I've been hopping around the blogosphere looking for inspiration, and I've noticed a lot of people are writing book reviews, which I really enjoy reading. Some people are brutally honest while others are more vague. A few write long, detailed accounts of the story while some write a few sentences to capture their thoughts.
But one thing I've noticed that a lot of the reviews have in common is....disappointment. Disillusionment. Even apathy. To me, it's sad to see such a lack of interest in the books people have been reading. And I can say that I do understand the feeling to a certain degree. We pay good money for the stories we read, and to feel like it's been wasted is beyond frustrating. I can also relate to the feeling of being let down when there is a recurring problem of reading the "same" book from 5 different authors. For example: I love vampires, and there is a huge selection to choose from regarding the fanged hero, however, where is the originality? Sherrilyn Kenyon brought us the Dark Hunters, and for the first time, I saw vampires as something other than creepy and pasty-white parasites. She created hot-blooded heroes that any red-blooded woman (yeah, yeah, yeah) would find irresistible. MaryJanice Davidson brought such a refreshing touch to her vamp series by using laugh-out-loud humor and sprucing up the well-known history of the modern-day vampire and blowing all those recycled and boring stories out of the water, not to mention having the protagonist be a woman. (Hello? What took so long?) Now there is a new wave of wannabes who are latching onto the coattails of those writers who have set themselves apart. Sad but true. [Question: were SK and MJD pioneers of the 21st vampire? I can't say for sure, but they are two of the first examples of authors who colored outside the lines that I read, so I will continue to hold them in high esteem *g*]
I could go on and on about similar such travesties, but instead I will cut my tirade short and concentrate more on what I like in my romances or the must-have qualities that seal the deal.
"There must be a declaration of love". Please, oh please, do not short-change me on this. The hero & heroine have had the obligatory misunderstanding/obstacle/separation for at least 3/4 of the book and all I ask is that someone, preferrably the sexy hero, say 3 little words at the very end. Come on, how hard can that be?
- "There must be a happy ending". I don't want chick lit in my romances. A romance ends with euphoria, a commitment, the joining of soulmates, not "tomorrow is another day". Scarlett got her book. Her turn is over.
- No stupid characters or lame reasons to keep them apart. Yes, our beloved characters must jump through hoops on their rocky road to love, but we need legitimate, intelligent and believable reasons, not excuses that are as flimsy and transparent as tissue paper. It's one of the reasons I love Lucy Monroe's Harlequin Presents so much: she got rid of the naive heroine and brutish, dominating hero and replaced them with the smart and assertive female pursued by the enlightened and sexy alpha male.
- Hot love scenes. Pretty much a requirement in my books. I read them for my enjoyment, and I want sexy, romantic interludes with enough room left to the imagination to provide some inspiring thoughts of my own. Not only that, I want a heroine who glories in her sexuality, and a man who fulfills her fantasies because he lives to serve (or dominate, whichever the case may be). I want the heroine to be assertive in her desires, and a hero man enough to please her while still looking out for his own needs. There should be no shame, no serious pain, and no humiliation for either party. Just mutual pleasure and enjoyment of each other sexually - it's a very freeing and beautiful thing.
- Humor! There is something so sexy about laughter, and appreciating someone else's wit. Letting your guard down and reveling in the pure joy and fun of being with someone whose company you can't get enough of is very powerful stuff.
- Realistic heroines who are size 2....times 6! If I were a man, I would think that a curvy, huggable woman was sexy. As a female, if I see another woman without hips or with a waist as big as my thigh, I think she's going to break if someone bumps into her. Now I realize that there is a significant number of women out there who are naturally thin, and it's not from dieting or an eating disorder. Ultimately, it's more important that the woman be healthy, take pride in herself, and realize that she is amazing, no matter what her size. But to me, being super-skinny is not the ideal. And not all women were born to wear heels (or line-dance) either.
- Heroes who are not super-sized...in any way. Without getting too graphic, I will say that the size of a man can be pretty intimidating when the word "monster" is applied. Sorry, but to me, a monster is scary, and not all that sexy or, dare we say, comfortable? It's the sighs and not the size that matters most, so if a man knows what he is doing (and damn it, a hero in a romance novel had better memorize the how-to manual before the first act), then we are in business.
- Test the limits and break on through to the other side. Do the unexpected. Show us what we could have if only we'd imagined it first, and then take it to the next level. Keep us coming back for more. Inspire us.
- Don't give us what we want...at least not right away. I like the journey, and though it's a given point A is going to meet up with point B somewhere along the line, take the scenic route. Make us yearn, make us long, make us dream. Have you seen "Anne of Green Gables"? Sure, Gilbert loved Anne right from the start, but it took her years to realize the magic that was her true soulmate - Gil. We had a feeling deep-down that she would someday, yet the discovery was all the sweeter when she went out into the world and came back to her roots and found her heart's desire existed in her own backyard. So make us sweat a little - I don't mind.
Well, there you have it: Stacy's top.... 8... list of romance "must-haves". I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but the gist is there. What would you add? Or take away? What works for you in a romance? What doesn't? Feel free to share :)