Please help me welcome my good friend and fellow romance author Sarah Ballance. Sarah writes kick-ass romantic suspense and today she’s going to talk about how suspense works for her. And then she’s going to tell you about her latest RS release, Last Call.
I confess: I love torturing my characters. Not in the car-rolled-into-the-canyon-and-severed-the-hero’s-legs kind of way, because that’s just depressing. Oh, don’t get me wrong—the car can roll into the canyon, but the hero keeps his legs. He needs them to get the heck away from that car before it explodes, and if I so much as saddle him with a limp he won’t be able to effectively dodge those gunshots. Overkill? Nah. It’s romantic suspense.
Truth is, no matter where you stand on the romantic suspense genre, all romance carries with it some level of suspense. Gunshots and explosions are the obvious extreme, but even in the quietest romance, there’s suspense. It’s what keeps the pages turning.
My romances, however, don’t tend to be quiet. I’ve often wondered what it is I love *so* much about romantic suspense, and honestly I think it’s because I’m kind of a meanie. I don’t *want* to make it easy. In my new release LAST CALL, Nick and Rhys share a pretty heavy past. He shot her (accidentally, and in the line of duty). Then he left town without saying goodbye. Eight months later he comes crawling back, but he lacks the nerve to actually say anything to her. Even if he came up with the “right” words (and good luck with that, buddy), what’s to keep any sane woman from tossing her drink in his face and walking away?
The suspense element, that’s what.
As our story kicks off, Rhys witnesses a crime and ends up in the wrong hands, but our Bad Guy does something unexpected: he arranges to have her dumped at Nick’s feet. (Sounds random, but there’s an agenda there!) Now we have Nick, who is so guilt-ridden after what he did to Rhys he can’t see straight, and Rhys, who can think of a lot of places she’d rather be than in painfully close quarters with a man she can’t seem to forget. These two have always seethed sexual tension, but their status of co-workers kept them from acting on those feelings. Now there’s nothing in the way but emotional baggage . . . and an unseen enemy who wants them both dead. And because neither one can walk away, they’re forced into an emotionally charged proximity that pushes every boundary they’ve ever set. And y’all . . . it ain’t pretty.
But that’s what makes it ROCK. I love all romance. I love sitting in as characters fall in love. A well-crafted will-they-won’t-they moment can be every bit as suspenseful as a flying-bullets thriller, but there’s one thing only suspense elements can truly capture: the explosion. Because when emotions are raw and lives are on the line, a single spark of romance could result in nothing less. And if I have to torture my characters to drive them to all that delicious carnal primal yumminess, I have but one thing to say.
They can thank me later.
LAST CALL by Sarah Ballance – Romantic suspense for just .99 cents!
In a perilous game of trust, a shocking betrayal deals a dangerous hand.
An accidental witness to a murder-for-hire, ex-cop Rhys Clark becomes the target of ruthless killer—one determined to silence her at any cost. Playing dead seems to be the most likely way to stay alive, but when her protection comes in the form of mega-sexy former adversary Nick Massey, Rhys can think of a few fates worse than death.
Nick Massey may have walked away from his troubles, but he never got past wanting Rhys. Once paired undercover, they’d been nothing but fireworks until a botched assignment ended her career, sending his into a tailspin. Now a mysterious client threatens Nick’s life if he doesn’t keep Rhys safe, but it isn’t until fate takes a critical turn that he realizes the devastating truth: he’s been her greatest threat all along.
Last Call | Excerpt
Rhys Clark swore and jerked her foot from the murky puddle that had just claimed one of her new running shoes. Perfect. The day was now officially perfect.
She blamed Nick Massey.
Blaming him was easy enough. She didn’t know which required more nerve on his part—leaving town or crawling back—but both events left her bitter and raw. And wet, she grumbled inwardly. With the sky spitting rain and the occasional pellet of sleet smacking her face, she should have skipped her evening jog. The street was little more than a concrete alley of shuttered businesses, and the bleak weather amplified the emptiness. But tonight, with Nick hot on her mind, running through the cold was her last ditch effort to return to her senses.
It hadn’t worked.
Another blast of icy air howled through the narrow street. If she hadn’t been standing still, she probably wouldn’t have heard the shouting that followed.
A few months ago, an altercation wouldn’t have been unusual in this part of town. But the whole area was under reconstruction. Local crime dissipated to nothing with the razing of several apartment buildings, and until now Rhys had long found her route to be a place of solace. She glanced around as the voices drew closer and more intense. Rapid footsteps smacked the wet pavement. Then the echo of a gunshot cracked the night.
Where fear left her paralyzed, instinct insisted she get out of sight. She looked around and found an unbroken expanse of concrete wall offering few options. Heart pounding, Rhys ducked into the recessed doorway of a vacant storefront and hoped the deep shadows would keep her concealed.
Terrifying seconds passed. The sound of her own suppressed breath roared in her ears.
Voices came, clearer this time. Close.
“If we screw this up…” The words, terse and hushed, were encapsulated in panic.
“Shut up,” demanded a second voice. “No one messed up. He’s as good as dead.”
“You think you’re going to sell that without a body? We didn’t get paid to lose him.”
“He took one to the gut. He won’t get far. We’ll find him.”
“He’s leaving a trail. Blood. We got the big bucks for a clean—”
A hit? Rhys shuddered, fear scaling her spine. A professional hit would have been silent—something not accomplished by the gunshot or the ensuing conversation—but in this game, experience wasn’t always a prerequisite for willingness to pull the trigger. Two years of undercover work had taught her as much.
So had a bullet.
Rhys froze, waiting for the voices to pass. But luck was not on her side. Rather than drawing away, the footsteps ceased.
“Well, well, well,” said the confident one. “Looks like our little game of hide and seek is over.”
Hope crumbled. The voice was far too close. Had they seen her?
She dared not move. Through her lashes, she saw nothing in her narrow view of the dimly lit street but dirty puddles and the occasional bit of trash plastered to wet pavement. She prayed they didn’t look her way should they walked past.
Grunts erupted nearby, followed by the sound of sneakers scuffling on concrete. Then two shots fired, and all sounds of struggle gave way to profane celebration.
In the same instant, a man fell to the sidewalk in front of Rhys. His eyes, sightless and familiar, bore into her.
She choked a gasp.
A man stepped into her line of sight, his weapon at the ready. Before she could stop herself, she locked eyes with him. Big mistake. The decision threw her into a cloud of emotional shrapnel, the past flying at her in shards. She’d been shot once before.
It hadn’t ended well.
Sarah and her husband of what he calls “many long, long years” live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they’re asleep. She never dreamed of becoming an author, but as a homeschooling mom, she often jokes she writes fiction because if she wants anyone to listen to her, she has to make them up. (As it turns out, her characters aren’t much better than the kids). When not buried under piles of laundry, she may be found adrift in the Atlantic (preferably on a boat) or seeking that ever-elusive perfect writing spot where not even the kids can find her.
She loves creating unforgettable stories while putting her characters through an unkind amount of torture— a hobby that has nothing to do with living with six children. (Really.) Though she adores nail-biting mystery and edge-of-your-seat thrillers, Sarah writes in many genres including contemporary and ghostly paranormal romance. Her ever-growing roster of releases may be found on her website.