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The Sunday Salon: No, I don't hate love stories

The Sunday 
Salon.com

A few days ago, an author emailed me asking me to review his book. We'll leave the author's name out of this because it's really irrelevant but mainly because he told me something that a lot of other authors have mentioned to me in their emails. Except he told it more vehemently - that I hated love stories. (He did say it good-naturedly, so no offense taken.)

I do mention in my review policy that I don't fancy reading romance. Here's how I say it:
What I don't enjoy is romance. It is hard to explain this, considering most books have some element of romance in them, but I believe you get what I mean? I just don't enjoy reading on and on about a character's romantic fixation with another character, but I can appreciate the occasional romance in any character's life (so long as it is not the predominant theme).
To my naive mind, romance = 1. bodice-rippers or 2. a book that's 90% focus is on the blossoming-or-not non-platonic relationship between two lovers. I don't get any any bookish satisfaction from reading books like that. I like my characters to be in richer, more real-worldly situations, and not just dealing with their love lives from start to finish. That's why I didn't enjoy Veronica Roth's Divergent - the world setting is wonderful and the pacing is great, but Beatrice Prior is so fixated with a guy that she bored me. Whereas Suzanne Collins gave a meatier non-romantic plot in The Hunger Games even while trying to give Katniss Everdeen a love life - that made the book more intriguing for me. The way I see it, I am either just too judgmental about such books or I just haven't read the one book that is usually the exception. Of course, when reading books like these, I am making a big mistake - I'm reading adolescent/teen books without thinking like an adolescent or a teen, so it's not the book's fault.

But, I don't hate love stories. I actually love them. What girl didn't grow up watching When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle, dreaming that her knight in shining armor is going to be just as dashing or funny or would be making her totally crazy? I used to browse the Danielle Steele section at a library or bookstore when I was 15. I used to have my own private stash of bodice ripper books in my nightstand at home. My cousin and I used to lock ourselves in her bedroom and eagerly read her mom's collection of Mills and Boon (My 13-year old self could not look at her mom with a straight face since).

But I'm past that now. That's probably what an overdose of anything does to you. My brain's programmed itself to skip past all the E. L. James and Sylvia Day books to pick the odd literary fiction squeezed between them. But when a friend tells me that she read Fifty Shades of Grey AND loved it, I do try to refrain from recommending all the other awesome books in the world and just admit that I didn't read that book.

It surprises me how many authors who contact me try to convince me that there is not so much romance in their book or that there is romance but that hopefully I would be able to enjoy the book nevertheless. I actually enjoy romantic comedies a lot (I recently finished Rainbow Rowell's Attachments, which can be best described as a romantic comedy). But if there is a lot of cheesy romance in the book, then it's better that I don't read it because I'm not the intended audience anyway.

On other news, I took an impromptu two-week break mainly because I'm trying to finish Inferno which is now already overdue. I have a good stash of more books I'm eager to read next, but hopefully, I'll be back at blogging this week.

Comments

bermudaonion(Kathy) said…
I'm with you on the romance stuff. I think what gets me is the guy and girl are always gorgeous, always hate each other to start with, never communicate their feelings well, and then fall madly in love.
I feel ya. You're honest about it. Authors should appreciate that.
I don't mind romances but I don't like too much and I dislike run of the mill ones that don't have any spice or variety from the average romance.
Vasilly said…
I agree with you and Kathy. I don't mind romances but it has to be realistic.
Lisa Sheppard said…
If it's shelved in the romance section of the bookstore or library, I'm unlikely to want to read the book. But you're so right; a well-done romantic comedy is an entirely different thing and I do love a book that has a romantic element to it as long as it's not front and center.
Helen Murdoch said…
I think people are so desperate for bloggers to read their books that they'll say whatever it takes to get us to read it. I've given up doing reviews from authors and publishers and it's kind of liberating
I feel very much the same about romance (and say that I'll likely pass on it in my review policy, too), though I don't mind a love story...I just don't want it to be the major plotline of the novel.

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