Writing the Mystery Series with a dash of Romance

Join me in welcoming my friend, Nancy Herriman, for a return visit to the lair.  You may recall Nancy from her inspirational historicals but she’s changed gears and now writes historical mysteries.  Her latest is absolutely NHerrimanbrilliant, but I’ll let her tell you.

I have to admit that I’ve always loved mystery series that feature a heroine and a dashing hero to share sleuthing duties. To me, the burgeoning romance always provides extra opportunities for tension. Given how many mystery series seem to have a romance element in them, I can’t be alone in my affection for the trope. So, after spending years writing romance novels, when the chance to move into historical mysteries arose, I could not resist having a couple who solved crimes together. There was only one problem I had not foreseen—how to unspool a romance over several books.

I’d only ever written single title romance books, with the usual arc: we’re introduced to the heroine or hero; hero and heroine meet; hero and heroine clash (of course!) but can’t fight the attraction; hero and heroine learn they are perfect for each other, despite the odds; happy ending. My sort of story, and one that works well within the confines of a 350 page novel. But what to do when the tension of a romance has to be sustained over more than one book? After all, they can’t have all their issues resolved by Book 1. Heck, they probably shouldn’t even consider kissing in Book 1!

For the first time, I had to develop a strategy to draw out the romance. To start with, what seemingly Nancy's bookinsurmountable obstacle could stand in the way of my hero and heroine getting together quickly? For my new series set in 1860s San Francisco, which starts with No Comfort for the Lost, I decided that my heroine, nurse Celia Davies, has a husband who has vanished in a shipping accident. However, his body was never recovered, and although their marriage was strained, she’s unwilling to presume she’s free of him. Even when she meets Detective Nicholas Greaves, who is investigating the murder of one of Celia’s Chinese patients. A man still mourning his sister’s suicide and the loss of his best friend during the Civil War, he’s never wanted to settle down. He’s never wanted to care about anyone again. Not even the courageous and beautiful Celia Davies, who keeps getting herself entangled in murders.

720px-SFview_Gray_Gifford_1868_bw_croppedOver the next few books, the romance will progress, as information arrives that indicates Celia’s husband is dead and her relationship with Detective Greaves grows closer. However, just when they think their troubles are over and their happy ending is in sight, more trouble will arise to keep them apart. And though their romantic journey will prove to be a long one, it’s been fun to write so far. (Picture to the left is San Francisco in 1868.  Times have certainly changed).

 So, if you’re a fan of mysteries, do you have any favorite sleuthing couples?  I have a copy of No Comfort for the Lost for someone leaving a comment.

Here’s a little bit more about the story:

In gritty 1860s San Francisco, nurse Celia Davies and Detective Nick Greaves try to identify who murdered oneAAB-6905 of Celia’s Chinese patients. But as their inquiries take them from Chinatown’s squalid back alleys to the Barbary Coast’s violent streets to the city’s gilded parlors, Celia and Nicholas begin to suspect that someone close to them holds the key to a deadly conspiracy. One that might get them both killed.

A bit about me:

Nancy Herriman retired from an engineering career to take up the pen. She hasn’t looked back. A twice-published novelist, her upcoming release, No Comfort for the Lost (Obsidian/August 2015) is the first in her ‘A Mystery of Old San Francisco’ series. When not writing, she enjoys singing with various choral groups and eating dark chocolate. After two decades in Arizona, she now lives in her home state of Ohio with her family. Find more at www.nancyherriman.com


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  • Cassondra says:

    Welcome back Nancy!

    I will admit that I don’t love American historicals (Okay is that the right way to say “historicals set in early America?”)
    EXCEPT for the ones I’ve read that are set on the West Coast.
    I’m not entirely sure why…maybe it’s the time period and the changes in culture that happened between the settling of America and the explosion on the West Coast. But I like that era in that location. Very interested in these books!

    • Nancy Herriman says:

      I’ve never really enjoyed American historicals much either, Cassondra, and started out writing Regencies because I love books set in England. But I’ve found San Francisco to be just as fun a setting as London, and since my heroine is English, I feel I haven’t strayed too far. 😉

  • flchen1 says:

    Hi, Nancy! I always liked Moonlighting’s Dave and Maddie 🙂 Thanks for sharing a bit more about your new stories!

  • Mary Preston says:

    I love historical mysteries.

    I am reading the Sister Fidelma Mysteries by Peter Tremayne at the moment. Fidelma, now married, solves mysteries with her husband Eadulf. The book I am reading right now is called ATONEMENT OF BLOOD and is set in Ireland 670 AD. It’s a page turner.

    • Nancy Herriman says:

      I’ve read a few of those, Mary. Yes, they’re very good. I’ll have to pick one up again, since it’s been so long.

  • Helen says:

    Hi Nancy

    Oh this one sounds great I do love a good mystery and with a romance 🙂 I used to love they TV show set in San Francisco with Rock Hudson and I think Susan St James I cannot think of the name of it at the moment and of course there was Hart to Hart 🙂 and I am sure I have read books as well but for the life of me I can’t think of any at the moment

    Have Fun

    • Nancy Herriman says:

      I loved Hart to Hart, Helen! And I suppose my fascination with San Francisco started with those TV shows set there (the one you’re thinking of was McMillan and Wife).

  • Saralee says:

    I simply adore historical mysteries — it’s my favorite way to time-travel! Learning about a new place and time while also enjoying a mystery (and also a little romance) is a great pleasure for me.
    I love the Amelia Peabody Emerson series the very best, but I”m looking forward to getting to know your new series, Nancy! What fun!

    • Nancy Herriman says:

      I always have loved the Amelia Peabody books, too, Saralee. Such a shame to lose Elizabeth Peters.

      And thanks for stopping by! 😉

  • Anne says:

    What an interesting and captivating post and novel. My favorite mystery due is Nick and Nora. Love the mysteries set in that era and their repartee.

    • Nancy Herriman says:

      Nick and Nora are fabulous! I think there are so many wonderful sleuthing duos out there because they are so much fun to write.

      And thank you for your kind comments on my post.

  • I thought I knew the answer, but after reading all the comments, I realized I love ’em all. At the moment I am enamored of Sebastian St. Cyr and his wife Hero.

  • Kat Sheridan says:

    Oh, I adore mystery series, especially historical ones. And the time period you’ve chosen is one of my faves! Lately I’ve started in one the Phryne Fisher mysteries, set in 1920s Melbourne, with the dashing Detective Inspector Jack Robinson as her foil.

  • Hmmm….do sleuthing Vampires count? 🙂

    Have to admit – I haven’t read a lot of mysteries – especially sleuthing couples. I’ve been more of a single investigator type for the few mysteries I’ve read. But I do love the San Francisco setting in this particular era! And as I’ve heard this story evolving for some time, I’m anxious to see how it turned out 🙂

    Hope it flies off the shelves, Nancy! Good Luck!

  • Sally Schmidt says:

    I can feel the tension between Celia and Nick already, and living in the SF Bay Area I think this is a fabulous setting. As for sleuthing couples, I think I like all of them. I love the romance arc between a couple, and adding a mystery makes it perfect for me. And of course now that you ask I can’t think of any couples I’ve read about because Jonathan & Jennifer Hart won’t get out of my mind! A new book for my TBR. Thanks for the giveaway.

  • Minna says:

    Favourite sleuthing couples? Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey come to mind (I’m reading through the Vane & Wimsey series now.

  • jcp says:

    I like the couple from Ms. Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, the ensemble of Death in Paradise
    (Netflix) and the cast of Castle

    • Nancy Herriman says:

      Confession time again–I’ve never watched Castle but know lots of people who love it. I think I’ve been spending too much time writing and not enough time reading/watching TV! 😉

  • Laurie Logan says:

    I love Amelia Peabody and Emerson, and Phryne Fisher and Jack. I haven’t heard of Sebastian St. Cyr and wife Hero. Does anyone know the author of those books? I’m very interested in historical San Francisco and love mystery series. It’s wonderful to hear of new sleuthing couples! All the best with your new series!

  • Minna says:

    What comes to TV series, my favourite sleuthing couple is from the series The Murdoch Mysteries.

  • ellie says:

    Your novel is intriguing and I enjoyed learning about your writing and this appealing book. A detective couple who are inspiring are Duncan Kincaid and Emma James.

    • Nancy Herriman says:

      Ellie, I’m not familiar with Duncan Kincaid and Emma James. Wow! Another mystery series to discover!

    • What series are they from?

      • Sally Schmidt says:

        Deborah Crombie’s British police mysteries. He is a superintendent, he is initially her boss. Great series, great to see their relationship develop and see them work together, 16 books so far, start with “A Share in Death.”

  • I just adore this book cover, Nancy! I can’t wait to open it and start reading. The setting sounds really amazing–so rich and full of a million possibilities. So glad you’ve headed down this road and I hope this series keeps you very busy for a long time to come!

    • Nancy Herriman says:

      Thanks, Susan! I’m glad you like the cover (so do I). And I hope it keeps me busy, too. We both know how crazy this business is 😉

  • Nancy, welcome back! I love history and historical mysteries. These sound terrific. 🙂

    As to favorite sleuthing couples, mine change from time to time. At the moment, I’d go with Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, Lady Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane, Sebastian and Hero Devlin, Viscount and Viscountess St. Cyr.

    In more contemporary settings, Brooklyn Wainwright and Derek Stone. Kate Burkholder and John Tomasetti, and Will Trent and Sarah Linton.

    If we can count thrillers, King & Maxwell, Will Robie and Jessica Reel, and Caitlin Strong and Cort Wesley Masters.

    I love your cover–it’s very evocative!

    • Nancy Herriman says:

      Wow, Nancy, what a list!
      I love Lady Grey and Nicholas Brisbane (one of my favorites, too).
      And thanks for finding my cover evocative! 🙂

  • Elaina says:

    My favorite partner detectives are Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sargeant Barbara Havers. This captivating British series was intriguing. Thanks for this amazing post and book.

    • Nancy Herriman says:

      I’ve never read the Inspector Lynley books but I watched the series on PBS and always loved the relationship between him and DS Havers. Great stuff

  • Pissenlit says:

    Ooh! I love historicals…and mysteries…and romances…and when you put all of those together! Celia and Nick sound like they’ve got some interesting adventures in their future!

    My favourite sleuthing couple are midwife Sarah Brandt and Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy from Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mystery series.

    • Nancy Herriman says:

      Vicki’s books are fabulous! (And I’m not saying that just because she gave me a wonderful quote ;-))

  • Eleanor Jones says:

    I am looking forward to reading you! I recently read Wouldn’t It Be Deadly by D E Ireland, with Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle as the sleuths. I am quite taken by it. Love a dash of romance in my mysteries. Wonder if it started with Nancy Drew and Ned? 🙂

  • I enjoy a good historical mystery ! My current favorite features Sebastian and Hero Devlin of the Sebastian St. Cyr series. I am also enjoying a medieval historical mystery series by Mel Starr. What I find most appealing is how hard the sleuths have to work in a historical series. After all, there is no DNA lab !