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Talking about Secrets
Thursday, June 25th, 2009

I’m relatively new to the publishing world, having only been first e-published at Ellora’s Cave in January of 2007. As such, I’m always running into ‘givens’ and stereotypes of romance novels that I’d never known about, and if I did, would probably have been too inimidated to try and write. For instance, after Wicked Burn came out from Berkley in December of 2008, I learned that some people ‘can’t stand’ the premise of someone keeping a secret in a romance novel. The logic goes that if s/he just told the secret already, the couple could get together and the reader could be free of the book. Or something like that. I even had one person write after reading Wicked Burn and tell me that I had broken a cardinal rule by having a character keep a secret (yes, there is a secret in Wicked Burn, or more accurately, a truth too painful to put into words) and would I please not do that again? (She was nice enough to include the link where I could read her rules as to be better prepared next time.)

I was amazed by all the frustration with secrets, especially since in my ‘other’ job I’m exposed to a lot of secrets. In my experience, people do keep secrets, and not always for selfish reasons. They do it out of fear, grief, shame…love. They deny certain truths to others, and even more frequently to themselves.

Maybe part of the problem is the word ‘secrets’. Sort of calls to mind the title of a soap opera, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I’m putting an advance notice out to anyone else who might have a rule carved into stone about secrets that he or she shouldn’t read Sweet Restraint. Why? The heroine, Laura, has taken on the responsibility of a painful secret, and the hero has made it his mission to get her to release that heavy burden to him.


Mini Blurb from Sweet Restraint

He drank from her furiously. Pain vibrated through his flesh. Not the discomfort of a wound or an injury, but the raw, searing pain that came from exposing a desire that had long been denied.

At that moment he needed Laura Vasquez just like he needed to breathe.

Click here to read more

So, leave a comment today about secrets in romance novels, or about my post, and you will qualify to win a Paradise Rules tote bag, a piece of fun Hawaiian jewelry and a beach book of my choosing. (LOL–I need to go through the pile I purchased for the contest and find something that seems like beach reading.) Good luck!

40 comments to “Talking about Secrets”

  1. Stacy ~
      · June 25th, 2009 at 7:37 am · Link

    Interesting question, Beth. For me, it definitely depends on the type of secret. For example, in a Rachel Gibson book, she heroine kept the secret of a child from the hero for years. That totally bothered me, and I found it rather unforgivable. There was absolutely no reason in her circumstances that made sense because she knew where the father was all the time, and could have told him at anytime, but chose not to.

    In Wicked Burn, I think it made sense for what Niall was going through, and it wasn’t so much a secret as something so extremely difficult for her to tell. Sharing that with Vic would come with time and trust, so in that instance, it made complete sense. Based on the relationship they had, it happened they way I would have expected, and I can accept it that way.

    So for me, there’s no hard and fast rule, it just depends on the circumstances.

  2. Valerie
      · June 25th, 2009 at 7:39 am · Link

    Don’t know if I can enter cos I am over the pond, but I was very intrigued with this topic and wanted to put in my two pennies worth!!!

    I don’t mind secrets in a story. But I do mind if the secret is not told in a timely matter. When it is a secret that when told the hero could help the heroine, then it shouldn’t be held out too long before it’s told.

    If it’s a secret that keeps the heroine from commiting to the hero or vice versa…it also shouldn’t be held out too long.

    I find that when secrets are held in too long, it seems that the whole premise of the book is written around this secret and I personally find it quite frustrating when the plot goes on and on and on and on, then FINALLY the secret comes out and I’m thinking….why couldn’t this have come out sooner?????

    I think it’s also ok when the hero or heroine finds out the secret from someone else…then we can just wait until the other person finally spits it out…hehe!!!

    I’m interested to hear what others think.


  3. Mary G
      · June 25th, 2009 at 7:45 am · Link

    Hi Beth
    Secrets belong if they are the premise of the story e.g. secret baby, secret lover, secret kinks. In WB she couldn’t, not wouldn’t, talk about it. Most of the time secrets are kept for protection of self or a loved one – not for evil. Besides stories need conflict for interest sake anyway.

  4. cecile
      · June 25th, 2009 at 7:49 am · Link

    Very interesting topic to say the least. Secrets. You are right, I think it is just the name we give something that “spooks” people into all the wrong feelings. I bet if we were to put a different name to it, no one would think of things as: dirty, wrong, lie, decitful…
    But a secret in a story… Everyone has some kind of secret in all stories. That is what makes the book move. So far, I have not come across a book that has upset me with withholding their secrets or anything. But I think if the author did push the envelop a bit and not let the reader on to at least what the secret was about… it does get annoying.
    Why not have secrets in stories… we have them in real life, if we want to face them or not. So, why not!
    Hope you are having a great day! And loving the “beach” theme giveaway!!!

  5. Robin Snodgrass
      · June 25th, 2009 at 8:18 am · Link

    Secrets have always played a big role in fiction in my opinion. Secrets, as you said, are kept for a variety of reasons and are, therefore, very effective for romance. Each person in the world has at least one secret that they refuse to share. I’m no exception. While the secret may have no meaning for anyone else and they might think I was silly for keeping it, it means something to me and I refuse to share it. Sometimes secrets are kept to prevent harm to another or to the secret keeper. I’ve read a lot of books that have secrets that I fully understood as well as some where I thought, “just tell them already” and move on to the good stuff…lol But I don’t have a set rule either way about secrets in books.

    Great contest Beth! Congrats to all the previous winners and best of luck to all who participate in today’s and future contests.

    Looking forward to getting a copy of SWEET RESTRAINT in my hands soon.

  6. Heather D
      · June 25th, 2009 at 8:19 am · Link

    I don’t really care for secrets in the real world, but lets face it when we are reading we are escaping the real world. Well at least that is what my husband tells me I am doing. Open the book and the blinders go up.
    I read Wicked Burn and if Niall had revealed her painful past too soon then the book would have been over. I don’t know about other readers but when I get submersed in a good book I don’t ever want it to end.
    A good secret can lead to all sorts of ups and downs in a story. We need a little something to antagonize the h/h! Yes it does get frustrating occasionally, because you know the secret and the star of the book doesn’t but that is all part of the anticipation of reading the story…kind of like the suspense in a horror flick when you know the evil doer is going to come out of hiding you just don’t from where.

    So my stance is let the secrets stay!!! lol

  7. CrystalGB
      · June 25th, 2009 at 8:35 am · Link

    I don’t mind a secret in a story as long as it doesn’t become tedious and I am thinking “tell him/her already”.

  8. beth kery
      · June 25th, 2009 at 9:02 am · Link

    Great comments, Stacy.
    I guess for me there is the difference between a secret that seems clearly kept for plot purposes and one that BOTH is chosen for plot purposes–I mean we are talking about books with plots–and one that in IMO, seems realistic given the circumstances, psychologically speaking.

    Robin–HI! I’ve missed you. Thanks for the lovely, personal comment. Your words made me realize one of the reasons I love secrets in romance novels (or maybe we’ll call them ‘hidden truths’) and that is this: exposing a secret to a lover is very intimate…possibly the most intimate thing that can be shared. (Read comment below;)

    Cecile–right! great comment. Someone says ‘secrets’ and we automatically think ‘dirty secrets.’ I have a line in a book where the hero can read the heroine’s mind, and when he sees her hesitate, says something like, “Not everyone will think your secret is ugly–some might even find it’s beautiful.’ I love that. Maybe the secret itself isn’t ‘beautiful’ but what it means to the person, the complexity it adds to their character from suffering, etc. makes it so.

  9. Cybercliper
      · June 25th, 2009 at 9:05 am · Link

    Hi Beth – I don’t have a problem with secrets in romance novels because secrets are part of life. Just like in the real world, we have to make the decision to reveal or not. The secret could be life altering and the loss or gain in the revelation may be something difficult to live with and we struggle internally looking at every possible outcome and the consequences. In novels, I accept the authors work and how they choose to reveal or not reveal secrets. It’s those twists and turns that make an interesting story. If all were revealed, laid out right away, stories would become much shorter and formulaic in nature. The shortcut doesn’t sound very interesting “β€œ I like the longer journey that getting to the truth sometimes takes.

  10. Beth Kery
      · June 25th, 2009 at 9:14 am · Link

    Hi Val–you can certainly enter. πŸ™‚ I’ll always specify if the giveaway is for US only. Thanks for your thoughts on secrets! The, why couldn’t this have come out sooner is one of the primary reasons, I think, that people seem to get frustrated by secrets. Like I said in the earlier comment, if the only answer is to keep the plot going, I can see how it would be frustrating. There’s got to be good reason for it. The tricky thing for a writer is, what one person thinks is a good reason for keeping a secret might not be a valid reason in someone else’s opinion.

    Hi Heather! Well, I can’t say I want a loved one keeping secrets from me, especially the secret baby variety. lol. I guess I’m talking about a wide range of secrets, and not just the ‘dirty’ variety. For instance, if you had a character who was deeply ashamed of their poverty-stricken background who exists in the high-powered world of finance, etc. That’s not an UGLY secret, but one that could potentially move a story…or at the very least, provide character depth.

  11. Beth Kery
      · June 25th, 2009 at 9:16 am · Link

    Hi Mary,
    I agree about the reasons secrets are often kept, where it works for me: secrets that protect self or a loved one. πŸ™‚

  12. Chris
      · June 25th, 2009 at 9:21 am · Link

    Ok, I wasn’t aware of that particular “rule” of romance, but I can deal with characters keeping secrets – as long as it isn’t resulting in the character looking TSTL.

  13. Valerie
      · June 25th, 2009 at 9:21 am · Link

    Well Beth,

    Thanks for the opportunity.


  14. lorettaC
      · June 25th, 2009 at 9:26 am · Link

    I think a secret in a book is fine. It depend on how long it is before it is revealed. Sometimes I’m thinking just tell it.


  15. Tracy
      · June 25th, 2009 at 10:15 am · Link

    Hi Beth,

    In the end, telling a secret is all about trust. Do you trust the person to understand and not condemn you when you tell? Do you trust that they will keep your secret if necessary? Trust takes time. So it makes sense that as a relationship develops and the couple begin to love and respect each other, the trust grows too. I found that in Wicked Burn, this was especially true of Niall and Vic.
    If Laura has a secret that she keeps from Shane in Sweet Restraint, there must be a darn good reason and that won’t stop me from reading the book!

  16. Melissa
      · June 25th, 2009 at 10:23 am · Link

    So here’s my thing. I’ve read many of the rules, heard books disected to DEATH on the internet….and guess what??
    Who CARES??
    Some of my very favorite books have broken rules that are to be considered no nos…..and they kicked ass at it. Why should there have to be rules and formulas for creating?? What’s wrong with having secrets, or the big misunderstanding…if you can build a story around it, and it works and it’s good, why shouldn’t you do it??
    I read for enjoyment, not to pick apart a writers work. I don’t WANT to read just books that follow guidelines….and kudos to the authors out there break the mold!!

  17. Jody F.
      · June 25th, 2009 at 10:28 am · Link

    I don’t mind secrets in books as long as it does not involve the secret baby. I find that to be most irritating and refuse to read any book with that plot device. It’s insulting to the reader and to the characters.

  18. kh
      · June 25th, 2009 at 10:30 am · Link

    i like it it will keep u in suspence till the end.

    very hot book and cover

  19. Fedora
      · June 25th, 2009 at 10:43 am · Link

    Hi, Beth! Secrets can be really key to a story, and I generally don’t mind if it’s well written–it can be really a big part of how a couple’s relationship develops and how they develop trust. On the other hand, I *haaaaaaaaate* the secret baby thing–that feels more like a lie or betrayal to me rather than a secret. It’s pretty hard to handle that in a way that doesn’t cast the heroine in a bad light and can be pretty hard to overcome.

  20. Mary G
      · June 25th, 2009 at 11:10 am · Link

    OMG Melissa
    That’s exactly right!! I know the secret baby thing is sometimes overdone but in the last one I read “Sweet Trouble” by Susan Mallery, she tried to tell him & he wouldn’t believe her becuase she was such a screwup in other ways. It ended up as my fave story in the series because it was about redemption.

  21. Larena Wirum
      · June 25th, 2009 at 11:18 am · Link

    I have found that when one character is hiding something and they have to work through whatever it is it can really add to a story.

  22. Roberta Harwell
      · June 25th, 2009 at 11:38 am · Link

    I’ve read other books with secrets and for me it just adds to the depth of the characters. Everybody is going to have preference as to what they like and don’t like in a story. Personally, I’ve had secrets of my own and I enjoy reading about other people’s secrets. Have a great day.

  23. RobynL
      · June 25th, 2009 at 12:09 pm · Link

    I don’t mind that there is a secret not being told as long as it is told at the right time for everyone involved in the story.
    Often times a secret is very painful and to tell might jeopardize the health of the character at that particular time in their life.

    Sounds like a great prize as we have beach weather now- very warm(hot). Get the books out.

  24. Chris J
      · June 25th, 2009 at 12:23 pm · Link

    Hi Beth!
    Great topic today and a shocker, she had some audacity to tell you the rules. I mean maybe she shouldn’t read fiction books at all, it is soley up to the writer/author what and where their stories go , are about and so forth. It’s part of the adventure of picking up a book and imersing yourself into their world. You take the good with the occassional bad, it is just part of it.
    As to secrets, I don’t like them in real life as in my relationship and from my kids but people do have them. Hello to this “rules person” , for instance we don’t tell our kids about when we first did it, we fudge on it, we don’t tell them unless they need to know if we were say raped, molested or date raped until it effects them some how. Those are to protect them and ourselves. Secrets in a book give mystery, a climax where that secret is revealed for better or worse and doesn’t really bother me.
    Thanks for a very interesting topic and Bugger off to these rules people! Geesh!
    Hope you have a Great Day!

  25. Lea
      · June 25th, 2009 at 12:46 pm · Link

    Good Afternoon Beth:

    Wonderful post and question. From my perspective, as a reader, learning what a character’s secrets are along with the hero or heroine in a story is what makes a story special.

    Having had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of “Sweet Restraint”, and read “Wicked Burn”, I found the impact of finding out what both the story’s heroines secrets were and why they kept them locked away inside had a significant emotional impact on me as a reader. The special strong heroes you developed in both cases held the key to unlocking the heroine’s secrets, it was emotional, compelling and powerful.

    I can say the same for other books I’ve read over the years. As a reader I’ve always found that conflict and angst between the lovers in romance novels is part of what drives the narrative. A person’s secrets are extremely personal and when enough trust is developed between the hero and heroine to share those secrets, it is very gratifying.

    Thanks for another great giveaway.

  26. Jane
      · June 25th, 2009 at 1:45 pm · Link

    Secrets are a common plot device and I think it works as long as the story moves along. It does become annoying if the secret remains by the character for too long and it drags down story.

  27. Estella
      · June 25th, 2009 at 1:50 pm · Link

    In fiction, let secrets stay secrets until the end of the book.

  28. Lisa F.
      · June 25th, 2009 at 2:15 pm · Link

    I love secrets in a book. It keeps the suspense going. But sometimes when I don’t know what the secret is, I’m horrible about flipping through the book to find out.

  29. Mari
      · June 25th, 2009 at 4:59 pm · Link

    Hi Beth, I don’t mind secrets at all. In fact I actually like the secret baby stories. Oooh, I just outed myself!

  30. Armenia
      · June 25th, 2009 at 5:06 pm · Link

    Everyone’s got so many good comments. I certainly don’t mind the secrets, but I admit I get truly frustrated when its not revealed soon enough so that the story does not get too stale.

  31. Lynda
      · June 25th, 2009 at 6:48 pm · Link

    I love secrets in books. I would prefer that they aren’t resolved on the last page but other than that, I love the misunderstandings a secret can cause. I love the changes that have to take place in order to allow a major secret to be revealed.

    I loved the excerpt!

  32. Kammie
      · June 25th, 2009 at 6:58 pm · Link

    I don’t mind secrets in the stories I read at all. Sometimes they keep the pages turning and I like that. In real life, not a big fan of secrets unless it’s something like a birthday present. lol

  33. Jeanette Juan
      · June 25th, 2009 at 7:05 pm · Link

    I love secrets in romance novels because they create suspense, BUT they I think they must always be revealed sometime in the novel or I would be left disappointed and frs=ustrated!

  34. Amy S.
      · June 25th, 2009 at 7:25 pm · Link

    Sweet Restraint sounds great!

  35. beth kery
      · June 25th, 2009 at 7:28 pm · Link

    Hi all! Aremenia–I couldn’t agree more. I’m loving the comments. Seriously.

  36. beth kery
      · June 25th, 2009 at 7:33 pm · Link

    Mary–I sympathize as far as the secret baby thing–I’ll say why in a moment. I have to say on the other side of things–Fedora–I understand it can be eye-roll worthy. lol. The thing of it is: if there’s a whole line of books that thrive on this topic (not to mention soap opera material that could overflow Hollywood) I assume there’s something about the fantasy that is really deeply rooted. I won’t free associate to the topic, because I respect your guy’s time. lol.

  37. Mary G
      · June 25th, 2009 at 10:25 pm · Link

    Hi Beth
    If I understood you correctly – I agree. I like the stories where it’s finally good for her because he’s THE ONE. Same with losing her virginity because he’s THE ONE. It most cases it’s really rushed & then they go at it all over again taking it slower. I don’t care if it’s “Cliche”. That’s why I read these books.

  38. Frana
      · June 26th, 2009 at 1:11 am · Link

    Hi! Call me strange, but I love secrets πŸ˜†
    It makes a book a lot more interesting, and a good mystery combined with romance makes an interesting read

  39. blodeuedd
      · June 26th, 2009 at 2:46 am · Link

    Hm, ok I like secrets cos you are dying to know what’s up, but at the same time it’s killing you cos you don’t know. And if they take the secret to another book, oh no. I am too curious so i don’t wanna wait too long

  40. Carol L.
      · June 26th, 2009 at 4:10 am · Link

    I had to put in my own two cents even though it’s too late to be an entry in the contest. I too have no problem with keeping secrets to protect a loved one or to prevent a dangerous situation from happening to someone I loved. But sometimes I am so wrapped up in the story I may get annoyed if I think someone else will reveal the secret before the Hero or Heroine reveal it themselves. lol
    Carol L.

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