I was reading through some old posts I've done when I came across one about my pet peeves with romance, and what I'm looking for in a great book. It resonates with me still, because lately I've been jumping outside of my comfort zone and trying new writers--as a reader. Lo and behold, I've found some amazing books! But what makes them so entertaining?
Here’s my top ten list of what constitutes a great romance, in no particular order. I think many of you will agree with me. Mind you, this is coming from a writer who likes her books on the spicy side.
- Likeable characters The hero and heroine (or hero and hero, whatever floats your boat) don’t have to be the nicest people on the planet, but at some point they have to be likeable, and not ten pages from the end. There’s nothing worse than trying to read a book about people that are either whiny, annoying, or TSTL (too stupid to live) for 350 pages.
- Sexual tension I write erotic romance and mainstream, spicy contemporary romance. I like to read it too. But when the characters hop into bed on page 3, it kind of takes away my enjoyment to see them struggle for it. A few authors have made this work by throwing in the requisite plot problems and angst, but by and large the easy hookup doesn’t appeal to me.
- No gratuitous sex The flip side of the coin. For so many years I read stories where the characters could barely hold hands before the author cut to a new scene. As a reader, I like to know what goes on behind that "closed door." Romantic relationships typically involve sex. But sex for sex’s sake shows. When the physical builds the emotional, it works. You can tell when it doesn’t.
- The right angst I am drawn to tortured heroes and heroines. I think we all are. It’s normal to want to see people build themselves back up after being brought down a peg or two. But when the characters suffer page after page, it takes away from the joy to be had in the story. And rape as a plot device does nothing for me. I don’t like reading about it, but if it's integral to the character, a reference will do. Period. With that said, the victim had better be in major therapy and had a lot of time to process what happened before getting all frisky with her hero.
- Character growth I find it common anymore to read a book where one of the two characters grows but the other remains stagnant. It’s like the author puts so much into making the heroine a strong woman, she forgets that the hero is more than a foil for the heroine, but an actual part of the story. Let him grow too, damn it!
- Humor Just because a book is dark doesn’t mean it can’t have funny moments. Fiction mirrors reality, right? Well, people do laugh at funerals. Life isn’t all one shade, but a rainbow of emotion.
- Believable conflict There’s nothing worse than reading a story where the hero and heroine don’t get along because of a simple misunderstanding. One short conversation between the pair would eliminate all problems and make the whole story crumble. That’s not believable conflict. Layer stuff in there, make us, the readers, want to see how they solve their problems.
- Chemistry The main characters have to have it or the story won’t work. Just because an author creates the pair (or threesome or group) involved doesn’t mean they fit. I’ve read romances where the hero seems better suited to a secondary character and the heroine should be lesbian. It’s like the author doesn’t know her characters.
- If everyone’s special, no one’s special One author I used to love and now can’t read anymore gives all her characters major powers. They all end up becoming immortal, so where’s the scare factor? Why should the characters worry when they can snap their fingers and have an HEA whenever they want?
- Don’t break your own rules Authors create worlds and a set of rules that go with them. So when I read about a hero who can’t do X, then thirty pages in does X, it annoys me, especially if there’s no explanation as to why he can do X. It’s like the author has forgotten her own rules. Sure there are exceptions, but if there are too many, why have the rules in the first place?
What are some of your must-haves in a great romance book?
|coming June 7th|