastigiata properly.
How many people named Collins lived in London? Unless the clue rested with the English name, Flat-Flowered Hill Rose. Did this blossom point to a location instead of a person?
Time was slipping away.

Back Cover Blurb for The Necklace
Legends foretell death for anyone who possesses the fabled Peckham emerald necklace, lost by an Archer ancestor. Certainly, it has brought the Archers nothing but heartache. So Oriana is relieved it’s missing, assuming it ever existed. She has enough difficulties protecting her uncle—and her heart--from his dangerous new friend, Chilton Dacy. However, when Oriana finds the necklace, the curse reawakens. The necklace disappears, only to reappear clutched in a dead man’s hand.
The stranger’s death leaves Oriana with a frightening choice: ask Chilton for help, or face the possibility that she may hang for murder.

In this scene, Chilton Dacy has been accidentally shot and is convalescing at the Archer residence. He just can’t resist teasing Oriana Archer, his reluctant nurse….


“Sir,” Oriana said, frantic to change the subject to something less provocative. “How did you meet my uncle? I do not recall him mentioning you before.”

“Umm,” he said unhelpfully.

“I beg your pardon? I’m afraid I did not hear you clearly.”

“Perhaps you’re hard of hearing and should turn around to face me.”

“My hearing is perfectly adequate, sir.”

“Are you afraid to face me?”

“I am not, but you’re not dressed. This is all quite improper.”

“That was my thought when you tucked me into bed, Miss Archer.”

A burning fire raged up her bosom, scorching her neck and cheeks. She had sincerely hoped he wouldn’t remember. After a dreadfully long silence, she said, “If you will recall, you were actually unconscious a great deal of the time.”

The bed creaked behind her. At the noise, she instinctively turned.

He lounged against the stack of pillows with his hands locked behind his head. Another fiery wave cascaded over her cheeks as her eyes followed that line down his chest again. The sheet had slipped even further. It barely covered his lap. A thin line of bandage was visible at the top of his thigh where an insolent corner of the sheet had flipped over.

“And how, precisely, should I recall it if I was unconscious at the time? All I remember is you unfastening my breeches—”

“Sir, it was an unfortunate circumstance that we must all strive to avoid in the future,” she hurriedly interrupted him.

“Oh, I don’t know. I can think of a worse fate than being stripped, bathed, and put to bed by a pretty woman.”

“You are obviously suffering from some pernicious form of delirium. I never bathed you. But, I shall send Joshua up to you directly if you desire to wash.” She spun and worked very hard to walk—not run—out of the door.

His deep chuckles raced after her, despite the fact that she slammed the door shut behind her.

The Vital Principle 
An inquiry agent seeks to expose a spiritualist as a fraud only to uncover a murder.
In 1815, inquiry agent, Knighton Gaunt, is asked by Lord Crowley to attend a séance with the express purpose of revealing the spiritualist as a fraud. When the séance ends abruptly, an unseen killer poisons Lord Crowley, leaving Gaunt to investigate not fraud, but murder.
Suspicion turns first to the spiritualist, Miss Prudence Barnard. But as Gaunt digs deeper into the twisted history of the guests at Rosecrest, he discovers a series of deadly secrets. Long-time friends soon turn against one another as the tension mounts, and Gaunt is challenged to separate fact from fiction before another death at Rosecrest.
The Vital Principle is the first mystery in the Second Sons Inquiry Agency series and features coolly intellectual Mr. Knighton Gaunt, the agency’s founder. This witty, historical whodunit in the tradition of Bruce Alexander’s Blind Justice will keep you guessing until the unexpected end.
“Murder, mystery, and a dash of romance combined with witty dialogue and unforgettable characters make The Vital Principle a book that will definitely go on my keeper shelf!” —Lilly Gayle, author of Into the Darkness and Slightly Tarnished.

In this excerpt from The Vital Principle, inquiry agent Knighton Gaunt realizes their host, Lord Crowley, has been poisoned.
Swirling the amber liquid, he held it up to examine it. The light from the candles glowed through the brandy, highlighting the unnaturally dark hue. After rotating the glass with a practiced movement of his wrist, Knighton Gaunt sniffed at the fumes before placing it back on the table.
“Well, what’s wrong?” Lord Thompson stared at Crowley as if he suspected a trick. “Crowley, get up, damn you. Quit playing the fool.” He nudged Crowley’s flaccid arm with his toe.
“Stop!” Knighton pushed Thompson back. “This isn’t a joke.”
“What’s wrong with him? Is he having some kind of a fit?” Mr. Jekyll asked.
“No. It’s not a fit.” Knighton glanced at the dowager. He was reluctant to inform her that her son was dead, most likely murdered. She already appeared to have suffered more grief than she could bear. Her tired eyes and gray face made him fear any further pain would bring about a complete collapse.
How much could one woman bear?
“Lady Crowley.” He caught Miss Barnard’s eye and to his relief, felt an immediate flicker of understanding. She put an arm around the older lady’s shoulders, bracing her for the shock. “Lady Crowley, I’m sorry,” he said. “Your son is dead.”
“Dead?” Lady Crowley repeated, her voice quavering. She glanced down as if she could not comprehend what she saw. “How can he be dead? You must be mistaken.”
Miss Barnard bent over the dowager and murmured, “I’m sorry, so terribly sorry.”
A sob broke from Lady Crowley’s throat. Miss Barnard held her more tightly, speaking softly, trying to comfort her.
“Dead!” Miss Spencer leapt out of her chair. She whirled to stare into the gloomy recesses of the room, her hands covering her mouth. When Mr. Denham touched her arm, she shrieked. “A ghost! It must be! That thing I felt hovering behind me when the candle blew out. It touched me—I felt its cold fingers! It passed by me on its way to kill Lord Crowley! It will kill us all! We must leave, now! Now!

One lucky commenter will win a $25 Amazon GC! So make sure you follow the tour with more chances to win! Click here to find the tour.


  1. Romance & Mystery: a partnership that begs to be read. Thank you for the excerpts.


  2. I loved the comment about when you run out of ideas, have someone walk in with a gun. I know it wasn't your idea, but I loved it.

  3. Informative post. Great blurbs and excerpts. Thanks for the blog tour.


  4. I enjoyed the excerpts. I also totally agreed with you that mystery and romance go together. I started off reading mysteries when I was 9 because that was what my mother read. They were Agatha Christie and Rex Stout books and totally romanceless, I then segued into "bodice rippers" and was delighted a few years later to encounter mysteries with some romance. It really seems to be a strong subgenre now. It's more realistic that a chacter in a mustery novel would have a romantic interest.


  5. Enjoyed reading the excerpts today.

    Do you ever use a picture of a person, famous or not, to help visualize your character’s physical features?

  6. Thanks so much for coming by and commenting! Yes, that comment about the gun was from another crime writer, but you really have to love it.

    And thanks Carrie for hosting me. I really appreciate it.

  7. Your books draw us in, thanks for the interview.

  8. Conflict, conflict, conflict. :)

    So true, a story without conflict is boring and a romance without tension is flat.

    Great post!

  9. Ack I need more! :) My appetite is whetted.

    newchapters ta yahoo tod com

  10. I so agree with all of you! Thank you for leaving comments. You do definitely need conflict or you have no story :) so I have to repress my desire for all of my characters to be happy and make them as miserable as possible in the middle of the book.


    That's so cruel...