Day 26 Meljean Brook – The Gift of Unexpected Romance

Straddling The Fence

I’m in a reading slump. You might have had them – when all the books that you normally would love reading just don’t appeal for some Riveted, A Novel of the Iron Seasreason or another. I’m a dedicated romance reader, but I’ve hit these slumps several times over the years, and each time the solution has always been to read outside the genre: usually horror, thrillers, and post-apocalyptic science fiction (and a few others tossed in).

But although you can take the girl out of the romance section, you apparently can’t take the romance section out of the girl.

I like books without romance well enough. Oh, but when you’re reading a fast-paced zombie novel and an unexpected romance suddenly begins? Sweet bliss. The romance doesn’t have to be a huge part of the plot. There doesn’t have to be sex. There doesn’t even have to be a happy ending! But there’s something so very satisfying in encountering a romance within another genre, especially when you’re having a difficult time reading a real romance novel.

Is it because it adds another layer of tension? If people are in danger, then that nebulous relationship also comes under fire – and maybe that nascent love is one more thing that you hope survives the book. Or maybe it’s just because falling in love adds vulnerability to any character. It adds a little more depth when a character cares about more than just his or her own survival.

Although it’s not a book, my favorite example of this is the movie Terminator. I don’t think it’s too spoilery to say that romance doesn’t exactly have a happily-ever-after…but it is such a wonderful surprise within a movie that, from the outside, looks like nothing more than a shoot-‘em-up sci-fi action flick. It’s sweet and poignant, and Kyle’s love for Sarah gives him a vulnerability and motivation that goes much deeper than “I don’t want the robot to kill me.” It’s not just his own life or the future at stake (which would certainly be enough!) but the life of the woman he loves. It’s far more personal.

So I don’t always need romance. But, oh boy – when it’s there and when it’s good? It just doesn’t get any better.


Since I talked about books straddling the line, how about non-romance books that are satisfying for romance readers?

Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series, beginning with DAUGHTER OF THE BLOOD – anyone who loves Nalini Singh’s angel series will probably love these fantasy novels, too. It’s a dark world, but the male leads are so incredibly dedicated to their queen. (And Lucivar’s novella in the DREAMS MADE FLESH anthology is pure, wonderful romance.)

Rachel Bach’s FORTUNE’S PAWN (Book 1 of the Paradox Trilogy.) I’m reading this sci-fi trilogy next, but all of the reviews I’ve read mention that the romance is wonderfully satisfying, so I’m really looking forward to it.

WATCHERS by Dean Koontz. The romance in this horror/thriller feels a little dated now, but at the same time, it’s so sweet. And it’s also a love story between a new couple and an intelligent dog! How can anyone resist?


Questions for the Author:

Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

Submitting my first story. Which doesn’t sound all that impressive, I guess, but I think it’s partially what draws me to romance – most of the Untitled-1risks that are taken within the books are emotional ones, not physical. I’ve done a couple of more physically daring things (maybe stupid things?) but nothing that exposed me in quite the same way or that mattered so much.

It was rejected, by the way. And I survived!

Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

I always wanted to write (and to write romance) but didn’t really think that it was a viable career choice. So I wrote fanfiction while I was doing my “real” work and published them online. Then, in 2004, one of those fanfiction stories was read by an editor from Berkley, and she emailed me to ask if I had anything for her to look at. I did! And my first paranormal romance series followed.

Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

On Writing by Stephen King – I don’t really connect with a lot of writing books, but I did with this one. It was one of those books that spoke to me on a visceral level, and basically it’s all just: read, read, read, and write, write, write. Always make your work better.

But more than anything, it was the book that kicked me in the behind and told me to buckle down and get serious about my writing. Not just on-the-side or not finishing my stories. To really put my head down and do it.

Meljean is generously giving away two copies of ENTHRALLED, an anthology with Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day, and Lucy Monroe, as well as one copy of RIVETED to U.S. readers (one book to three individual winners, entry below) plus one copy of RIVETED to one international reader (enter here).


MeljeanBrook1-400pxMeljean Brook is the New York Times bestselling author of the award-winning Iron Seas steampunk romance series and the Guardians paranormal romance series. Meljean lives in Oregon, consumes too much caffeine, and can’t spell occassionally.


Buy Meljean’s Books:


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  • TrishJ

    I LOVED Watchers by Dean Koontz!! That is the book that started my teenaged son reading for pleasure. He still reads and cannot wait until his daughter is old enough to read it. I read mostly romance books, but I like thrillers too. I like when an unexpected romance pops up too. Sorta like we are not alone, someone cares. I haven’t read your books, but I will check them out. I love this August blog, so many different authors to try. Thanks for participating.

    • Meljean

      I hope you enjoy them!

      And I’m the same way — I love romance, but my second go-to genre is the thriller genre. (And add in a bit of horror like in Watchers? Pure bliss.)

  • MK

    Yup, LOVE Anne Bishop and Rachel Bach (also writing as Rachel Aaron). Good stuff!!

    • Meljean

      Awesome stuff. 🙂

  • Anna

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who gets into a reading slump. I usually switch historical to contemporary or back again, but sometimes I need a little nonfiction or historical fiction to break the slump.

    • Meljean

      Yep. And I’m not always sure WHY the slump comes. Sometimes I think it’s just burnout or some subconscious desire for different stimulus. So I go for the tension of horror instead of romantic angst, I guess.

  • mariannewestrich

    Reading slumps do come, but it’s nice when they pass and you can binge in your favorites again! 😎

    • Meljean

      Oh, I agree! Actually, that’s sometimes what I do during that slump — I go back to old favorites. Sometimes I don’t even read the whole book, but just my favorite parts. It helps!

  • Gayle Cochrane

    I am in a bit of a reading slump right now. Switched to audio books, and that is helping.

    • Meljean

      I’m not an audiobook reader (I can’t concentrate on the story) but I think this is a lot like what I have to do when I’m recharging from writing or coming off a deadline: I watch a lot of movies. There’s something about switching the format that really does help refill the brain when you get burned out on something else.

  • Sierra Paulus

    Always willing to try new genres. Have yet to read a steampunk adventure. This could be the one

    • Meljean

      If you do, I hope you love it 🙂

  • Wendi Rogers

    You are now on my reading list. I enjoy a good steam punk with romance. Thank you, for sharing.

    • Meljean

      Thank you — and I hope you enjoy them!

  • Danielle @ Coffee & Characters

    I loved this book! I love all Mel’s iron seas books…they’re what got me into steampunk 🙂

    • Meljean

      Oh, I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying them! I love, love writing that series.

  • LisaVH

    I have never picked up a steam punk novel, but they always intrigued me. I will have to check this one out.

    • Meljean

      I hope you enjoy it!

  • Debbie Fuller

    I also read outside the genre and have found that those authors also include romance in some form in their stories. Looking forward to reading your books.

    • Meljean

      Romance is pretty common, I think! Far more common that one would guess considering how often the genre is looked down on! But love is a part of life, so it would be silly to leave it out.

  • Sue G.

    Haven’t read any steampunk but always willing to try something new. I love my romance for the happy ending. I just like that feeling.

    • Meljean

      Oh, I do, too — when you close the book with that happy ending and have that wonderful satisfied feeling. I love that!

  • Natasha Salzer

    All of these books look amazing! 🙂

    • Meljean


  • Ellen

    I try to read something new (different) when I’m in a reading slump, or binge read some old favorites. A little romance in other genres adds some nice depth to the story. Thanks for sharing.

    • Meljean

      Thank you for coming by!

  • Debbie Oxier

    Glad to learn of your work. Thanks for sharing.

  • Pamby50

    I do like to step outside the romance genre every now & then. I like the anthology you are offering. So many authors that I like to read. Will have to try reading one of your books.

    • Meljean

      Oh, it’s a fun anthology! I did a little happy dance when I found out who the other authors were. All wonderful writers!

  • LSUReader

    I read a lot of mystery and suspense books. C. J. Lyons has a series that features a wonderfully well-balanced married couple, the Lucy Guardino FBI Thrillers. I think romance readers (who appreciate a good thriller) would enjoy the series.

    • Meljean

      Ooooh, I appreciate a good thriller! I will have to try that out.

  • Cindy A

    Thank you for getting me into steampunk! Yours was the first I read.

    • Meljean

      Oh, thank you for giving it a try!

  • Gretchen Miller


    • Meljean


  • M Kuxhaus

    I’m curious…Is Meljean your birth name or a pen name? And talking about spelling trouble, I couldn’t spell pseudonym so I settled on “pen name.”

    • Meljean

      It’s a pen name! I actually made it up when I was in high school — I was factoring a math problem and finished early, and began factoring/messing around with the syllables of my real name. I came up with Meljean Brook, and began practicing my author signature on the front of my notebook. Even then, I knew I wanted to be an author (although it took me a while longer to accept that it could really be a career.)

  • Patty Vasquez

    Your steampunk novels are a favorite venture of mine outside of the more typical romance sub-genres. I especially liked Riveted. Annika and David are a really special couple. It was nice to read a hero who was strong, but not overpoweringly alpha. I like that he let Annika take the lead and show her strength.

    • Meljean

      Oh, they are so sweet! I love them as a couple. All the while I was writing them, I was just … “Awwwwww they are so cute together!” 🙂

  • Emmel

    When my mother saw The Terminator, she told me, “what a nice love story!” And when I asked her about the murders, maimings, and general terror, she said, “oh, your father liked that part.” 🙂

    We do have the ability to enjoy the romance wherever and whenever we can find it!

    • Meljean

      There’s something for everyone in that movie! Haha, I love the romance AND the general terror 🙂

  • Stephanie M.

    I’m new to your books and will add them to my TBR list. I will look at Terminator in a new way the next time I watch it. Thank you.

    • Meljean

      Thank you for stopping by!

  • donnas

    Its there in more stories than its not, whether you are expecting it or not, and when it shows up really the story is all the better.

    • Meljean

      I agree 🙂

  • Stephanie Fredrick

    I’m the same way, I love when books that aren’t romance per say still have a romance involved. It adds a bit of realism to a story, more tension and angst which I adore in a book.

    • Meljean

      It’s very realistic! Romance, love, and the drive to find that “one” is a big part of our lives, I think. Now, maybe the happy-ever-after isn’t always so realistic, but not every book needs one, either. 🙂

  • Sheila M

    I love romantic elements in all kinds of books and movies. I agree that even if it is not the focus, it gives the story extra power.

    • Meljean

      There’s just more to root for (and more to worry about!)

  • Joan Varner

    I understand the “reading slumps” you described. I, too, switch to a different genre. I look at it as if I am cleansing my palate; and once that is done, then I am ready to jump back in again.

    • Meljean

      That’s the way it is with me, too — I always come back around to romance, but sometimes I just want something else.

  • Sharon Forbes

    Enjoyed reading this, as it’s so true! Reading slumps can actually broaden your reading horizons, open you up to reading generes you might not otherwise even consider, and what’s wrong with that? That is how I came to enjoy some paranormal novels, for one. Now, there are times when I really love reading a good vampire novel!

    • Meljean

      Exactly! And you come back to the genre refreshed. It’s a win/win 🙂

  • flchen1

    Great post, Meljean! When I’m in a slump, I sometimes reread favorites (including the Iron Seas!) or try nonfiction or something else entirely…

    • Meljean

      Oh, you’re awesome 😀 I do the same, sometimes — I know I’ll love the old favorites, so they are an easy decision!

  • Timitra

    Thanks for the recommendations Meljean…really enjoyed reading your post.

  • KB

    Ooh, I love me an unexpected romance plot – especially in a horror, sci fi or action movie. Terminator is definitely up there. Alien 3 as well. Dawn of the Dead (the 2004 version). And let’s not forget Army of Darkness: Evil Dead 3 (‘Give me some sugar, baby’). No happy endings for any of them but they definitely added to the story. I loved all the books you mentioned – I recently read Bach’s books, which were great.

  • Glenda

    It was the realization that I was enjoying the books with the good unexpected romance plots that led me to give romance a chance again. (A very bad experience when young kept me away for a very long time.)

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    I got those slumps too. When it happens I read mystery books by my favorite mystery authors. Then I go back to romance books. I’m not sure about the unexpected romance plot.

  • Karin Anderson

    I think I’ve read at least 75% of Anne Bishop’s books! I especially loved her Ephemera series (although I haven’t gotten to the latest one, yet).

  • Yaritza Santana

    Glad you decided to do what you love most which is write. Your books look interesting.

  • Ruth

    I’ve had those slumps too. Fortunately, there is so much good reading out there that it will lift soon. Thanks for the post. (p.s. you have great covers)

  • Meredith Richeson Hillenbrand

    I really enjoy reading many genres, however, I agree that adding a little romance does seem to make any story better. I loved Terminator, too. I read some just about every day.

  • Janie McGaugh

    Very interesting post. I’ve enjoyed romances in lots of genres over the years. Sometimes, the romance was even a major focus in these books; other times, it was only a very minor part.

  • Courtney Cogswell

    I am a romance girl through and through but occasionally I do feel the need to genre hop and when I find a romance subplot within one of those books, I am thrilled. I’m intrigued by the description of your Iron Seas steampunk series and I’m looking forward to checking those out as well as the rest of your books. Great post today and glad to know I’m not the only one who occasionally gets in a reading rut. Although, I”ll be honest and say it is a VERY rare occurrence that I get tired of reading romance, especially now that there are so many amazing and varied sub genres with the romance category!

  • rebecca moe

    LOVE On Writing! Stephen King narrates the audio–it’s fantastic. I think it’s about time for a re-read. Thanks for the reminder, and the post. 🙂

  • Dawn Anderson

    I’m a die hard romance reader, hopefully I’ll never hit a slump! 🙂