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The State of Romance

Hello, and welcome back! It looks as if Mother Nature might finally be heading into spring, and I can hardly wait. Of course, that means Little League season is also upon us, but while the boys are practicing, I can be reading. And hopefully there'll be something good in the TBR pile.

Which leads me to today's article. I've been mulling this over for a while and think I finally have all my thoughts together on the topic. At least for the moment. I'm seeing a lot of things in our genre that make me unhappy, as a reader and a writer, but today's focus will be solely on the reading end of things.

I was excited when I heard in the last year or two that paranormals were making a comeback. I love a good paranormal romance--time travel, reincarnation, faeries, and all sorts of great things like that. But what should have been said was that nearly all the paranormal romances coming back would be vampires. Yuck. I'm sorry, but with very few exceptions (Maggie Shayne, for instance), I do not find vampires attractive, and I know I'm not alone in this--we've had discussions in the forum about it, as well as in other reader forums, and there are a number of people besides me who don't think blood-sucking is at all erotic. What happened to all the other paranormal romances? Aside from Sandra Hill, I can't think of another author still regularly writing good time travels. What about the faeries and even werewolves? Heck, I'd even settle for a really good ghost story. Unfortunately, I'm not finding them.

What I am finding are a lot of books being marketed to romance readers but which belong in other sections of the bookstore. Chick lit tops my list. I hate, hate, hate them. I'm sure, if I were interested, I'd find some well-written ones. But I'm not interested. I want romance, not some smart-mouthed young girl masquerading as an adult who's more interested in designer shoes than in real life. I want a heroine and hero who grow and change as the story progresses, I want to know that despite whatever keeps them apart in the beginning, they're going to have their happy ending and it'll last forever, not until the next good-looking guy comes along.

Romantic suspense is another category trying to stretch its boundaries and going too far. There are several authors whose books have been marketed as romantic suspense in the last year or so that have only the barest hint of a romance in them, frustrating me to no end. I love a good romantic suspense, but there'd better be at least as much romance as suspense in it, or it's a suspense novel with a romantic element, not a romantic suspense.

What I think is happening is publishers are trying to gain romance readers for their other genres, and they're going about it all wrong. I have been working part-time in a bookstore since last summer, and I've gotten to know a number of our romance customers fairly well, so I know this is not just a problem for me. The thing is, romance readers don't all just read romance. Many of them read other genres as well, but they get extremely put-out when a book is marketed to them as a romance and isn't. Period.

One such recent read of mine was billed as an erotic romance. I love a good steamy romance, as my regular readers know, so I was looking forward to this one, particularly since it was the first of a trilogy. But when I got into it, the hero was verbally abusive to the heroine despite claiming to love her, and when the heroine said stop, he didn't stop, which turned him from a questionable dark, tortured hero to a rapist in my eyes. I didn't care that the heroine loved him, or how long he'd supposedly loved her. When she says stop, it means stop, not keep going. I'll never buy another book by that author, no matter how many raves it gets, and I have curtailed my purchases of other books released by that publisher as well. And one of the regular customers in the bookstore had the same reaction I did.

These things won't stop me from being a devoted romance reader. But they are making me more choosy when I pick up a new author, and if I have any doubts, I don't buy. I want more books like the ones Linda Howard and Nora Roberts write, with characters who make me believe in them. Like the ones Sandra Hill writes, that make me laugh my head off even while the characters steam up the room. Like the latest from Loretta Chase that was so wonderful I'm still raving about it. Like the ones LaVyrle Spencer used to write that had characters whose problems made you cry along with them and cheer when they finally worked out a way to have that happy ending. I want good romance, and I know I'm not alone in that wish. But when are the publishers going to give the readers what they want?

Hopefully before their readers turn to other forms of entertainment.

Until next time, happy reading!

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