For a long time I have been telling myself and everybody else that I am not that interested in romance in books. Turns out, that is not quite true. I am not a fan of romance in books where it is the obligatory B-plot; I very much love books where a well-done romance is the A-plot (and preferably the B-plot is kickass-women kicking ass) or where the B-plot romance is done exceedingly well (looking at you, Ilona Andrews). I am apparently a hopeless romantic at heart and I have been loving reading romantic genre fiction so very much these last few months.
There is something comforting about a well-done romance – and I need comforting at the moment. I love the feeling of trusting an author to both write an exciting story and to not break my heart while doing it. Thus I find predictability (when it comes to the eventual outcome and not the way there) a definite plus right now. When romance is done well the authors show an incredible insight into the human condition – and I find it highly frustrating that this is not more well-respected. A well-done romance is such a difficult thing to achieve! Other people have talked about how this dismissal of romance is a gendered thing and I don’t feel like getting angry at the world today, so I won’t write about this. I have just realized how much I am enjoying the genre at the moment – and I am liking this a lot.
But there are some tropes that set my teeth on edge and while I am a lot more forgiving of possessive behaviour in books than I am in real life (as is everybody I guess), I am still unsure how to choose books to read because so very often the male love interest is godawful and I would want to spend zero time with them. I am not a fan of books with huge power imbalance (on the emotional level especially) and I am thus hugely not a fan of big age differences, especially in realistic fiction or when the main female character is under 25. For me, YA romance really does not work at all for a number of reasons – especially when the romance feels like it is only included because that seems like the thing to do. I also get a bit grumpy when a book is too angsty and teenagers tend to be rather angsty and I’d rather not read about that. I want to read about adults falling in love and saving the world.
Here are two series I have loved and swooned about recently to give an indication what works for me:
The Kate Daniels’ series by Ilona Andrews: These books are definitely Urban Fantasy and as such the romantic subplot is not the main focus. The world-building and the overarching story is ridiculously well-done, but what kept me reading way past my bed time were the relationships Kate develops, not only romantic ones but also platonic ones. Kate is a wonderfully realized main character, with flaws but also seriously kickass and who is before every thing else a good person – and her relationship with Curran really, really worked for me. It was slow-burn enough to nearly kill me and then after a bit of angst, solid enough to keep me engaged. God, I love this series.
The Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh: I am still reading this, but after racing through the first 11 (!) books in a bit over a month, I needed to take a breather. Unlike the Kate Daniels’ series, these books each follow different main characters, which has the advantage of instant satisfaction but also lessened the squeal. The relationships here are all different and follow different tropes (some of which I like less than others), but what works for me exceedingly well is that any possessiveness the male characters might feel is always tempered by them being ridiculously in love with the women and not wanting to change them – this fundamental acceptance of who the women are at their core is a lovely thing to read.
Please do recommend books to me! The genre is a minefield and I want to only read books that make me happy! I recently bought Darkfever by Karen Marie Mooning because it was only a Euro but that book set my teeth on edge within a couple of pages and I called it quits after 30 pages or so. Which is why I need help.