I don’t read a lot of contemporary romance–with the notable exception of Nora Roberts, who is just on my automatic buy list, period. So excepting La Nora, who does such a marvelous job building friends and families and relationships with people I’d love to know in real life, I tend to find contemporary romance, well, boring, to be honest.
I’ve been giving some thought lately to why that is.
Part of it is that it’s too much like real life. I don’t like anything that resembles real life because, well, I get enough of that, and the entire purpose of reading is to ESCAPE real life. So there had better be a murder, a kidnapping, something paranormal, or SOMETHING to set a story apart from the daily norm or I don’t want to read it. There’s a whole slough of other things I don’t read for the same reasons.
But contemporary romance tends to fail for me on a few other levels. After reading a recent western themed contemporary romance this week, I think I finally figured out what my issue with it is. A great many contemporary romances (at least the ones I’ve read) have what feel like manufactured conflicts. Of the sort that make me want to knock the hero and heroine’s heads together and say “have a bloody CONVERSATION and you’ll work all this out!” Now, some people like this kind of thing because it is EXACTLY the kind of conflicts that keep men and women apart in real life. People are not known for being communicative in general, so it’s not like this is an unrealistic setup for the story. But as someone who generally always says exactly what I think (much to my mother’s chagrin), it bugs the ever-lovin’ crap out of me.
If the entire reason that they are apart is because of a misunderstanding that a single conversation would sort out, particularly if other characters in the story are aware of those issues and just don’t feel it’s their place to say something, that does not make for a satisfying romance to me. Those are not decent odds to overcome and just make the hero and heroine look stupid.
Give me a freaking REAL ANTAGONIST. Give me STAKES!
The stakes, if they exist, are so freaking subtle, I don’t even see them. I suppose the stakes in this genre are supposed to be the whole loss of the HEA. But that eventuality is a given. It’s a ROMANCE. We KNOW they’re going to get the HEA, so why aren’t you giving me something more interesting to read about? This is why I prefer dead bodies, threats of a meteor crashing to earth, or other means of world takeover by demons or aliens or somebody. I prefer romance in the context of other interesting stuff. Where the romance still takes center stage, but it is directly impacted by other major events outside the characters, not just their own boneheadedness.
Certainly I don’t speak of the entire genre because I haven’t read it all. It’s a thriving and vital section of the book industry and I mean no disrespect to anyone who writes it. I’m just not the right audience for such a book.
What are your thoughts? Are you a contemporary romance fan? If you are, what do you love about it? If you’re not, are you with me? Are these the same things missing for you, or do you have other things you’re looking for that it fails to deliver?