Force-Feeding Romance: I’m Already Full, Thank You

a287f4cae1d145cc5411898a90e391a3One of the things romance readers share is the undeniable fact that we are all readers.  And, as the dedicated readers we all are, we are passionate about the books we love.

And, in that passion, we want readers to embrace those books.  Whether it’s because we’re seeking validation for our own tastes or – and I think this is the biggest motivator – we want others to experience the joy that we did when reading our favorite books, bringing others on board sometimes assumes monumental importance.

But here’s where I think a line gets crossed:  Some readers are so zealous and outspoken that those who don’t share the love may feel as if they are somehow suffering from some character defect by not embracing what seems to be the Official Romance Land Approved Syllabus.

Word from Sandy:  There is no Official Romance Land Approved Syllabus.

Not every smart, savvy reader loves Ivory.  Or Chase.  Or Brockway. Or Howard.  Or Crusie.  And, you know, that’s okay.

But I’m hearing the almost deafening drumbeat at AAR and at other venues online about a few subgenres that aren’t for me.

In all cases, I’m happy – really happy – that many readers are enjoying the subgenres.  Seriously.  But my chief lament these days is lack of reading time.  And since I already don’t have the time to read all the books I want to be able to read, adding books I’m iffy on just isn’t going to happen.

Category Romances: Time was I devoured them.  I went through an HP phase and then a Silhouette phase and, finally, a Loveswept phase.  I’ve tried them again. And again.  I’ve read some awful ones and some better ones, but as a subgenre, there are far more misses than hits with me.

Ebooks: Back to that limited reading time thing again.  Knowing that quality standards vary widely in ebook world, I’m hesitant to take on the huge task of sorting the wheat from the chaff.  I figure if there’s something I really need to know about, the online buzz will clue me in.  Honestly, I think ebooks are a great venue for subgenre books that have a hard time finding a print-based publisher, but if, say, a Vampire Romance or an European Historical is published only as an ebook, then I’m going to pass until I hear great things that would convince me otherwise.  Just sayin’.

Male/Male Romances: I enjoyed the romance of Brockmann’s Jules and Robin and rooted for them to find their HEA.  I loved (make that loved, loved, loved) the relationship between J.R. Ward’s Butch and V and passionately wanted them to be together.  I found V’s longing for Butch heartfelt and erotic – and, let’s face it, Ward copped out big time in giving them both what felt to me to be flat out second best HEAs.  But, with all that said, I can’t see a scenario in which I would seek out an M/M romance to read.  (I mean, hey, what’s my role in this whole deal, you know what I’m saying?)  Still, with that said, a great storyteller can always pull me in.  But seeking them out?  No, I don’t see it.

BDSM: Just not my thing.

I feel the need to say – over and over again – that I don’t judge anyone who’s into BDSM and I’m not a homophobe. And I’m happy that books are being published for everyone.  But my point – and I really do have one – is that it’s okay for readers not to love what everybody is trumpeting. It doesn’t put your taste into question. And it doesn’t make you a homophobe.  Or sexually repressed, thank you very much.

If I had the time I once had to read, I’d put some of these assertions to the test – just as I have done over and over with category romances.  But time is precious to me these days.  And I have books – many of them titles I need to read for the site – that take every moment I have.

So, what about you?  Have you ever felt the pressure to read something you weren’t interested in?  Anybody else interested in stepping out of the closet with me?

– Sandy AAR

32 thoughts on “Force-Feeding Romance: I’m Already Full, Thank You

  1. Sandy wrote: Not every smart, savvy reader loves Ivory. Or Chase. Or Brockway. Or Howard. Or Crusie. And, you know, that’s okay.

    Thank you, thank you. Not that most of us don’t already know this, but it’s good sometimes to see it actually in print.

    Sandy wrote: But my point is that it’s okay for readers not to love what everybody is trumpeting. It doesn’t put your taste into question. And it doesn’t make you a homophobe. Or sexually repressed, thank you very much.

    Do we hear another “Amen” here?

  2. Amen! Well said, Sandy. I am all for people expressing their opinions about certain books and authors, but do not appreciate judgmental comments. I often feel that my reading is out of the mainstream and I am okay with that. There are plenty of books to go around!

  3. Agree with all your points Sandy.Certainly the point about m/m romances. My problem with those is that they seem to be written by women, for women, and I just can’t find a reason to pick one up. *shrug* Let me just say, I don’t get it. And that’s okay.

  4. Sandy, all I can say is that your post could just as easily have been written by me (less eloquently, though, I daresay!). I’ve just started working outside the home again and am finding my reading time cut significantly. These days I don’t have time to work in a particular book or subgenre just because it’s being buzzed about on the net.

    Categories – I’ve rarely read them in the past and only particular authors like Jessice Bird, Nancy Warren and Sarah Mayberry – and it depends on the plot.

    ebooks – don’t have an ereader, so I don’t even think about ‘em.

    M/M romances – I agree with Sandy – what’s in it for me? Just not my thing. It’s wonderful if two guys have a romance, but I just don’t see where I fit in. Love it as a secondary romance (the one in Louisa Edwards’ CAN’T STAND THE HEAT was really sweet). But there are just too many other books to read that I would get more out of.

    BDSM – well I don’t seek it out, and I don’t read a ton of erotica, but I do enjoy a well written erotic romance on occasion and if BDSM is included, no biggie for me.

  5. My reading time is approximately a third of that 6-8 years ago. Life changes, there’s more to do, and my eyes now don’t stand up to that many hours of reading. Even so, I’m still sort of adventuresome in reading new authors or less-than-favorite subgenres but with a twist now. If a book isn’t working for me after the first third, I’ll give it a quick skim and if I don’t like what I see, I quit reading it. I take no shame now in my DNF stack of books. At one time, I felt it my responsibility to finish a book and have the satisfaction of giving it a bad grade if nothing else – now I DON’T. My only exception to this new DNF rule is when I’m reviewing for the site – I must finish the book whether I enjoy it or not.

    I recently tried a few series romances, a paranormal, and two romantic suspense (all subgenres I usually avoid) and they were all DNFs. But at the same time, I found two series and a romantic suspense I absolutely loved – so it’s worth it!

  6. Lea said: I take no shame now in my DNF stack of books.

    Me neither!

    Well done Sandy. Like Trish, I could have written your essay myself. Cheers!

  7. There was a time in my life when it was a matter of principle that if I started a book, I finished it. I’m a lot older now and have shed that outlook. While some authors are still “automatic buys”, I’ve learned to move on if I’m not hooked fairly early. And there are some sub genres that will probably never get my attention.

  8. As someone who really does not like Judith Ivory books (and, while I’m damning myself here in a lot of people’s eyes, thought The Windflower by Tom & Sharon Curtis to be nearly unreadable), I’m grateful to you for pointing out that my preferences don’t equate to my stupidity or lack of taste.

    De gustibus non disputandum est — the only Latin tag I bother to know by heart: there’s no arguing with taste.

    Thanks for the great post!

  9. While I sometimes regret not being able to board the Love Train for a specific author, book, or genre, I know it is not a matter of right vs wrong or good vs bad but just a matter of taste. Some things speak to me and others don’t, and I have a very hard time explaining it. I also can’t explain why I love chocolate and Campari and mashed potatoes but don’t like blue cheese or mussels or salad dressing, but for whatever reason we are allowed our quirks in some areas but feel we need to justify ourselves in others.

  10. Great post and one of the reasons I like this website. I can look up reviews about the books and pick the ones that I will like, based on the plot and review. Sometimes it is good to try something new, but like everyone else, free reading time is scarce. I gravitate to what I know I will enjoy reading.

  11. I love- LOVE- both paranormal and historical romance. They’re my all time favorite genres, and I go through phases between the two.

    And yet, with that said, while I love vamperic romance, I hated Twilight with the passionate fire of a thousand suns, lol. No offense to those who like it, but I found the books to be badly written and boring at best. At worst, an insult to the both literary paranormal community and strong heroine leads.

    My “march to a different beat” point is that everywhere I look, both inside and outside the paranormal romance genre, I see people loving these books. Which is fine. To each their own. But my point is that I get that “OH DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN YOU BLASPHEMER!” reaction, for hating these books.

    *Shrugs* Just how it is, I suppose. Either way I love what I love, and I hate what I hate, and no matter how loud the voices of the seas rant that I NEED to love them, try them again, whatever, it won’t change my views on books that I love, and books that I hate.

  12. You know what bugs me? When a reader review is given and
    “unhelpful” on amazon.com because the review is negative. Fans of an author ought to be able to take the criticism. If a review has something legitimate to say, not just “I hated this” then it can be very helpful. I always read a sampling of reviews of all star levels when I’m curious about a book. I find the negative reviews very helpful because the reviews usually spotlight exactly what bothered the reader, and I can assess whether the same thing would bother me, as well.

    Thanks for the reminder to all of us that tastes are different. As we seek to share our favorite books and authors, we need to allow others the freedom to disagree.

  13. I’m sorry that this is off-topic, but could you please check if you Updated Annual Reader’s Poll Menu with links to the 2010 Results. I can’t seem to find a way to find them now after the links were taken off the front page.

    I didn’t know any other place where I could write about it. Maybe it’s just my local problem.

  14. I can’t say I’ve ever felt any pressure to read certain romances. Other than a self-imposed pressure because I want to read what other people are reading. I don’t consider “oh, you should read so-an-so, you’d love it!” to be pressure and no one has ever criticized me for not being interested in a subgenre.

  15. Well said, Sandy. I’ve always been WAY out of step because I didn’t really like most of the romances that always wind up in the Top 10 on all the “best of all-time” lists.

    Sometimes I wonder what I’m missing, but not enough to try to force myself to read books I know I won’t love. There’s too many out there that I will love and limited time!

  16. I do not like any vampire books, so I about went crazy when all of the women in my unit at work were reading the Twilight books. No thank you it is not my thing.

  17. this sort of stuff is easier to avoid and ignore online- but it does get upsetting when you’re being force-fed in person- which makes it one of the few positive things about not knowing many romance readers (or just readers in general….) in real life. Life is too short and free time is even shorter. Let ourselves read what we want to read and chuck the rest of those well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) recommendations out.

  18. Sandy quote “BDSM: Just not my thing.

    I feel the need to say – over and over again – that I don’t judge anyone who’s into BDSM and I’m not a homophobe. And I’m happy that books are being published for everyone. But my point – and I really do have one – is that it’s okay for readers not to love what everybody is trumpeting. It doesn’t put your taste into question. And it doesn’t make you a homophobe. Or sexually repressed, thank you very much.”

    Thank you Sandy – Eloquently stated and appreciated for those of us – that BDSM is just not our thing and that it is OK.

  19. Carrie, I just couldn’t agree more about the reviews. “I love it!” is marked as helpful, and an in-depth analysis is totally marked in the negative because they dared to give it less than five stars. I’ve had some serious problems with the latest In Death books, and I don’t even bother reviewing them anymore because the fans will swarm in to give me a big NO!.

    Case in point: Fantasy In Death. This book barely deals with the various friendships and work relationships we’ve seen developed over dozens of books, and then one reviewer says that a particular thing she liked was the emphasis on the friendcships. Did we read the same book, the book where there was only one scene that really mattered? Of course the review is considered “helpful” because she adored it so much. So strange.

    As to the topic, since I have soooooooooo many books piled up in my to-read pile, I figure that if something doesn’t grab me, into the discard/sell/donate pile it goes. Lately I’ve been dumping any and all books that involve a SEAL/agent/PI/whatever whose case is mucked up by the heroine. Been there, done that, have the T shirt. I’ve also lost patience with a lot of the Blaze line of books. While you get the HEA and all that, the emotional level seems to be lacking, and I’m taking a bit of a break. There’s the odd BDSM book that I’ve enjoyed, but after the total humiliation of the heroine in Maya Banks’ Sweet Persuasion, and what I also felt was the trashing of the hero (had been introduced in Sweet Surrender), the genre has left a really awful “aftertaste” of sorts.

    Oh well, life goes on.

  20. Thank you Sandy! That was a great article. I find it really dificult lately to participate on some author’s websites. There was of course the famous Suzanne Brockmann website meltdown after DON, and more recently on JR Ward’s website regarding the pairing of Qhuinn and Blay. If you are just not into it, as I am, you are made to feel badly and often accused of being homophobic simply because you don’t like the pairings. I feel immense pressure to state over and over and over again that I have no problem with homosexuality and I’m an avid supporter of gay rights I just don’t like the pairing. But it still doesn’t seem to matter.

  21. Do people really get mad at others for disliking a certain author? I really haven’t seen it, but I have seen lots of people make defensive statements like ‘I know everyone will hate me if I fess up to not loving *some author*’. There’s no author everyone loves, nobody’s unique in not liking a particular book! The only time I’ve really seen people get at all angry is when someone makes moral judgments about a subgenre or book, or keeps going on about how much they hate it.

    I’ve never had anyone care that I don’t like, say, Linda Howard (I tried, really I did!). I do think some of the pressure is self-imposed, and some of it is kind of unavoidable–any time something gets talked about a lot, some people will feel left out, after all. All they can really do is start topics and discussions about what they do like.

  22. Allyson says: “Do people really get mad at others for disliking a certain author? I really haven’t seen it, but I have seen lots of people make defensive statements like ‘I know everyone will hate me if I fess up to not loving *some author*’. There’s no author everyone loves, nobody’s unique in not liking a particular book! The only time I’ve really seen people get at all angry is when someone makes moral judgments about a subgenre or book, or keeps going on about how much they hate it.

    I’ve never had anyone care that I don’t like, say, Linda Howard (I tried, really I did!). I do think some of the pressure is self-imposed, and some of it is kind of unavoidable–any time something gets talked about a lot, some people will feel left out, after all. All they can really do is start topics and discussions about what they do like.”

    No Allison – I don’t think people get really mad at others for disliking a certain author as much as it’s a brushing off someone’s opinion like it doesn’t matter – that’s where the offense comes, one might take a disagreement personally. There are books that I’ve enjoyed that has either gotten a C grade or below on AAR, do I think the reviewer was wrong? It depends on whether the reviewer seemed to miss part of the story or the story just didn’t work for them. Does the thread support the reviewer? Does not matter, do I get mad, no. What I find objectionable in any book is when particular philosophies appear to be rammed down one’s throat. What is a helpful – a thread stating why you found a book objectionable to share as FYI purposes and if people agree they agree, if they don’t they don’t.

  23. I agree with Nancy. It’s not that people are disbelieving that someone doesn’t like an author they like, it’s that because I don’t like some of their books my opinion becomes invalid.

    For instance, I loved “Bet Me” but haven’t really enjoyed any other Crusie books. And I’ll completely defend Mary Balogh to death (though I couldn’t finish “A Precious Jewel”) because hers are some of the most well-written books I’ve ever read, but I’m completely aware that others don’t feel the same way! And that’s fine.

    I absolutely don’t read paranormals, because I have no interest in reading about vampires or werewolfs. As a subgenre, there’s too much suspension of disbelief required for me-though I do like both Science-Fiction and Fantasty Romances. So when people try to push paranormals on me, I get really annoyed. But I’m perfectly willing to concede that they appreciate those books for some reason that escapes.

    And, that’s why there’s 31 flavors at Baskin Robbins.

  24. What wonderful points you make! I agree completely that lately I feel overwhelmed by all of the subgenres that are being pushed lately. I’d never EVER call myself a traditionalist, but I’m starting to miss the “old days” of your straight-forward historicals and contemporaries. Lately, I’ve noticed that many romance review sites are pushing e-books and m/m and menage romances.

    I’m definitely not a prude or homophobic, either…I loved Jules/Robin, Butch/V relationships, too. And Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel books are some of my favorites of all time. And I do plan to dip my toe in m/m romances soon (I think with False Colors). Still I feel like I’m missing out on reviews of the “old school” stuff.

    I will resist reading e-books for as long as possible for various reasons. I’m a rare book librarian (so there’s that!). I hate reading on any type of computer screen and love having the physical books on the shelf to take out, rearrange and revisit. And it’s so true about the quality control issue. I realize that there are some innovative things being done out there, but if a book is not offered in print as well, I will continue to be suspect of it’s quality. And ultimately don’t many successful e-authors end up getting print deals eventually.

    As for Sandy’s comments on categories, I can totally see your point. I often wonder if categories and e-books are easier for review sites to do simply because of their length and the reviewers can churn out the reviews so much faster. On the other hand, I read the occasional category and I have a few auto-buy authors in the subgenre, but I have to rely on the online reviews to help me find the best of the bunch.

    Thanks again for a great “protest” and I’m glad to see so many in agreement.

  25. I agree that the cheerleading and campaigning gets to be too much sometimes. It doesn’t make me feel pressured so much as annoyed. When a review site or blog gets preachy, suggesting that there’s something wrong with me if I’m not interested in reading their “must reads” I just stop visiting the site. I know who I am and have reached a point where I don’t need validation or respect for what I choose to read…or not read.

  26. Diana, I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve stopped visiting sites where I felt I was being preached to. My pet peeve there was that virgin heroines were ridiculous and sexually adventuresome heroines were preferable. And those readers who don’t agree must have something wrong with them. Why? Because “they” say so? Who are “they” to make a value judgement about the reader who doesn’t agree with them?

  27. I’d say erotica as a whole. I dislike how erotica is shelved with romance, and erotica elements like menage, bdsm, pervasive dirty words for sex and anatomy, and anal sex are being included in mainstream romance. I’ve been accused of being a prude. I’m not a prude. I know what I like, and I don’t like erotica. Keep it separate.
    Other posters mentioned how sexually adventurous, or what I’d call promiscuous, heroines and heroes are presented as the norm, and virginal characters as bizarre and outdated. It’s insulting.

  28. I get tired of the snickering on some blogs if something doesn’t work for a reader. I can think of a particular blog where the spelling is always off and most of the entries are ridiculous, but the owner of that blog always ridicules those who aren’t thrilled with m/m erotica or m/m romance. It is a stupid idea to imagine that every reader is the same, but going by the content of the blog and the spelling, I am not surprised that this person cannot see beyond the nose on her face.

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