What I Love (and Hate) the Most about Modern Romance Books



I’m

not sure if you’ve read my last blog, but those of you did may remember me stating that I hadn’t even reached puberty when I started reading romance novels. This, after I had a steady diet of the classics. By the time I got through my first 100 or so books – I know you may not believe me, but I have ready literally thousands, more than ten thousand in my lifetime, the majority of which, unsurprisingly, were romance books – I had already developed my favourites, my likes and dislikes. To begin with, I didn’t discriminate between decade published, nor publisher. Not even sub-genre, although I do have a hankering for contemporary romances – don’t go by the fact I choose to write mystery romances. But, I read them all. I was on a voyage of discovery, see? I wanted to know what I liked and why, then having zeroed in on what tickled my fancy, I might know what I might enjoy.

Simple. Not really. People change. Their likes change.

When I was younger, I actually didn’t enjoy explicit sex. Now, I can’t get enough of it. But some things never changed. There were moments when tears came to my eyes. There were moments when I cringed. Please don’t consider these as criticisms of the books that I read. As they were all popular, all selling several hundreds of thousands of copies, they couldn’t have been bad. Just meant for a specific readership.

Which is why I read so many books. Not just to pass the time. I must have known even then that I was to become an author, a writer of romance fiction. So, the next few paragraphs make sense to me. Don’t be offended (especially those who are into S&M – I’m not, but you’ll soon see that I am not against it either.)

Let me start with what I like. Perhaps even my pet peeve. I was given, outside of my books, a steady diet of what love means or why people fall in love. I believe, and I am speaking from experience, mind, that love just happens. It’s not sex, although physical attraction is a necessary but insufficient condition. It’s not that your love has to possess certain good or bad qualities. In fact, I do believe that one can conclude heartily that one is in love when the not-so-estimable qualities become attractive. Ask any woman who’s attracted to Mister I-am-a-bad-boy-so-beware. Love can happen in an instant or can take days, weeks and months. Personally, I am in the love-at-first-sight camp for obvious reasons. It happened to me. It even happened to my partner, my soulmate. At the same time. I love that both male and female protagonists come in all shapes and sizes, colours and ethnicity. Love can happen to anyone, anywhere. I like the man to be strong and the woman equally strong. In fact, all my heroines, beginning with Lex Grainger of The Billionaire Needs a Bodyguard, are strong, both physically as well as mentally. I like that both are also vulnerable, easily aroused and have their emotions shimmering just below the surface. I like it when they argue smartly and coherently. To me, in simple words, they have to make sense. People argue folks and contrary to the opinion retreating folks who’ve never argued, calling each other names is a sign of real emotion, not toxicity.

Having said that, don’t ever forget that the story itself is a fantasy, designed to make us forget our present for a few hours that it takes to consume a book.

Ahem. Now for what I don’t like. Put your seatbelts on. If it sounds like a rant, well, it is.

"I don’t like an insipid tale, where our hero is ever so polite"

What I don’t like is men behaving like pigs all the time and women making excuses for them. I read one particular idiocy where the hero violates every principle held dear to her heart because the story – er – um – seemed to demand it. As it was just one aberration from a favourite author, I shrugged and said to myself. I guess that it can happen. I don’t like an insipid tale, where our hero is ever so polite, and the heroine is ever so retreating, gasping in surprise that a man can fall in love with them. Give me a break! I like women who know that they are not just deserving of love but can command it from the best of men. Oh, and by the way, it’s allowed if either or both protagonists feel a certain lack of confidence during the course of their grand affair. Perfectly natural. I may have mentioned that I enjoy reading explicit sex, not just because it turns me on, but because it’s honest. I don’t mind passages where writers skim over the details – that’s fine, but please, oh for god’s sake, please, don’t make it appear that the man is doing all the work and the woman lies back thinking of England. Believe me, I’ve read romance books, modern ones at that, where our heroine, while secretly gasping, oohing and aahing, does little else, except feel the mighty hero upon her.

Whilst on the subject, sex can be multi-positional, slow, quick, languorous, frenzied, on the bed, in the shower, in nature … well, practically anywhere, although I do tend to cringe when the – um – surface is not smooth. But that’s just me. I certainly don’t mind a bit of roughness – who doesn’t? Okay, perhaps there are those who don’t. The key denominator here is that lovemaking is between two adults who enjoy each other with regret or recrimination, at least during the act. I do understand that both men and women do change their minds mid-act and that is perfectly reasonable, but it has to make sense, not just defer the act of lovemaking because the story demands it.

Ravina explains she dislikes characters behaving out of character, tell us what you have disliked about characters when reading

What I hate above everything else is when characters behave out-of-character simply to move the plot along in a certain direction. For readers, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. If you don’t get it, watch a soap opera. For budding authors, read my books. I challenge you to find a character behaving oddly for their personality. While Lex is strong, intelligent, smart and resourceful, Michael is passionate, volatile, tempestuous and very, very real, with flaws. I simply hate it if the heroine or hero are flawless. Lex has her flaws too, but you’ll simply have to read about both of them and decide for yourself. What else do I hate? I hate it when pages after pages meander along meaninglessly with inconsequential drivel. If there’s a scene, it must have a bearing on the plot. I’ve read many a romance where I find myself scratching my head and asked myself – why on earth did the author bring that scene onto page? Was there a word count target or something? I hate it when I read only the woman’s perspective. To be fair, I grew up on books that had little else. Thankfully, the majority of modern romance books (at least the ones I chose to read) take into account both male and female perspectives. Hip-hip hurrah!

Let me go back to one final thought. Surprise, surprise, I like happy endings.  it’s kind of a given in a modern romance. And call me old-fashioned, but I also believe that a fantasy romance must end in marriage, or even begin with one. Or even one in the middle. I don’t care. I’m married and want the whole world to be happily married.

Sigh. I have so much more to say. And yet the publisher has me limited to a word count.

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Talk soon.

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