Monday, January 20, 2014

Hey! Romance Ate the Rest of My Book!

Discussion Topic: How Much Romance Do You Want in a Book?

I, like many people, love a good romance, but I never like it when romance eclipses the rest of the story. Sometimes I’m reading a book that I almost want to rave about, except every time I start to get really into it romance comes along and steals focus from the bit I found more interesting.

When a story is a romance, well, that might be the only exception. The marketing’s pretty clear about the focus. Even then, I don’t read very many romance novels because, for me, that can’t be the whole story. It’s very telling that many of my favorite books include fantasy romances, but no straight up romances. Fantasy romances inherently have at least one other conflict, a magical conflict, but if we’re talking about the romance genre specifically the books that will appeal to me the most are ones with characters who have other problems and goals besides the romantic relationship. Before I can care about this great love story, I need to care about these characters and to care about the characters I need to know their problems, goals, opinions, passions, fears, etc. I lose interest pretty fast when a character’s entire worldview revolves around their romantic interest.

This is kind of a tricky discussion topic, because how do you measure the amount of romance in the book? It doesn’t make much sense to say, “I like exactly 18% romance in a story.” And the truth is I don’t mind more romance than usual if it’s hooking me. In other words, I’m not down on romance in general but I’m a very critical romance reader so a big part of why I often don’t want as much in a book is because the author isn’t writing a romance I find satisfying. Like any other plot thread, if I find it boring, overly dramatic, cheesy, cliché, frustrating, etc., then I’ll wish for less of that unsatisfying plot thread and more of the ones I do like.

I also dislike the assumption that all stories need romance. I see this opinion both as a reader and a writer. Sometimes why romances fall flat may be because that book didn’t need it; the author squished it into a story that was really about something else.

How about you? Do you share my frustration with romance crowding out the rest of a good book? Or do you find yourself generally happy with the balance of romantic and other plot threads in the stories you read?


  1. What frustrates me is when a novel starts out with a lot of different subplots or undercurrents, but the only one that the author seriously pursues is the romantic portion. I feel like it results in a lot of wasted potential!

  2. Yes, wasted potential is the perfect description. Sometimes I read books that I just don't like, but the ones that are more depressing are the ones that I could have liked and tried so hard to like but I feel the book didn't live up to its own potential.