Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, we can all agree that December is the perfect time to do two somewhat related things: ask for stuff and complain. So today I made a list of all the things I wish to see in Romance, especially after a year that’s been quite naughty, but not in a good way.
The first thing I want to see is readers demanding quality and being more critical of poorly written and edited books. I understand that sometimes books are so entertaining and engaging that we’re willing to overlook their technical issues, especially if they were self-published. But here’s the thing: forgiving mistakes because the book was self-published is offensive, because it means that we equal poor quality to self-publishing. And that is most definitely not the case, or it doesn't have to be. And when we give those books free passes, we create a vicious cycle. So now we have a bunch of poorly written books experiencing huge success in detriment of everyone. It lowers the standards as evidenced by the fact that the big publishers purchasing those books don’t see the need to improve and refine them. So is up to us to demand the quality we deserve.
I would love to see stories featuring real people. I believe that fantasy can be grounded in reality, and as much as I enjoy reading about millionaires and beautiful women, I would love to see people like me falling in love and getting HEAs. I know that some read for escapism and don’t wish to see stories about characters with economic struggles (or any type of non-glamorous struggles), but I do, and I think the genre would benefit from it.
And while we’re on the subject of regular people, when did the alpha-male become the default? I guess it always has been, and yet I see a deterioration of the alpha-male into a more basic, almost shallow portrayal of how those heroes are. The problem isn't the alpha-male, the problem is when their alpha-ness is all there is to them. Protectiveness and strength are good qualities, but not when they get amplified to ridiculous proportions and take over the whole character. These heroes are not going away, I don’t want them to, but I would love to see a more nuanced, complex portrayal. And please, no more borderline abusive heroes.
More bad sex, please! Sometimes the hero and heroine only connect on a sexual level (at least at first), and that’s fine, one of my favorite books of the year was like that. But sex is a huge part of the genre, yet there’s almost no innovation or variety. The book hits the middle mark, you know the sex is coming, and that it’s going to be awesome. And I always wonder, wouldn't it be great if the sex also got its own story-arc? Maybe things aren't as great at first, or their personal issues have repercussions on their sex lives. Cecilia Grant and Stephanie Doyle are writing about it, but we need more. And if bad sex isn't possible because, let’s face it, all those mighty peens need employment, then make it messy and real.
Going back to the rich alphas -- how about a book about a millionaire tycoon and the virgin secretary, where the tycoon is the heroine and the secretary the hero? Or the heroine doctor who falls for the male nurse? Any type of role reversals would be great. I’ll take any opportunity to explore different relationship dynamics, especially if the heroine is the one who holds the power in the relationship.
Overall I would love to see more diversity and unique stories. It took years for me to read a book about a hero with erectile dysfunction, and it was a welcome book. There’s nothing wrong with traditional stories, I enjoy them all the time, but let’s spice things up a bit. The romance community is huge, and there are all types of readers, so it would be great so see that diversity reflected on the novels.
How about you? What’s on your wants list? Is there a trope, story or type of character you would like to see more of, or maybe less?