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What Is Noir Romance? by Laura Oliva

"You’re a bitter little lady."
"It’s a bitter little world."
- Paul Henereid and Joan Bennett, "Hollow Triumph"

Romance is not a genre most people associate with "grit."

When you mention "romance," those who consider themselves serious readers usually roll their eyes (whether or not this is fair is a subject for another post).  Romance? they say.  Give me a real book.  Romance means fluffy characters, weak plotlines, fantasy locales.


I love a love story.  But the trappings of "romance" always left me cold.  I don't want some sweet, good-hearted heroine who just knows -knows- there's a good person beneath our hero's gruff exterior.

I want Lauren Bacall.  You know how to whistle, Steve?  Give me a fast-talking, quick-with-a-quip dame who knows how to handle a piece (wink, wink).

Nor do I want a hero custom-made for a female audience.  Men don't get all flowery when they're talking to a woman.  Men don't narrate their inner struggle before they tell their girl they love her (and if they do, it sure as shit doesn't sound like Shakespeare).  Men don't turn into Longfellow when they make love.

Hell, men don't "make love." Men...

So give me a hero who... Who is a little selfish and a bit of a brute, who doesn't always play nice.  Who doesn't always act like a hero.  Who leaves the toilet seat up and has a mouth like a moderately well-educated longshoreman.  Who respects his own moral code, if not always the law.

Now let's say you've given me these people -these hard, harsh, deliciously damaged people.  Where are you going to stick them?  Not in a resort (okay, maybe if it's a shitty resort).

You're going to stick them in a place where life is tough.  Where joy is fleeting, morality is a luxury, and love is a joke.  A place designed to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Where the weak are crushed and the strong don't fare much better.

So what is noir romance?

Noir romance is all these things.  Cynical characters.  Antagonistic locations.  Warped people with warped problems that have no simple solutions.  People who are just trying to survive.  Sometimes they do the right thing, but it's usually by accident.

These are people who by all rights should never fall in love.  But they do.  And when they do, it's explosive.

I don't know about you, but I've had enough of the fluffy stuff.  I love a love story, but bring on the pain.  Bring on the night.

Bring on the noir.

Want more of Laura's writing?  You can find all her books (including her new noir romance series) on her Amazon Author Page.

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