Happy Holidays, AAR readers! My name is Debbie Baldwin, and I am the author of the Bishop Security romantic suspense series. The first novel, False Front, is currently available in print and e-book at all major online booksellers. Book Two, Illicit Intent, will hit the virtual shelves in December. Let me start off with a sincere and heartfelt thank you. Without passionate readers like you supporting independent authors, I wouldn’t have a job, and countless wonderful books would go undiscovered.

I set out to write a novel with a clutch-your-Kindle, heart-bursting love story combined with a smart, relevant thriller. My struggle when I first began, and as I continue, is how to take that alpha-male/damsel-in-distress paradigm and make it modern. I don’t mean something so simple as having a female protagonist with a powerful or dangerous career, but rather, giving the man and woman equal emotional power while still allowing for the sizzling dynamic that fuels a passionate romance.

Romance novels used to be called “Bodice Rippers,” and there’s a reason for that. No matter how enlightened we become as a society, the idea of a dominant, experienced partner paired with a complimentary counterpart, sparks a fire in fantasy. I’m an Ivy League-educated professional with a law degree, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love a good, steamy rescue fantasy. The absolutely essential requirement is consent. As long as both characters are fulfilling their romantic vision, let the buttons fly!

The key to a twenty-first-century fairytale, for me, lies in the couple dynamic. I have found one character can assert his or her capabilities all they want, but if their partner doesn’t acknowledge that ability, the pairing is somehow off. In False Front, Nathan Bishop is a corporate executive and former Naval Intelligence officer who hides his secret warrior behind the facade of a rich playboy. (He is inspired by the iconic title character in Baroness Orczy’s classic novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel.) Nathan’s love interest, Emily Webster, is a highly-skilled, capable woman. Yet, when a madman wants to abduct her, it requires both Nathan and Emily working together to save her. More importantly, it absolutely requires Nathan to respect and rely on Emily’s abilities and think of her as an asset, not a victim.

The second installment in the series, Illicit Intent, features Nathan’s best friend Miller “Tox” Buchanan and the free-spirited reporter, Calliope Garland. This novel’s romance explores the true meaning of “opposites attract.” Tox is rigid, orderly, and contained. Calliope gets lost chasing butterflies on her morning run. The key, again, is respect and admiration for the antithetical qualities of the other person, a romantic middle ground where both Calliope’s and Tox’s attributes fit together to make them stronger as a couple—and they will need both of their skill sets to track down missing billions stolen from a hedge fund, solve the mystery of some infamous stolen art, and save Calliope from an unknown threat.

So bring on the fairytale. The Yin and Yang symbols are curved for a reason; the dynamic between romantic partners is not a flat line. There is give and take, dominance and submission, weakness and strength on both sides. The passion of this connection ignites when each character acknowledges and respects the attributes of their partner, and when they realize those qualities are not only valuable but actually enhance their own. When the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, romance soars.