Monday, February 22, 2021

What I love and don't love about reading romance

Girl reading on couch

Reading is a learning experience. I learn new things as I read, but I also learn about myself as I read. What I like, what I don't like, what I'll read more of, what I won't. So what have I learned about myself through years and years of reading? Let me tell you.

This one is no secret. I love reading romance. I started my early reading years with a lot of fantasy, but the ones I enjoyed the most had romantic elements in them. Then I branched out into some sci-fi and later one, thrillers and mysteries. Then I discovered romance, and suddenly it felt like all my reading dreams have come true. I lived for the happy ending where two people find forever together. And the beauty about romance is its wide array of sub-genres and tropes to fulfill just about every reading desire. There's something for everyone since this is the largest genre fiction category in the market right now. The romance genre is a billion-dollar industry.

With there being so many sub-genres and tropes in romance, there are lots of things that I love and don't love about it. I've recently talked about tropes I love and tropes I don't in other posts. The list of tropes I do and don't enjoy is pretty long, so I've only included a few highlights of my most loved and most hated tropes. If you're interested in learning more about tropes, you can find out about them here or you can even go and look up books by trope here.

Gothic dark girl

But here are some things I've learned about myself aside from trope likes and dislikes. I don't do dark. By dark, I mean stories that are violent, with graphic scenes of violence, torture, and abuse. They usually also contain topics such as rape, sex or child trafficking, incest, self-harm, the loss of a child, cheating, and many more others that I might not even know to name since I don't read those books. They also contain sex scenes with dubious consent or are non-consensual. This means, I do not read a lot of mafia or motorcycle club books since those tend to have most of those themes in them. I'll probably go out on a limb and say I'm okay with a little bit of darkness, maybe a very light grey. There are a few authors I've read who do mafia-lite and MC-lite that I've enjoyed a few books from, but those types of books are rare. I know there are a lot of people who like these things in a book as I see them being requested constantly, but they are not for me.

This leads me to another point. I don't read books that have assholes for heroes. I like my heroes to be honorable men who treat their women with love and respect. I want the men to treat the women as though they were the most special beings to ever walk this Earth. Of course, I love a jealous and possessive hero, and those guys can be pretty over the top. One hero I read even put a tracker into the engagement ring he gave to the heroine. That's hardcore possessive. But if the hero is an asshole and he mistreats the heroine, or if he abuses her, or even if he initially rejects her for whatever reason, that's not going to work for me.

Old oil lamp

I'm basically a wuss when it comes to my romance reading. I love safe, romantic reads. I want happiness and mostly sunshine and rainbows. I'm okay with a little bit of angst or drama, just enough to make things interesting, but I do not like a lot of it. For some people, they love all the drama. They say they want over-the-top angst and drama because they want to feel all the emotions. I want to feel all the emotions too, but I want to feel happy emotions. I do not want to feel unhappy emotions and feel like my heart has been ripped out of my chest. I hate when I read a book, and I'm dreading the black moment. It's like I get to 50% of the book, and I'm starting to worry about the black moment, and my heart is pounding in my chest, and I'm getting anxious getting to that part because I *know* something bad is about to happen. I like my black moments light. Sure, I get there there needs to be a little bit of conflict to make things interesting, but I don't like a pitch dark black moment. Again, light grey for me, please.

This one is controversial. I know not a lot of people like this, but I do love a good insta-love story. I know it stretches the sense of disbelief but I'm okay with it. I do not like it when either the hero or heroine (usually the heroine) spends the better part of the book resisting the attraction. Nope, not me. I want them to be all in, and I want to read about everything the hero does to ensure that the heroine knows that she is wanted and she is loved. There are degrees to love at first sight. It's probably doesn't work in real life, but I'm all for it in my romance. I want that instant attraction, knowing that she's the one for him, and then the rest of the time, I'm reading about the chase and how they end up blissfully together. Light on the angst, please.

Girl in shawl

There's also a part of me that loves a damsel in distress. It goes back to me loving the Cinderella trope. I love a heroine who needs to be rescued. Blame it on too many Disney cartoons in my early childhood way back when Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty were the Disney cartoons to watch. In today's spin, I particularly enjoy romantic suspense where the heroine is in danger and has to turn to the hero for help. Those can be hella fun to read depending on what the danger is and how their relationship is played out. Sadly, a lot of romantic suspense tends to be second chance romances and those I'm not as fond of since I'm not a fan of that trope.

Of course, let's not forget along the same vein, the wounded heroine, the dying heroine, or even (in paranormals) the dead heroine who breaks the hero and then miraculously comes back to life, and they get their happy ever after. Call me a sucker for punishment, but in this instance, I enjoy the emotional upheaval that comes with the hero almost losing the heroine and feeling his heartbreak. Scenes like that tend to bring out the sap in me, and I do enjoy a good cry in those situations.

Couple kissing in a red dress

What I've discovered as my favorite type of romance to read now, regardless of sub-genre, is what is called the sweet and steamy romance. These romances tend to have heroes who may or may not be possessive, but are invariably sweet and tender towards the heroine with only eyes for her. The heroines generally tend to be sweet women too. They may be feisty or sassy, brave and strong, but they are also nice. I like nice. And, of course, the steamy because I do love a good sexy scene or three in a story. I feel like what happens in the bedroom, or the kitchen counter, or up against the wall is a physical manifestation of their attraction and love, and I enjoy reading about it. I know a lot of people don't like the sexy scenes and often say they skip them and would rather get back to the plot. That's like eating dinner and skipping dessert. Or eating a cupcake and scraping off the frosting. C'mon, the frosting is the best part of the cupcake!!

Over the last couple of years, I've also found that my time for reading has become shorter, as has my attention span. I do still love to read and read a lot, but I prefer a shorter book that I can easily finish in a day or two. Being able to finish a book in a day gives me such a sense of accomplishment. I now like to read books around a hundred and fifty to two hundred pages in length. That's my sweet spot, but I also read shorter books, and those are great fun when I can read a couple in a day. There are times when I do still read some longer books that go into the three or four hundred pages or more in length. Those take longer to read, and I sometimes feel that the whole story could have been told in a lot less words. I feel like there could have been a lot less padding in the writing. There are exceptions, of course. Some of my favorite authors still write books that go to three hundred pages or above, and I devour them. The other thing about shorter books, too, is there's less word count to build in over-the-top angst and drama and well, y'all know I'm not a fan of those. I like to just get to the good stuff. So yeah, a hundred and fifty to two hundred pages is my sweet spot.

Couple with wedding bouquet

So, I guess all this is to say that if I ever recommend a book, you'll find the hero and heroine to be likable people. There will be low angst and drama. It will be sweet and sexy, and only a little bit grey. Some people might find my reading choices rather boring, and I'm okay with that. I like what I like, and as I mentioned before, there's plenty out there to satisfy every reading taste. Just so you know, if you pick up a book I recommend, it will likely be a safe, enjoyable book with likable characters.

One small thing, I'm not always a big fan of the word "safe" but I can't think of another word to use. I know safe books are becoming a bigger thing in the romance community as some readers want less stress and trauma in their reading choices so it fits. That said, however, sometimes the term "safe" can go a little too far in its definition as it did in a safe romance group I was in and hastily left because it left nothing to the imagination and reading experience based on the rules of what that group considered a safe read. Take my description of a safe book with a pinch of salt. It might not work for everyone. I'm pretty loose with the definition since some books I read are quite intense and kinky but they are still considered safe by general community standards. What I mean by "safe by general community standards" is on cheating and no other woman drama.

Now I want to know. What do you love and don't love about reading romance? Is there anything that you look for or avoid when picking up a book?

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  1. That is a great post, you know I don't think there is a lot that bothers me as long as I have a hero and heroine that I can relate to the story keeps me turning the pages I am pretty happy, I do love an alpha hero as long as he is not possessive that is one thing that I am not fond of and the Cinderella troupe is my favourite I do love when a hero sweeps in his white horse and saves the heroine :)

    Have Fun


    1. That's for sure. You do read most books and enjoy them. I wish I was more like that. I'm just a lot fussier.

  2. Thanks Deanna, I'm with you on not enjoying the 'dark' side of things. The one thing I find the hardest to read is child abduction. Whoa, no, don't want to read it. I'm also with you on the consent issue. Apart from that, dazzle me with romance and I'm happy.

    1. Child abduction is difficult to read at the best of times. It's a good thing these days a lot of books have trigger warnings.