If romance is all about formulas (in the good sense) and we always know we're getting a happy ending, then how do writers keep readers in suspense? where are the surprises?
Obviously there are lots of ways to answer that question: good writing is good writing, as I've said elsewhere, and one of the best (and easiest) ways to keep readers (and characters) on their toes is through dialogue. There's nothing better than not knowing what a character might say at any moment. It's one of the things I love most about Kaitlyn Parker in Penny Reid's Elements of Attraction (yep, I reread it again recently).
Another, more difficult way is to find new settings or new situations, but that can sometimes end up feeling forced or unlikely -- unless you venture into the paranormal or sci-fi genres, where ordinary "realism" doesn't apply. One recent book I read that does a good job with this in the New Adult genre is Stacy Kestwick's Drumline. If you think you've seen and heard everything in the college romance field, I ask you: have you read any about marching bands? with a drummer hero and heroine? And aren't you curious now?? Kestwick is a very skilled writer but that novel setting (ha!) does a lot of work for her too.
And what about surprises in the genre or form of the book? Julianna Keyes, one of my favorite New Adult authors, is about to release Bad Princess, a modern-day fairytale à la Princess Diaries. She's leaving her usual genre altogether, which takes guts. In Teagan Hunter's new Let's Get Textual the hero and heroine don't even meet until chapter nine...because they've been texting nonstop instead. Doesn't that hook your interest? Even though their conversations are only online for the first third of the book Hunter does an amazing job of making their dialogue completely unique to Zach and Delia and their offbeat personalities.
Of course surprises in any genre can become the next formulas... like the use of dual point of view, which was so new to New Adult once and is now everywhere (including my books, yes!). But that's okay. It's a sort of survival of the fittest for innovations: may the best of them win!
What are some romances that surprised you recently and how did the writers pull that off?