I love Shaun of the Dead. It is, possibly, one of the finest movies in the history of cinema, second only to Starship Troopers. It’s got everything: a clueless hero, a puffy sidekick who can imitate an orangutan, Bill Nighy (my old man crush), a super nice mom, a nerdy bespectacled frenemy in love with the hero’s ex, Queen on the soundtrack (is there a more beautiful sight than a bunch of British twenty-somethings whacking a zombie with pool cues while Don’t Stop Me Now blares in the background?), debunked dog myths (“Dogs can look up!”), and innocents getting hit by darts.
Oh, and zombies. Lots of zombies. I love everything about Shaun of the Dead, but I love how they handled zombies the most. Their love for the genre shone through virtually every minute of the film as they poked fun at themselves and the genre, and I never once felt like they were mocking me or the movies I like: we were in it together. It was the first movie I ever thought of as a conscious gift to the audience: here’s something we liked, we think you’ll like it, too.
So: this book. My editor and I love the romance genre (not atypical for writers and editors who work in the romance genre, and thank goodness). We love historicals and paranormals and contemporaries and regencies. We love the silly stuff and the BAMF stuff and the sexy stuff. We love kick-ass heroines and damsels who need to be rescued every twenty minutes. We love alpha heroes and beta heroines, and we love it the other way around, too. (We’re dirty girls, and so flexible, too!) We love heroes who are SEALs and farmers and sheriffs and doctors. We love heroines who are biochemists and Vikings and captives and wardens. We love third person and first person and audio and electronic and paperbacks and classic hard covers.
And the romance tropes, oh God, the tropes. We love those most of all; for us, tropes make the romance.
For the uninitiated, Wikipedia defines tropes as “the use of figurative language—via word, phrase, or even an image—for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech.” Did that help? Because it didn’t help me even a little. I had to keep reading: “The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.” Oh. Okay. That’s a little better, Wikipedia. Stop trying to impress me and just define stuff, okay? Maybe with pictures next time? I like pictures.
A trope is, when you’re watching a new show about a cop who’s set to retire next week/month/year, you know that cop will never retire. It’s when the slutty pretty teenager in a horror movie says “I’ll be right back!” and you know she’s toast. It’s knowing the hero and heroine who at first loathe each other will fall in love. It’s a way for the writer to let the reader/viewer know what to expect without having to, you know, write. (Shut up! We’re doing the best we can.)
A trope is the thing that brings you back to the same genre again and again, because the stuff you loved in the first book will pop up in other books and you’re always chasing that feeling, the giddy excitement of reading about a hero and heroine, or hero and hero, or heroine and—you get the picture, whoever they are, you know they are destined for love, and you want to watch. (Not in a creepy way.) Even more: you want to fall in love, too.
And while we were listing our fave tropes (and everyone in the office was getting in on it, and when I mentioned it to my book club they couldn’t wait to list theirs, too) my editor said, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a book that paid homage to the romance tropes? Not in a mean way, like the Scary Movie movies.”
“In a fun way,” I replied, “like Shaun of the Dead.” And wouldn’t it be great, we thought, if the audience was in on it?
And that’s how Danger, Sweetheart came about. A romance novel that pays respect to romance novels, where the readers are in on the joke. Unless you skipped my Author’s Note, in which case I cannot help you.
For those of you in a hurry, I’ve listed all the romance tropes used in the writing of this book at the end, so you can peek and see if any of your favorites are there. Dunno about you, but I can never resist a hero with a high fever, all delirious and adorable, being tended to by a (reluctantly) adoring heroine. I also like the fish out of water trope, and the first sex is perfect sex trope. I even got to have some fun with tropes I find annoying (I’m looking at you, Hero Keeping A Big Secret).
If you’re new to the genre, this is a fun place to start because: tropes! I’m basically throwing you into the deep end but, unlike when I was tossed into the deep end at the helpless age of twenty-seven, I think you’ll enjoy it.
Other things you might want to know (or things I want you to know and your feelings on the matter are nothing to me, nothing!): no tropes were harmed in the creative process. Also, I’m am not as gross as readers might assume: it really did rain urine in the bathroom at the Plaza Hotel and Casino, courtesy of a leak one floor above. I did not make that up. God, I wish I had made that up. “Urine” and “rain” and “hotel” are three words that never belong in the same sentence.
The t-shirt Natalie wears (“One by one the penguins slowly steal my sanity.”) is a thing! You can get it at Amazon. As I did. As I did. And the pink skull leash sported by Margaret of Anjou also exists in real life.
Finally, as of this writing, you can’t hop an Amtrak from Las Vegas to Minot, North Dakota. This is a crime against humanity. Long train rides rock. Minot does, too (my bias: I was born on the Minot Air Force Base).