Book Genres, Preferences, And Reading (Part 2)

20 Sep

What Preferences?

Some of my preferences are alluded to in part 1, I think. But as a rule: I’m much more likely to pick up a book if I think

1) the story/premise interesting (I buy for story, not for authors most of the time)
2) it’s character-driven

A combination of both is usually what makes me buy books from genres I’m not really into. Number 1 is more important when I browse books in a brick-and-mortar store and I don’t know much about the novel and/or the author. So books without a summary are out right of the bat no matter who praised it to heaven on the covers. When I read reviews online, number 2 has probably more influence.

To make these rather general preferences (after all, what is an interesting story?) more specific for romance novels, here’s my list:

I’m not likely to pick up books with:

  • a spy plot
  • romantic suspense elements
  • babies/children on the cover, mentioned in the title or on the back blurb
  • heroines I think feisty from reading the summary or reviews
  • a bunch of things I probably forgot

There are exceptions, of course. For example, I liked Karen Rose’s romantic suspense novels so far, and I like Karen Templeton’s novels (when I get over the child thing and buy them).

I get irate with stories that
– rely only on lust or variations of the (soul)mate idea to show that characters love each other,
– tell a character is (insert adjective of choice) and then don’t show it in the story,
– feature Mary Sue/Gary Stu characters, TSTL characters, and heroines everyone (even the houseflies) adores/falls in love with/… (which probably means I would view her as a Mary Sue anyway).
– And on a lighter note: contemporary heroines who go “that can’t possibly fit” the first time they sleep with someone (which is of course the hero), and heroes with mustaches.

I’m likely to pick up books with:

  • friends turned lover
  • unrequited love
  • older woman-younger man
  • ugly duckling
  • shy characters (seldom done “right,” IMO)
  • not perfect (in whatever way) characters
  • a bunch of things I probably forgot

I like character-driven stories, and I like them even more when it’s shown that the characters are right for each other. Characters don’t have to be perfect or have certain qualities and virtues to make me like a novel and/or think the characters deserving of love. They don’t need to fulfill any (reader imposed) conditions, they just have to be and behave believable (which is probably harder to pull off, I think).

It’s the “love conquers all” vibe I look for in in romance novels, a sense that love isn’t subjected to conditions. Which means for example, as much as I like to read them, ugly duckling stories that rely on “magical transformation” à la “take off your glasses, darling” and everyone falls over at the revealed beauty, or have heroes who notice the heroine only after she changed (or the other way round, if there is such a novel), seldom work for me.


6 Responses to “Book Genres, Preferences, And Reading (Part 2)”

  1. Carolyn Jean Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 2:57 am #

    This is great. No feisty heroines for me either! But you don’t like spy plots? How can it be? I totally agree on wanting to really get and feel the way characters are right for each other.

  2. Taja Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 10:50 am #

    Spy plots – I think mostly of historical romances there (maybe I should edit). In some way, it bothers me more that a lot of heroes turn out to be spies than that nearly every hero is a duke. I think it’s because using a spy plot/making the hero a spy often just seems (seemed) a convenient and easy way, a shorthand, to make the hero (more) heroic so nothing else needs to be done there and the spy plot is often not well thought out, IMO.

    I have Joanna Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady, so I buy spy books when the buzz is loud enough (and I have read others).

    I guess you like spy stories!? 😉

  3. Christine Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 3:41 am #

    The kinds of plots listed in your I’m likely to pick up books with: are my favorites, too!

    I haven’t read too many romantic suspense novels, but have read the first four books in the ‘In Death’ series by J.D. Robb featuring Eve Dallas and Roarke and have thoroughly enjoyed them. So much so that I plan on reading the entire series. All thirty something of them! LOL Have you read any of them?

  4. Taja Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 12:25 pm #

    The kinds of plots listed in your I’m likely to pick up books with: are my favorites, too!

    – *laugh* That’s great!

    My problem with romantic suspense is that I often don’t find the suspense suspenseful enough/too easy to figure out, and that in general, I’m not really into the mystery stuff.

    I read the first Eve Dallas novel a couple of years back. I can’t remember much, but on the whole it was the same experience I have with the Nora Roberts books: it was good but it didn’t really grab me. And then I thought of how long the series is and decided “better not.” I bow to your commitment! Maybe I take a second look. Who knows? Maybe I think different after all these years.


  1. Book Genres, Preferences, And Reading (Part 3) « Books and Games - Saturday, October 18, 2008

    […] Book Genres, Preferences, And Reading (Part 2) […]

  2. Liz Maverick - “Wired” « Books and Games - Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    […] Two comments about the “action” thing: 1. A lot of things happen in this story but I went with science fiction because of the whole alternate / parallel reality premise and the funky future-y device. Wired is really a mixture of sub-genres, a hybrid, and maybe “speculative” would fit best. 2. After me saying I prefer character-driven stories, it seems action works just as well because I really liked Wired. But then, I think the story’s premise interesting which is something that gets me to read all kinds of genres and stories (I said that too). […]

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