Continuing Love

Have you noticed how the definition of romance has broadened in the past couple of years?  Suspense has made room for grittier stories.  Paranormal/fantasy has become more hospitable to serious otherworldly powers, extended plots, and sometimes even other worlds.

Contemporary has accepted some light paranormal elements, and historical has veered away (sometimes to my sorrow) from incorporating so much history all the time.  Books are sometimes even written in first person point of view.

One of the biggest changes, though, is appearance in the Romance section of couples whose romantic arcs continue through several books.  I hear this is most common in New Adult and Erotic Romance, but I haven’t read enough of either to know for sure.

Unknown-1One of the biggest names writing a continuing couple, albeit in books labeled Suspense, is J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts.  I would bet that the continuing romance of Eve and Roarke has been one of the biggest attractions for female readers of that series.

With Thankless in Death, one of my personal favorites, some of the longtime conflicts have been resolved.  They’ve settled the question of his involvement in her cases and come to sort of agreement about how far to bend the rules in pursuit of justice.  Yet the continuing risks inherent in her job cause tension in the relationship.

Unknown-2I recently discovered Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunters series.  This series launched after her Psy/Changeling books were well established, so maybe she had the leeway to experiment some.  The first book in the Guild Hunters, Angels’ Blood, introduces Guild vampire hunter Elena Devereaux and the Archangel Raphael, ruler of New York.  The next two books center on their relationship and the external conflicts they face.

Some of you may remember that I used to be allergic to vampires as heroes.  One of the books that got me past that was Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost.  This was the first book in her Night Prince series.  There are three books out so far, and they all center on the evolving relationship between Vlad and Leila.

Unknown-4The Night Prince books led me to Frost’s Night Huntress series, which appeared first.  The seven books in this series, which debuted in 2007 with Halfway to the Grave, all center on half-vampire Cat Crawfield and Master Vampire Crispin “Bones” Russell.  Continuing couples were less common seven or eight years ago, but this series rolled along strongly until Frost wrapped it last year.

Unknown-3Thea Harrison has also revisited her original couple, Pia and Dragos from Dragon Bound (Book 1 of The Elder Races), in Lord’s Fall (Book 5), which centers on them.

If you look at this listing, it’s hard not to notice that most of these books are paranormal.  They include, sometimes strongly, urban fantasy elements and so maybe appeal to crossover readers of both PNR and UF.  The non-paranormal series in this bunch, the In Death books, is not marketed as romance.

Many authors have taken to giving readers a peek at prior couples in their series’.  These scenes usually don’t involve a continuing arc for the couple, only a look at their lives.  As  reader, I always enjoy them, but they’re not the kind of continuation I’m thinking about here.

In mystery, especially in cozies, continuing couples abound (Our own Kate Carlisle is setting up a great romantic conflict arc in her Fixer-Upper mysteries), though settled couples often don’t have ongoing romantic conflict or a continued romantic arc.  But romance still centers on one couple per book more often than not.

What about your reading?  Do you like series that continue one couple’s arc over several books, or do you prefer a new lead couple in every book? Have you enjoyed any series with the same couple’s arc continuing over several books?

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  • Deanna says:

    I do love stories with continuing couples and you have mentioned some of my favorites. I recently even wrote a blog post on how much I love Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series and Thea Harrison’s Elder Races series. I find the continuing couples to be very much an Urban Fantasy thing though these days, there’s stronger paranormal romance stories that do the same with the ones you’ve mentioned. Personally, I much prefer the paranormal romance stories to urban fantasy ones. An urban fantasy series I really enjoyed was Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series, but I finally gave up at around the last or second to last book because I got sick of the continuous and neverending catastrophes the author was throwing at the heroine and the fact that I got fed up of waiting for a happy ending for the couple.

  • flchen1 says:

    I tend to prefer a new lead couple in every book, but I did love Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax series, and that had the same lead couple… so now I never say never :/ I have been loving Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changelings but haven’t started her Guild Hunter series in earnest yet… Oh, and Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson stories also feature the same leads… that’s also excellent 😀

    • Fedora, I steered clear of the Guild Hunters at first because I’m not generally fond of angels as characters and Heaven as a setting, but a friend assured me these angels were different, and they seriously are.

      I love the Jax books as well as the Corinne Solomon series and the new one on the prison–I forget the title. Can’t wait for the next book! And of course they’re all continuing couples.

  • ki pha says:

    Wow, I didn’t like vampire heroes either but I do have some that I’ll like to chill with. As for ARCs with the same leading couples, I tend to like new couples in my novels/ series but then there are a few that I do enjoy with the same couple~ Deanna Raybourne’s Lady Julia series is a huge romantic suspence thriller and I absolutely love Karina Cooper’s Steam Punk series The St. Croix Chronicles.

    • Ki, isn’t it fun how reading tastes evolve? I also love Lady Julia and Brisbane. Haven’t seen the St. Croix series, but I like steampunk and enjoyed Cooper’s witches. I’ll have to check it out.

  • Jane says:

    Hello Nancy,
    I read a lot of romantic suspense and historcals ,but not as much paranormal stories as I used to. I prefer a new lead couple, but there are times when I wish I could follow up with a couple that I really enjoyed reading about. The only series I’ve been reading with the same couple is Heather Graham’s Cafferty and Quinn books.

    • Jane, I go through phases of reading different things in spurts. I love historicals, for example, but haven’t been in the mood for those lately. But I know that sooner or later, I’ll be reading one historical after another and not so much paranormal or RS.

  • Hi Nancy, this is a great topic and a thoughtful discussion. I used to be allergic to vampires, too, until I discovered so many exceptions to my ‘rule’. LOL Then I got hooked on the Vampire Diaries. Now I don’t fight it any more. I just close my eyes when the gory parts happen.

    I think Nora is amazing and no more so than in the In Death series, where she keeps the relationship fresh and evolving. I can’t think of too many other continuing romances I have read that have been done as believably and well.

    • Thanks, Christina! I love the In Death books, and I particularly admire the way Nora has evolved not only Eve and Roarke’s relationship but Eve as person.

      I stopped reading a mystery series I had enjoyed because the characters kept running the same hamster wheel of conflicts book after book after book and nothing _ever_ got resolved. The fact that the author decided to stop being humorous and go for dark, gloomy, and cryptic (a serious example of not “dancing with the one that brought you”) only hastened my decision.

      Nora has displayed true genius, imho, in keeping things fresh and growing the characters in that series.

  • Helen says:


    I love Marie Force’s Fatal series which is all about Sam and Nick I think it is up to book eight now and that is awaiting me on my kindle 🙂

    I am not a vampire lover either but I do read books with vampires in them and although I am behind in Nalini’s Guild Hunter series I have very much enjoyed the first 3 I think that I have read bt as yet I have not read any of the JD Robb books way too many to catch up on 🙂

    Have Fun

    • Helen, I’ve heard great things about the Fatal series. You are such a voracious reader that I’m not surprised you’ve read bits of multiple series.

      The nice thing about all those JD Robb books, which I discovered 20-some books into the series, is that when you do get to them, there’s a fabulous backlist to devour. *g*

  • ruth says:

    I like a stand alone book. I do enjoy when there is a group… brothers, sisters, best friends and each story is about a new person with references to the others.. I do not like the same story to continue over many books.
    I don’t care for paranormal…but gosh there area millions of books to choose from — so to each their own and enjoy.

  • Shannon says:

    I read the first few of J.D. Robb’s even though I wasn’t a mystery fan, I just loved the author. But I returned to historicals.

    I like those that have brother/sisters/life-long friends series if they don’t go on too long. Sometimes the situations have to go up in emotional tone that they get unsatisfying; other times, it’s too much reunion and HEA for the secondary characters. And I hate hard hooks for Character X.

    To be honest, I rarely see a stand-alone book any more. The NY houses have figured out that if you start with book #3, you’ll go back and buy #1 and #2.

    Sometime, I’m going try paranormal. But there’s my TBR pile.

    • Shannon, I know what you mean about the TBR pile! There are books in there I’ve been meaning to read for a while and definitely will at some point.

      I also enjoy books centered on families or groups of friends.

  • Minna says:

    I like both stand alone books and series that continue one couple’s arc over several books, but it seems harder to find series that would follow closely the life of one couple. Only ones I can think of are In Death series by J.D. Robb and Guinevere Jones mini series by Jayne Castle.

  • Cassondra says:

    Hi Nancy!

    You already know I like the Belador series, and it has several couples, but focuses more strongly on one at a time. It’s straight up urban fantasy though, in spite of its strong romantic elements. The continuing couples I read most often are in cozy mysteries, and I enjoy those a lot. I have not grabbed onto a continuing romantic couple yet. That’s not to say I won’t. The thing that’s most important to me in a series is the tension, and most authors use sexual tension for that, which is much harder to maintain once the couple has done the mattress dance. But some authors do it very well, and that will keep me reading. The tension is what I’m after in any story, ranking side by side with the guaranteed happy ending, but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean a proposal. Just a “we are committed to each other in one way or another,” even if that’s just to ongoing lust combined with being partners in some undertaking. Part of the key, I think, is knowing how long to play that out. Realistic arcs can only take so long or my mind tends to wander. Excellent topic!

    • Thanks, Cassondra! I agree that there has to be some ongoing source of tension in the relationship as the arc progresses, or there’s no point in extending it past one book.

  • jcp says:

    new lead couple although connecting books via siblings or a group of friends is fine.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Interesting analysis, Nancy. I usually don’t like to follow the same couple through multiple books. I always get tired of them. My one exception is, as you mentioned, the IN DEATH series.

    I’d like to try Frost’s book, though, on your recommendation. Thanks!

    • Jo, I hope you like the Frost series. I get tired of the same couple when the conflicts aren’t fresh. I think one reason I like the In Death series so much is that Nora found a way to generate tension between Eve and Roarke, and within Eve, without being repetitive.

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    Loved Annihilate Me by Christina Ross, which was more like a serial. While not a fan of cliffhangers, this one had me hooked. I do, however, love a series with a new love story each time but the author has previous characters involved. Gives you a chance to catch up with them. If the series is romantic suspense, say, and it features the same detective partners or like in Marie Force’s Fatal series, a detective and a US Senator, then I do enjoy them. Tess Gerritsen has Rizzoli and Isles. J. D. Robb has Eve and Roark. Kendra Elliot has Callahan and McLane, etc.

  • Amy Conley says:

    Well I love the couple in Catherine Coulter’s FBI serie, can’t even think of their names though. Sometimes they are the featured couple, sometimes she has another main couple (Dillion and Savitch is the couple which started the series).

  • gamistress66 says:

    I tend to prefer a new couple each book (I like for my couples to keep their happy endings) that being said, I’ve enjoyed some where a prior couple was revisited after a few books (Thea’s elder races & Nancy Gideon’s moonlight series). prefer where there’s natural challenges of a relationship that growing rather than a break them up, run them through the gantlet again then let them get back together in the revisit.

  • pjpuppymom says:

    I usually prefer a new couple in each book though I do occasionally follow the same continuing couple through a series. The key is to keep it fresh so I don’t get bored with them. Marie Force is good at that as is Kate Carlisle.

    • PJ, keeping it fresh seems to be the consensus where sticking with one couple is concerned. I think that holds true for any series. Characters stuck in a rut lose their appeal for me.

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Hey Nancy!! I love continuing couples, so I’m there with you. I’ve not tried the vamp books for much the same reason you didn’t read them before. I’ll try your reccomendations though, so I’ll be loading some things on my Kindle, I see! Grins.

    I love Kate, as you also mentioned, and JD Robb as you also mentioned. Yay!

  • Pissenlit says:

    Heh, there was a time when I sort of OD’ed on vampire books but luckily, the aversion didn’t last TOO long. I’ve read a couple of the Night Huntress books and several of the Guild Hunter books. I love, and much prefer, series where the same couple’s arc spans the entire(preferably long) series! It makes me sad if I have to leave a couple that I really like at the end of a book. Much of my reading involves series with the same couple(or at least the same main character). I really like the developing and growing relationship of the main characters in Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mystery series.