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Friday, March 18, 2011

Do You Like Your Romance Neat, Straight Up Or On The Rocks?

I did a lot of personal research for this blog post. I even meant to take notes and compare neat, straight up and on the rocks. Maybe I did take notes? The problem is that I found the subject delicious and - wait - I didn't eat the pen and paper, did I? Geez. Guess I'll just be dull and quote the font of all wisdom, Wikipedia, for this blog post.

Wikipedia says that a drink served neat consists of a single liquor poured from the bottle - it's not cooled, served with ice or mixed with anything. A drink served straight up is like 007's famous martini - it's shaken or stirred with ice and then served without ice in a stemmed glass. On the rocks means liquor poured and served over ice.

Neat, straight, straight up and up all refer to drinks without ice. Only drinks on the rocks are served with ice.

If the love story between the hero and heroine is the liquor and the secondary characters are the ice - how do you like your romance served?

I suspect that very little romance is served neat. In theory, a story about a man and a woman and love is possible. But to be neat it would have to be served without either of the hero or heroine's families, friends, enemies, rivals, schoolmates, co-workers, or running buddies. It'd be something like a romance version of Thoreau's "Walden Pond." I was an English major and a book like that sounds deathly dull. It'd likely only inspire me to run away.......far, far away.

Most romance comes on the rocks. The blend of the liquor and mixer - the lead couple - is served over the ice of a fully fleshed out plot involving secondary characters. The cocktail is the whole story. The heat and the fire of the lead couple's journey towards union is balanced by what is often a romance between a couple of the ice cubes. And you know what? Even if it's not a romance, a saga involving secondary characters means that someone is throwing ice cubes into my fire. Reality - having to stop reading to tend a household chore, answer a cry of "Mom," answer the phone or whatever - it intrudes often enough. When I'm in the magic of the story, I want it to build and build and build until we get the explosion we're heading towards.

So how do I like my romance? I like to read it the same way I like to write it - straight up. Take one or two kinds of liquor, a little bit of mixer and don't forget the ice. Yeah, I adore creating and reading about fun secondary characters. They flavor the world of the story and tell me a lot more about the hero and heroine than any description ever could. I like watching the lead couple interact with folks who knew them before their worlds went up into flames around them and everything became new. I like how the ice cools down the mix, so that it's nice and pleasant when you start the story. I want it cool when it starts so that the writer has a lot of room to fan the fire. If I'm the writer, fanning is my favorite part. In my books it's going to get hot and hotter and hotter and then it'll start going a wee bit mad.

I've read and enjoyed books where a big chunk detailed an experience where the hero and heroine were alone and cut off from the world - say after a plane crash or a shipwreck. But those books all started with showing the future happy couple surrounded by friends or family. We got to know them that way. Then we'd see the heat and the bond form when they were alone. But the book would end back in reality, with the couple figuring out how to fit into each other's world. It wasn't served neat and it wasn't on the rocks - it was a straight up book masquerading as neat for a little bit. And that's kind of fun.

See, I love secondary characters - I just don't want to see 'em grow and change and start acting like bushes hiding bits of my view of the lead couple. Don't get me wrong - I'm not as persnickety as Bond. I'll take my cocktails shaken or stirred - before it's served up to me. Once I get it, I don't want ice to get in the way of the experience. And whether I'm the writer or the reader - the experience I want is the blaze between the hero and the heroine.

And I don't want anybody tossing ice in that fire once it starts.

SO NOW IT'S YOUR TURN. Do you like your romance neat, straight up or on the rocks?

Quacking Alone's List of Books

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