What’s the difference between a romance and a thriller?

Romance flourished in trying times during Texas of the 1930s. Photo: Harlequinblog
Romance flourished during trying times in the farmlands of 1930 Texas. Photo: Harlequinblog

THE MUSE LOOKED perturbed when he sat down beside me.

He sighed heavily.

I poured him a cup of coffee.

He sighed again and threw it out the back door.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him.

“You’re holding out on me,” he said.

“About what?”

“I understand you’re starting a new novel.”

“I am.”

“You didn’t tell me about it.”

I shrugged.

“All I have are a few scattered words,” I said.

“You should have told me.”

“I thought you knew.”

“How would I know?”

I shrugged again.

“You are my Muse,” I said.

The Muse stood and walked over to the back windows.

He stared out at the darkness.

We could hear the birds.

I could hear his thoughts grinding in anger.

I’ve been around the Muse a lot.

His thoughts are always grinding.

“You writing about the assassin again?” he asked.

“He’s not an assassin.”

“He’s always killing somebody.”

“Ambrose Lincoln is a mechanic,” I said.

“How do you figure?”

“He fixes things.”

“He uses bullets.”

“What he fixes stays fixed permanently,” I said.

“So you’re writing about Ambrose again.”


The Muse arched an eyebrow. He looked surprised.

“You starting a new mystery series?”

I shook my head.

“This novel’s different,” I said.

“What makes it different?”

“It’s a romance.”

The Muse laughed out loud.

“What do you know about romance?” he asked.

“I know it takes a man and a woman.”

“Not always.”

“This time it does.”

“What’s the setting?”

“A little town in Texas.”

“What time period?”

“The Great Depression.”

“That makes it historical fiction.”

“I guess it does.”

“Still don’t like the present.”

I grinned. “The present is still boring.”

“What’s so great about the past?”

“Times were hard,” I said. “Times were often desperate. But times were colorful.”

“Would you have liked to live then?”


“Why not?”

“Times were too hard,” I said. “Times were too desperate.”

The Muse thought for a moment, then asked, “You taking a chance on erotica?”

This time, I laughed.

“No reason to,” I said.

“Why not?”

“I think everybody knows how to do it,” I said. “They just want to know why.”

“You figured it out?”

“I’ve got two reasons.”

“What are they?”

“Lust. I figure that’s they first one.”

“Makes sense.”

“Then comes love.”

“The forever kind?”


“Is that the kind of love you’re writing about?”

“It always starts out that way.”

I leaned back and watched daylight top the oak tree above the bird feeder.

“Why did you stop writing thrillers?” the Muse wanted to know.

“They’re no different from romance,” I said.

“What makes you say that?”

“The characters are the same,” I said. “The setting is the same. The build up is the same. You only change the punch line.”

The Muse frowned.

“In a thriller,” I said, “the guy kills the girl.”

“And romance?”

“He kisses the girl.”

“And that’s what makes them different.”

“Not necessarily.”

“What do you mean.”

“I’ve studied both,” I said.

“What did you find out?”

“Both are deadly.”

By the time daylight reached the roses, the Muse was gone.

Agent and assassin Ambrose Lincoln was my main man in Night Side of Dark, a noir thriller set during the war years of the 1940s.


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