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:~: Monday, May 22, 2006 :~:

Great Expectations

I love romance novels, but there are certain things I expect from a romance, and when they don't happen, I get irritated.

Since I'm currently between projects, I thought I'd use this weekend to get a little reading done - you know, whittle down that to-be-read pile and clear out some of those books I've had lying around for ages. So I picked a romance novel I'd been interested in and sat and read. And when I got to the end, I was so frustrated, I was ready to toss it and the rest of my TBR pile against the wall. There were several things that just didn't do it for me, but the biggest were the things I "expected" to happen that didn't.

So here are my Great Expectations when reading a romance. Feel free to add to this list:

1) If you're writing a romance, I expect sex. Somewhere. I'm not talking gratuitous sex, or constant sex, but when I pick up a romance, I expect somewhere to read a sex scene where the hero and heroine connect on an emotional level. If your book is advertised as a conservative romance - like an inspirational - I'm okay with the whole no-sex thing, but if not, you'd better have at least one steamy scene to keep me interested. Characters who dance around each other without making a move really irritate me.

2) If you've built your fan base by writing a certain way, I expect you to stick with that, unless you're completely changing genres. Here's an example: A lot of my favorite authors seem to be moving away from a 50/50 romance/suspense balance that made them wildly popular in favor of more suspense (like 80/20 or even 90/10). Is the market better for straight thrillers? Are they trying to draw more male readers? I'm not sure, but when I read one of their new books, and the relationship takes a huge backseat to the external/suspense plot, I feel let down. What drew me to these authors in the first place was their character development and interactions. And when they move away from that, it makes me not want to read anymore of their stuff.

3) If your characters are in their 30's, I expect them to act like they're in their 30's. Two of the last three books I've read have had 30-something main characters who act like they're still in high school. When characters are whiney and holding grudges and gossiping about things that aren't important in the least, it's a huge let down for me. Expectations, people. If I have to act my age, then your characters do, too.

4) If your protagonist has a major internal hang up about being with the other person, then I expect them to need a little time to change their way of thinking. Novels where the internal conflict gets resolved in the blink of an eye to wrap the book up drive me batty. You've got 200+ pages of a hero saying, "I can't have her because....." and then suddenly, in half a page, he changes his mind. "Oh, gee. Now I can't live without her." B-I-G let down. At least give us a reason and him a little time to figure out where his thinking went wrong.

5) (This one relates back to number one) If your characters are going to have sex, then I expect that act to bring them (at least a little) closer together. Characters who fall into bed together, and then ten minutes later are fighting again are a big let down. Find another way to keep them apart, but don't toss in sex because you think people (like me) are expecting it and then go back to the bickering and fighting to keep them apart. That's an even bigger let down than the no-sex thing.

I could probably go on and on and on about expectations, but I'd love to hear yours. Add to the list. What do you expect in your romance novels?


Blogger Paty Jager said...

I expect characters that take me along for the ride. I too think there should be a sex scene only because there should be sexual tension and that tension has to come to a head (no pun intended). A sex scene either brings them together or makes the tension more intense.

My biggest let down lately is reading big names and not liking the main characters. I stop reading if I'm not interested in what happens to them. I don't have the time to read a book where the characters don't capture my interest in the first chapter or two.

And (sorry Piper) I don't like pages of description. I want a little snippet to give me the feel of the setting and all, but I don't like page after page of description, I want the emotional ride not the scenic tour!

7:28 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Oh, yeah. Not liking the main characters is a big let down. If you can't find something to like about them, what's the point?

I like description, as long as it's not overwhelming. Nora does a great job of weaving setting into all her work. I always feel like I'm right there in the story without having been "told" what it all looks like.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Amie Stuart said...

I'm real big on minimal description.
Another deal-breaker for me is lots of navel gazing.

I've noticed #2 quite a bit also but suspense is probably my fave genre to read, so it doesn't bother me.

One of my fave authors recently had a very ambiguous (and slightly slapstick) ending and I was too lazy to go back and try to figure out where I went wrong--and it was a suspense.

I know when I'm about to cut an author from my auto-buy list when I start waiting for paperbacks. If I love you, I'll buy hardcover. If you disapointment you get downgraded and not given many shots. I used to love one suspense author because her books were hot and funny and good and then they got well just okay, and not so hot and not at all funny *sigh*.

OTOH I respect the fact that authors get bored but sometimes I wish they didn't.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Navel gazing, Cece? ROFL. I'm not sure I've seen that.

Isn't it just the biggest killer at the end when you don't even care to go back and figure out the clues you missed? Big sign the book as a whole is a letdown.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Lisa Pulliam said...

Great post! There are a few things that have bothered me lately. I know that as a romance reader, this may sound silly, but I have a hard time believing that many of these couples fall in love so quickly. It doesn't bother me as much when the characters say "I think I'm falling in love" throughout the book then realize it is love at the end. But if the heroine is already saying "I love you" on page 150? WTF? That usually doesn't work for me.

I'm with you on the naval grazing Cece. What's with that? It seems that many heroines are comfortable with a lot of sexual stuff from the first encounter with the hero. But in real life, wouldn't women have a bunch of things running through their head like, "I don't want him to lick my naval. What if I have fuzz in there?" lol. Or, "shoot, I have stubble on my armpits. I don't want him going near there." Silly, but it seems many women would have crazy thoughts like that. Very few sex scenes I've read include that inner section, and that's the type of stuff that makes it more real for me. Like her realization that it doesn't matter if there's a little stubble, or whatever.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Me, too, Lisa. My favorite books are the ones where the characters don't realize it's love until (close to) the end - kind of an "aha" moment that changes their lives. When you consider most romance novels happen in under a month, it does seem very rushed if the hero or heroine "know" it's love within the first week.

ROFLMAO about the belly button lint and the underarm stubble. I can honestly say I've never read either of those in any romance, but you make a great point.

8:10 PM  

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