Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Stirring Up Trouble by Babette James

Most times, finding plot-sustaining conflict in a story is fairly easy. There’s a clear villain to defeat or a disaster to avert or maybe the hero and heroine even simply hate each other in the beginning of the story. 

Writing a romance often seems to be the exact opposite of the relationship conflict resolution we aim for in real life. In real life, we try to make things better. In fiction, we have to make things worse, really worse. But what about those quiet love stories where the hero and heroine don’t need to defeat a villain and save the world, but simply want their happily ever after? And more, what about those couples who fall in love in Chapter One? Sometimes it’s not so easy finding the conflict necessary to avoid giving the hero and heroine their happy ending too soon. Sometimes you have to find conflict in ordinary everyday life. Sometimes you have to dig deep to stir up the trouble.

In my first novel, Clear As Day, getting the conflict to work between Nate and Kay was the toughest part of writing their story. I had a couple who were already friends and lovers and who thought they knew each other very well. Nate was ready to propose. In theory, they just needed to talk to each other. But as Nate discovers, “Trouble was, everyone always made talking out a problem sound like it was so simple and solved everything, but actually doing it, and securing the desired outcome without screwing up, seemed about as easy as rowing upriver with a teaspoon.”

To come up with challenges, I had to keep focusing on opposites and putting roadblocks in their way. Nate is good-hearted, loving and loyal, why on earth would Kay not leap at forever with him? Oh, because she grew up in a dysfunctional family where love meant chaos and trusting meant pain. Nate’s done with traveling, so of course he’s offered his dream job that will take him away for months. When Kay starts to consider taking the risk of loving Nate, another couple’s marriage implodes in front of them, reminding her of her past. Kay and Nate painfully discover, despite the years of close friendship, just how much they didn’t know about each other and had assumed. Nate is faced with just how hard loving can be and Kay finds denying love doesn’t keep it from happening to her. They now needed to learn to really talk and listen to one another, take risks, and truly trust in one another, if their friendship was to survive and love they’d always really shared have a future.

In Summertime Dream, my new novel and a prequel to Clear As Day, I had the same problem, but different. This time my couple didn’t know each other in Chapter One, but they pulled the old love at first sight routine on me. Immediate happiness, right? Great for them, but not so good for me and making a strong story. I knew them from Clear As Day where they were already married and blissfully happy. How on earth was I going to make some conflict for this story of how they met? I had to dig into their characters again. Christopher was a good, kind, solid man. What could be his problem? Oh, he’s a workaholic focused on his career and has no time to deal with the dilapidated house he inherited, let alone settle down. But he could handle unloading a house by phone and email. Why bother even going to Falk’s Bend? Time to dig deeper—he never knew about this side of his family and his grandmother had erased this town from her past. He needs to know why. Then he meets Margie and all his neatly organized life plans are further turned on end.  

Then, there’s my heroine. Margie’s sweet, optimistic, believes in love, and comes from a close, loving family. She couldn’t possibly have any issues, right. Oh, her family is not only close and loving, but smothering and won’t let her spread her wings and find her independence. Why? She nearly died the year before and her fiancé broke their engagement, leaving her with some fears for a new relationship. Now the immediate attraction between them is a problem as well as a pleasure. So, I continued on looking for ways to trip them up with ordinary life. One character has the answer? Make the other too stubborn or afraid to listen or act. They both want to talk? Interrupt them. Have great chemistry? Make it impossible to be together. Christopher can’t see Margie fitting happily into his on-the-run life in Los Angeles and Margie is afraid to trust Christopher completely and doesn’t want to leave Falk’s Bend. His grandmother made difficult decisions because of love, now they need to decide what they are willing to do for love. 

If you’re an author, what are your favorite ways to maintain and increase conflict? As a reader, what story conflicts do you enjoy most? 


The Fourth of July is over, but for these summer lovers the fireworks have just begun. 

An unexpected inheritance brings business consultant Christopher Gordon from Los Angeles to quaint Falk’s Bend. He’s carved a week from his demanding schedule to list his great-grandparents’ house for sale and explore his roots. However, disturbing family secrets and the sweet temptation of writer Margie Olsson derail his plans, challenging him to seize the elusive dream missing from his hectic life— love. 

A recent brush with death shook Margie’s life, but not her dreams and she’s ready to move forward. Only, standing up to her loving, over-protective family isn’t easy. Helping Christopher explore the derelict mansion and unravel his grandmother’s mysterious past should be a harmless fun taste of independence. But when her experimental summer fling ignites into unexpected love, how can her small town dreams work with his big city life? 


Margie touched his shoulder and had him turn away from the mess to focus on the view toward the river.

Here the picturesque natural beauty of the property began: the land sloped gently down past the ancient summer house and purple martin houses to the reedy pond where a duck flew in and landed with a quack, and stretched on through weedy tangles of wild blackberry and rogue saplings to the ancient apple and plum trees sagging with unripe fruit, and beyond to the river invisible in the distance, marking where the Engberg’s farm began on the far bank.

Appreciation softened his tense face.

“Beautiful, isn’t it? I fell so in love with this place when I was little and dreamed I’d live in a house like this someday.” Margie laughed. “Of course, in my dreams it was a bit less rundown.”

“I’d imagine so. Interested in buying?”

“Oh, if only I could, I would in an instant. I’m sure the property alone is worth far more than I can afford. It’s a huge piece of land. And the repairs and restoration...” Longing swelled. She sighed. Someone else would buy and live in her dream home.

Quiet fell between them for a while. Bees buzzed in the clover. Birds sang, chirped, and flitted. A hummingbird whizzed past. Two more ducks joined the first amid quiet bickering quacks. Dandelion fluff drifted by on an unfelt breeze.

A truck rattled down the lane, breaking the moment.

“Suppose we ought to head back...” Christopher turned, so close their arms brushed, but instead of retreating, he hesitated. Their eyes locked. Where dismay and frustration had filled his green eyes, want simmered. The heavy air electrified.

You need a change.

On a surge of bewildering crazy courage, she stretched up and kissed him. The brief brush of lips to lips left her shaken and her heart pounding, like she had just come up for air.

His eyes widened in his serious, craggy face.

No, oh, no. Blowing out a unsteady breath, she pressed a hand to her stomach. She’d carried her day’s adventure one impetuous step too far. Her heroines were the daring part of her. She’d never even kissed on a first date before, and this wasn’t even a date.

Before the apology fluttering in her mind could break free, he cupped her cheek and touched his mouth down on hers.

Thinking faded as feeling soared. His gentle touch sweet and fascinating, his lips warm and firm played over hers, unhurried in his caresses and enticing brushes. He laced his fingers into her hair, cradling her head in his hand. He tenderly nipped her lip and licked at her mouth, inviting her rather than taking.

She sighed, delighting in this lovely, reckless rush. Yes. Yes. Yes. Forget that they had just met. She could want again.

Gripping his shoulder, she accepted the heady invitation, and the kiss deepened into perfect.


Come fall in love at the river:
Summertime Dream is available on Amazon:

“Summertime Dream is a perfect glass of Lemonade on a hot day. Simple, elegant and beautifully written. I enjoyed each scene. Loved the chemistry between the characters and the house. Great story!” ~ Deborah Diez

 Clear As Day, (★★★★½ RT Book Reviews, ★★★★★ Top Pick The Romance Reviews) is available at:

And at all other eBook retailers

About the Author:

Babette James writes sweetly scorching contemporary romance and loves reading nail-biting tales with a satisfying happily ever after. When not dreaming up stories, she enjoys playing with new bread recipes and dabbling with paints. As a teacher, she loves encouraging new readers and writers as they discover their growing abilities. Her class cheers when it’s time for their spelling test! Born in New Jersey and raised in Southern California, she’s had a life-long love of the desert and going down the shore. Babette now lives in New Jersey with her wonderfully patient husband and extremely spoiled cats.

You can find Babette at:

Amazon Author Page:


Anonymous said...

Hi, Vonnie, thanks for letting me visit here today!

Juli D. Revezzo said...

Interesting post, Babette, and timely! I've been stuck in just this situation with a WIP of my own this week. Good luck with Summertime Dream!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Juli, thanks! Hope this helped nudge loose some ideas for you. :)