Friday, March 22, 2013

Discussion: You Want Romance? (Or: what do you read for in books?)

Sorry, I'll get to the point of this post in a sec, I just couldn't resist the lure of this exact wording for my title because there's a song by one of my favorite bands with that name. You can check out the video below, it's part two of a video trilogy (Bullet Theory - You Want Romance? - Juneau). All the videos are beautifully done in my opinion!

Anyway, you aren't here for my opinions on music.
While I have no official discussion feature on my blog at this point, I'd like to start up some conversations or collections of opinions every once in a while on various topics about books, publishing, blogging, reviewing, or whatever other book-related stuff I can come up with.

Something that's been going through my mind for a while is what other people read for in books. And quite often the answer to that seems to be romance. I see many reviews where the plot and pace and all that is mentioned, but the bulk of the review focuses on the love interest and how hot and amazing he is, while the actual heroine seems to recede into the background.

Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with focusing on the romance. Everyone gets what they need out of a book, and there are no wrong or right ways to read. But sometimes it does worry me a bit that the heroine, whom the story is supposedly about, seems to become more of a ploy to introduce the dude? And it's actually more his story than hers, even if it's told from her POV? Personally, I think it's unhealthy when the only/most important thing in a girl/woman's life is her love interest/boyfriend (same for guys being obsessed with a girl). Or think about all those heroines whose life would basically end if he broke up with her because she defines herself over him. Thankfully, I haven't read all that many books like that because I tend to avoid them in advance by reading reviews/descriptions (I can usually tell).

So what my question to you guys eventually comes down to is: do you read for the romance? Would a lack of romance diminish your interest in a book? Is it what you focus on, or are other aspects of a book more/equally important to you? If so, which ones?

As you've probably guessed by now, I'm critical of too much romance. Part of that is, admittedly, because I don't think I've ever really been in love. I just can't imagine having such strong feelings about another person. Maybe I'm a little bitter :P

But more importantly, I tend to find books whose storyline / plot is mostly or only romance boring. Also, repetitive. The names and character properties may vary a little, but very often it all comes down to a relatively small number of possible plots. Sometimes the romance and that super amazing hot dude just seem like a marketing device to sell more books.
I like romance! I like steamy scenes! But please give me a little more. Give me friendship, or family, or a paranormal element or some other kind of conflict that is not focused on the romance! I like the romance in the backdrop, I don't want it to hijack the actual story. It's just often so sappy. Or the guys are too good to be true. Also, a lot of the love interests in YA / NA are starting to sound rather similar to me. And I don't like HEA endings, I want a realistic ending. I want the ending that is best for the story, even if it's bittersweet or hurts me.

What I do read for is often the world building (you might have noticed if you've been following me for a while ^^'). That's why I love fantasy / paranormal books so much. Contemporaries also have world building, but it's less developed because it basically imitates a reality we all know. I just love figuring out the rules and system of a new world, and how it is different from ours, and all the imaginative wonderful details authors put into those world and how they make them seem real to us readers!
But what really makes or breaks a book for me apart from that is characters. I have to be interested and invested in the characters. I actually like them to be different from me - I have to understand them, not necessarily like them or find them 'universally relatable' (whatever that means). I want to feel with them, root for them, ache for them. If I care for the characters, I also like what romance there is a lot better, though I still hope there is more to the story. For instance, Rachel Vincent's books all have romance, and I love them! I also love the romance - because it's done very well, because her characters are wonderful, and because her books abound in elements and plots that are not directly related to the romantic storyline.

I could go on about this for a while longer, but I have to stop my rambling now. Bottom line: I have conflicted feelings about romance, and it's not the main element I read for in books. But what about you guys? Any reactions to my remarks? I think I might have been a little harsh at times, but I just needed to get this out there.
I really want to here about what you think! (Why) do you read for romance? Why not? Would you read a book without a romantic element? What ultimately makes/breaks a book for you?


  1. I like romance and steamy scenes as much as the next girl, but like you, I prefer the romance in the background of the story. That said, if I'm just craving a good romantic story, I stick to contemporary reads. Otherwise, I, too, like the world-building and plots of fantasy and paranormal books and so I usually tend to stick to those because I know that, for the most part, I'll get some romance, but it won't overpower the story. Great post! I'm often curious what drives others to pick up a book and what keeps them reading. :)

    1. Agreed, when I feel very romancy I usually read contemporaries. Though sometimes those get too drama-drama for me, and that ticks me off. But there are also many great ones and often they also focus on some sort of social issue.
      I love Jeaniene Frost's books! Awesome humor and romance and schmexy scenes and action! Perfect combo, very much not YA though ;)
      I'm also very curious about why people choose certain books! One person's pet-peeve can be another's insta-buy.

  2. Great discussion topic! I like romances & steamy scenes mostly in the background too. Although I do admit to reading some Paranormal Romances, they do tend to be heavier on the 'paranormal' side. I tend to get frustrated by MC's who spend their time pining over boys anyways (with a few exceptions) And I don't think your viewpoint means your bitter at all. I've had a bf for a looong time & I do love him but I have a hard time believing in a all encompassing & obsessive love like the ones featured in a lot of YA...then again I may have become jaded with age! haha

    I think that's why I love stories like Mistborn, Harry Potter, Daughter of Smoke & you said mostly fantasy, high fantasy & paranormal where there might be some romantic elements, but it's intended to take a backseat to the world-building (♥) and character development. I'm a huge fan of both of these so if the MC has her own life, thoughts & plans, fine. I can handle romance as a part of her life! >.<

    So yeah, I've rambled enough now but bottom line, I don't tend to read many romance-driven books either!

    1. I love your rambling, hun!
      The pining is understandable in a teen to some degree, but it does become tiresome if it goes overboard. Glad you don't think me bitter ;) Maybe I'll just fall all the harder when I finally do fall.

      I also read some PNR, for instance I always borrow the new J.R. Ward book from one of my friends, but I keep to a small number of series. And straight-up romance just isn't my thing, especially if it's neither YA nor NA and deals with career-women in their 30s who suddenly find their lives oh-so-lacking until an infuriating but very hot and rich dude comes along. Then they usually get pregnant. Yeah...
      Now I'm the one who's rambling.

      I really need to read the Mistborn series! And I definitely think the female MC should have her own plans and dreams! Doesn't mean those can't include a guy, but she shouldn't just suddenly forget about them either.
      Okay seriously I'm done now XD Thanks for commenting! <3

  3. Now, THIS is a great discussion!!!

    I can't say that I've always read for the romance but the last few years....YES!!! I can't get enough. If it doesn't have a romantic element....well, I'm just not as interested. I do read non-romantic books but they don't hold my attention like something with a great romance in it. I just LOVE romance! It helps me unwind and relax. Makes me happy to think about. I read for a release. I don't want to be stressed or thinking too deeply {is that bad?}. I'm totally into the romance right now.

    BUT....books like Harry Potter with only a touch...well, they are so fantastic with the little bit they do have that you don't even notice. You're just into the story because of all the details. I love it!!

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you're liking the discussion and weren't put off by my rather critical stance ;) I want to see as many different opinions on the topic as possible here on the blog!

      With how stressful many of our lives are, I can definitely understand the wish to just relax, read something light and fun and happy, and be whisked away into a great story! There's nothing wrong with that and I think it's wonderful that books can be this place we can escape to and balance our lives out with :)

      And Harry Potter is great! Though there I sometimes wished that what romance there was were a bit more developed, haha ^^' But of course that wasn't possible because it's a middle-grade series for the most part. And I agree, it's insane how detailed and complete the world building is!

      Thanks so much for joining the discussion and promoting it on twitter!


  4. Great question. I personally don't need romance if the story is a great story of healing, self discovery, and growing. I do enjoy my romances but I don't need them. I can go with out steamy scenes, that is why I read YA but if they are short and done well I can enjoy them.

    1. I actually like steamy scenes if they're well-written ^^' That's one reason why I go for adult books every once in a while...
      But I agree, the characters' journey is more important to me!

  5. I usually read despite the romance in books, not because of it. I don't read romance books but it's often included in other genres. I feel a lot of the time it weakens the plot especially if there is too much of it in the book. If there is just a bit of romance in the book but it is done well or there is much more to the plot than that I'll still enjoy the book.

    1. Wow, I'm surprised that so many people actually agree on the romance sometimes weakening the rest of what's going on o.O I expected indignation at my sort of anti-romance stance :P
      As you said, a little well-done romance is nice but it shouldn't suddenly become the main focus.