Thursday, June 1

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, June 01, 2017 6 comments
True confession. I feel like I ought to like reading romances. I generally prefer a happy ending to a sad one. But each time I've tried one--especially the Kindle First offerings to Prime members--I've been disappointed.

The romance plot model has become so entrenched, it no longer allows room for any genuine surprises. I know there will be some dumb thing that separates heroine and hero at roughly the midpoint and that dumb thing will clear up in a matter of chapters. I know the heroine will be beautiful, as will the hero, though one or both will be clueless about this or insecure in some way. If one of them has a deep, dark secret, the counterpart will have a corresponding one. Even in the hands of a great wordsmith, the formula clunks along as usual, boring me to tears.

I'd love to know if there are established writers out there who have earned a free pass to write plots that don't follow the predictable formula of boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-wins-girl-back-again. I'd like to see some heroines who aren't the usual healthy, educated, white, and beautiful. How about a blind protagonist, or one with a learning disability, or someone biracial or average looking but brainy, or even disfigured (say an amputee veteran)? You find characters like this in literary fiction, women's fiction, romantic comedy, YA and MG. It would be great to see their love stories, and have a departure from the same-old, same-old.

Is there a genre you've tried but just can't connect to? Why do you think that is? 

Is there a romance author doing something unique I might actually enjoy? Do tell. 


  1. Hi Laurel - I'm not into romance as romance ... if it's got some history attached to it I'll happily read. Less so now perhaps - but history gives the story some extras ... cheers Hilary

    1. True--a more interesting milieu does add a lot to a story and will keep me sticking around longer even if I can predict how the plot will go.

  2. I cannot get into sci-fi or fantasy no matter how much I try. I just can't suspend disbelief enough.

    If you were ever going to enjoy a romance novel, I'd give Theresa Romain's work a try. Her heroes and heroines are exactly what you said you wished you could find. She's written a non-white hero (Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress), a disabled hero (It Takes Two to Tangle), two physically scarred heroines (A Gentleman's Game and Fortune Favors the Wicked), a blind hero (Fortune Favors the Wicked), a depressed hero (can't remember the book) and a socially anxious geek hero who is one of my favorites ever (To Charm a Naughty Countess). Yes, they're romances, and yes, they follow the formula, but I think you'd enjoy the characters.

    1. I tend to go through phases with reading, and was really into SciFi for a period, but don't feel drawn to it much now. Funny, isn't it?

      Thanks for the recommendation! I can overlook a degree of predictability of the characters are really unique.

      And I apologize for being dreadfully slow to approve older comments. Blogger kind of hides them if they're a few weeks past the post date.

  3. Romance is a wide umbrella, so the answer to the questions above is a resounding yes. While every genre has its conventions- a mystery is going to have some sort of question or puzzle, science fiction will look at something that could be possible, fantasy something that could not, etc- within those parameters, a writer can do anything.

    Off the top of my head, as a reader and writer of mostly historical romance, Simple Jess, by Pamela Morsi, has a rural turn of the twentieth century setting, a widowed heroine with a young son, and a hero some might term mentally challenged. The Duke, by Kerrigan Byrne, has a Victorian setting, a heroine who has been through more than a few scrapes, and an amputee hero, missing a hand.

    A Bed of Spices, a medieval romance by Barbara Samuel (who also writes contemporary romance and women's fiction - honestly have never read anything by this author that was not emotionally complex and full of surprises) is set in Germany, with a Christian heroine who has a talent for medicine, and a Jewish hero, who is himself a doctor. For contemporary romance by the same author, try Jezebel's Blues or In The Midnight Rain.

    For historical fiction (sometimes with contemporary chapters) with strong romantic elements, Beatriz Williams tells some amazing early twentieth century love stories.

    No one genre is right for everybody, but

    1. Thanks for the recommendations! I do want to like the genre, so perhaps it's a matter of being picky--or seeking more crossover titles, that are women's fiction-ish or literary-lite with strong romance threads.