This month I’ve been on a contemporary romance reading mini-binge. Normally if I have time to read a new book I turn to recommendations from this blog, my bookworm friends, and other sources like the NPR Top 100 Romances list, pick the title that fits my mood, download (thanks, Amazon!), pour wine, make tea or run bath as appropriate, and dive in 🙂 .
The snag with that approach is that I’m usually looking for a change from the sub-genre I’m writing, so the title that fits my mood is rarely contemporary romance. I decided I was missing a trick, so I went on a buying spree (thanks, Amazon!), engaged kettle/corkscrew and dove in. I tried a couple of books by a successful but new-to-me author, and I’m not going to name names here because although the writing was excellent, the story was not quite what I’m used to and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t get the expected hit of emotional satisfaction when I reached the end.
I’ve been chewing it over, and I think my issue was that the significant connection between the hero and heroine and the meat of the story was the development of their love for each other. They didn’t do anything together except explore their mutual attraction, overcome their differences, and fall in love, amusingly and with lots of fabulous dialogue. As I said, the writing was of a very high standard, the story was fun, the world-building was excellent and I loved the characters. There’s no way it was an accident.
I couldn’t imagine writing this kind of romance. I’m so keyed in to the notion of goal, motivation and conflict that I felt as though I’d fallen down a rabbit-hole. It ran completely counter to the most recent craft workshop I attended – Michael Hauge’s From Identity to Essence (at RWA National). My notes from that workshop say:
chemistry alone is not enough; the hero and heroine must be forced together by something other than the love story; they must either work together or be in competition with each other.
This makes sense to me, because the characters’ behavior in a make-or-break situation (saving their puppy, their ancestral home or the world, it doesn’t matter) is what helps them to know each other deeply and gives the reader assurance that they are truly the perfect match for each other.
Now I’m wondering if the book was fine and I am the problem. Perhaps I was expecting it to be a tasty meal, when it was only ever supposed to be a frothy, delicious soufflé.
Do you read contemporary romance? Have you read any good ones lately, or do you have any favorite authors?
Do your favorite contemporary romances have a strong storyline (main plot or sub-plot, I don’t care) that supports and feeds the romance, or is the book completely focused on the love story?