A Few of My Favorite Things

favoritethings Not too long ago, Sandy Coleman blogged about romance cliches she would love to see die. That got me to thinking about the plotlines and features I just love in a romance. I’m sick of small-town sheriffs and I never really went for the obligatory baby-studded epilogues, but there are some recurring plot features(and at least 1 not recurring enough) that make me such a happy camper, and they are:

1. Unusual characters and settings – Okay, it’s not a real plotline, but I never miss a chance to make a plug for variety. Sure, I’ll read the paranormal shapeshifters and the historical lords and ladies, and if we’re talking Westerns, I can deal with cowboys, too. But give me characters a little bit different and you’ll get my attention for sure. And if you set your book outside of Regency or Victorian England? And it’s not part of a series focused on a secret government unit or gang of spies? Now THAT gets my book-buying bucks!

2. Second chances – As long as it’s nothing too ridiculous, I don’t care how the couple separated or who may have done whom wrong, I believe in second chances. Somehow love just seems like the ultimate redemption. So I love a good book that gives the leads a second chance to get together.

3. Friends turned lovers – Maybe it’s because I seem to make a habit of dating my friends and it actually worked out well for me, or maybe it’s because the combination of friendship and romance adds a certain richness to the story. Still, there’s a certain sort of chemistry to these plots that I like. The combination of the comfortable depth of the friendship combined with the feelings and communication issues related to the romantic relationship just pull at my heartstrings. I’ve read several good books with this plot, but Separation Anxiety by Karen Brichoux is one that does it especially well.

4. A good beta hero – First of all, let me be clear: It’s not that I don’t like alphas. Many an alpha hero has struck my fancy. However, beta heroes just make me smile. A good beta is not a wuss, and many of them have a certain quiet strength that I find reassuring and appealing. Also, I like tender, sweet emotional moments in my romances, and betas seem to deliver well on these. Lately, Nev from In for a Penny is one of my very favorite beta heroes.

5. Road romances – The chemistry, good or bad, that crops up within a party of travellers fascinates me as an observer. Also, I love travel and love reading about it. It’s a win-win. I have a personal belief that you don’t really know someone until you’ve spent at least a few hours in a car with them – seeing how that plays out in a romance just works for me. The Cockermouth Mail by Dinah Dean and For my Lady’s Heart by Laura Kinsale are two of my favorites, but there are gazillions of good road romances out there. And if you like historical fiction, The Temple Dancer by John Speed is quite the interesting travelling tale.

6. Marriage of convenience – I don’t go for the wacky will stipuations, but something about the marriage of convenience that heats up into something else just works for me. This is a plot that seems to do better with Westerns I read than many other settings. Perhaps it’s the harsh life of the frontier that just seems to lend itself to a believable arrangement.

7.May/December romances – It depends on the context, but I do tend to like books with a significant difference in age between the lead characters – as long as the characters deal with it. I’ve read the occasional book (mostly rather old school romances) where the issue is handled in rather creepy fashion, with the older hero fetishizing the nubile young body of the heroine. However, there have been some books where the characters don’t ignore the issue and it actually gets handled well. Of books I’ve read most recently, Russ and Clare from Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Millers Kill series come to mind(granted, they have more issues to tackle than just the age thing) or for something a little more old school, I’ve always really liked the Venetian-set Lord of the Night by Susan Wiggs.

So, what about you? What are a few of your favorite plots?

– Lynn Spencer

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17 Responses to “A Few of My Favorite Things”

  1. Beth W says:

    I am totally a sucker for the unrequited love plot. Whether he secretly loves her or she secretly loves him, I like it either way. I don’t know why this one always gets to me but it does.

  2. Margaret says:

    Childhood Friends.

    Heroine pregnant (not by the hero). Have no idea why I love this storyline…but it always works for me. I think it all started with Curtiss Ann Matlock’s Annie in the Morning.

  3. I love beta males… a truly strong man is one who can let a woman be strong, too, without feeling threatened. Alphas – at least in romances – seem to need to dominate, while betas are willing to negotiate, and that’s the recipe for a lifetime of love.

  4. Magdalen says:

    I love a plot that features a believable reason why they can’t be together after they’ve fallen in love. Not the “other woman” or an implausible misunderstanding — I figure there are enough problems for couples to face that authors should have to resort to far-fetched barriers. But I love that angsty moment when it seems as though all is lost . . . until it isn’t!

    But — and I appreciate how hard a balancing act this is — I also love romances that allow the hero and heroine to get to know each other. I want them focused on each other, and on their feelings for each other for most of the book . . . until the “darkest-below-the-dawn” angst described above.

    I don’t ask for too much, do I?

  5. Luci says:

    I don’t really have plot lines I just loe but I am definitely all for the second chances one – in books and in real life. I am really big on second chances in real life.

    From the ones already mentioned, i like books with pregnant heoines too and i absolutely don’t mind if the hero is alpha or beta as long as he is well written, he’s ok for me.

  6. Lynn M says:

    I’m with Magdalen in loving plots where the hero and heroine can’t be together for some noble reason. I’m not talking a Big Mis reason that could be resolved by a simple conversation, but rather something keeping them apart that is genuinely heartbreaking. Best example I can come up with isn’t even from a book – Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel the Vampire with a Soul. If Angel experiences even one true second of happiness, he becomes evil again. Even though he and Buffy love each other, they can’t risk this happening, thus they must remain apart.

    I also have to confess in loving stories with a protective hero. It doesn’t have to be the hero being protective of the heroine – I like it when he’s fiercely loyal to his family or friends or anyone he cares about. Watching as the heroine earns a spot in this circle melts my heart. And, okay, I’ve always had a thing for the moment in the story when the hero rides to the females rescue. Must be left over from growing up on Disney princess movies! Not very female-power proper, but at least I also like stories when the female is protective as well. An example – in the movie Avatar, when Neytiri crouches over an unconcous Jake Sully with her teeth bared, knife drawn, just daring anyone to touch her beloved. *sigh*

  7. Tumperkin says:

    ooooh! Good list. All these and more. I count marriage of convenience a huge favourite. And I’ve recently discovered a new love for May/December stories (having previously hated them.)

    I’d like to put in a plea for the Big Mis, personally. It’s a much benighted plotline but done well is hugely satisfying. I just love those HA! moments when the hero discovers that, frex, the heroine isn’t a conscienceless whore without a single moral to her name but is in fact a self-sacrificing virgin martyr.

  8. Renee says:

    I like second chance romances a lot. One of my favorites is Spiral Path by Mary Jo Putney.

  9. xina says:

    Childhood Friends turned lovers after not seeing one another for years and being attracted to the person. Historical or contemporary. Doesn’t matter to me. Also, Marriage In Trouble as in Teresa Weir’s…One Fine Day.

  10. Susan/DC says:

    I agree with all your favorites other than May-December which, unlike Tumperkin, I still dislike. Doesn’t mean I haven’t read a few that have appealed to me, but it’s a very few, and often it’s when the heroine is older (December-May). One of the reasons May-December stories bother me is that a much larger age difference is allowed when the hero is older (a decade or more) but a big deal is made when the heroine is only five (or fewer) years older — doesn’t seem quite fair to me. Mary Balogh has one where the heroine is 10 years older, but that’s rare.

    Definitely love marriages of convenience except when forced by a stipulation in a will, which seems both illegal and silly to me. The poor but titled hero/heroine needing to marry a wealthy commoner is a lot more believable and far less contrived. Another favorite is friends-to-lovers. Again, far more believable when the couple have known each other for a reasonable amount of time, even if they haven’t seen each other for a while, than the stories where they are certain they’ve found True Love in a storyline that takes place over less than a week.

  11. CEAD says:

    I agree with most of these. In particular, my favourite stories tend to involve people who have some sort of previously established relationship with each other, rather than people who meet and promptly fall in love, and second chances, friends-to-lovers, childhood friends, and unrequited love all fall into that general category. Sometimes the marriage of convenience does, too.

    Others… I love stories which involve one of the leads – though it’s usually the heroine – breaking through some sort of psychological shell and emerging as the person they were always supposed to be, and stories featuring musical, artistic, or intellectual people or situations.

    Also, I read mostly historicals, and I prefer the ones where the heroine is a bit older and not direct from the schoolroom, and I love the all-too-rare stories where she’s already been sexually awakened and doesn’t need the hero’s help. I wish the wicked widow got to be the heroine more often in historical romance.

  12. AndyR says:

    My favorite genres are romantic suspense and historical mystery. (maybe I should have become a cop.) When it comes to historical romances I WANT those spies.

  13. Maryann says:

    I enjoy reading books with the plots described above. My favorite, however, is the tortured hero who is redeemed by the heroine’s love, intelligence, and strength. Christian and Maddy from Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale always come to mind first when I’m thinking/recommending a romance that is pure perfection. I’m hoping Sourcebooks will release it in the larger edition it is currently using for other Laura Kinsale books. I’ll keep searching for a hardcover edition in decent condition…

    I have to mention Carla Kelly’s Libby’s London Merchant and One Good Turn as well. Benedict Nesbitt (Nez), who is in both books, is an alcoholic, but he’s also a wonderful person. I think we’ve all known someone like Nez. He conquers his addiction and lets Liria into his life even though he makes some incorrect assumptions about her. Carla Kelly always writes interesting, real characters in believable settings, and she does it in a few hundred pages. If you can’t find Libby’s London Merchant as I couldn’t for yrs., read One Good Turn anyway if you can find a copy. It’s the sequel, but can be read first. Or read anything else by Carla Kelly you can find!

  14. okbkgoddess says:

    My favorite is the Beauty & the Beast/Phantom of the Opera/tortured hero book; I get hooked every time! My favorites are Night Magic by Charlotte Vale Allen and Heart’s Desire by Gayle Wilson, both oldies that are worth finding if you haven’t read them. And of course, the original, Jane Eyre. I’m still in love with Mr. Rochester after all these years!

  15. carrie says:

    I love marriages of convenience when handled well. I also love best friends/lovers as a plot device, and beta heroes are the best! I’ll have to give In for a Penny a try. I’ve heard good things about it.

    I usually hate the “big “misunderstanding” plot device unless the misunderstanding is truly believable. When the whole thing could be overcome by one or both parties being honest, or sitting down and talking the situation through, then it only serves to frustrate me. But there have been stories where the misunderstanding or misconception is well-written and believable, and then I love it! Sorry I can’t think of an example right off-hand. One will come to me as soon as I hit “submit.”

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