Here's where I delve into complicated and sometimes controversial territory. One of the things I most admire about romance readers is that they are, in many ways, the ultimate readers. They're passionate about the genre, they're extremely supportive of the authors they love, and they tend to be voracious readers. All of these things are awesome.
I've been told that romance readers know what they like, but I don't think this is true of just romance readers. ALL readers know what they like. I know what I like, and I'm sure anyone who's reading this blog entry knows what they like. Some of us may prefer books that deliver exactly what we want. They may follow predictable patterns, but that's what we're looking for when we read them. We know we can count on them to deliver exactly what we want. On the other hand, some of us may prefer books that surprise us, whether it's with genre-bending elements, unexpected developments, or a combination of these and other things, we're looking for something that's going to feel fresh and completely different from the last ten novels we've read.
Granted, I am not well-versed in romance as a genre, and I'm not going to claim to be. I read mystery/thriller novels, historical fiction, middle grade, literary fiction, non-fiction, and, most frequently, YA. All of these genres can be hit or miss for me. But whenever I try to read a romance, more often than not it's a miss for me. This is probably because my tastes are a bit peculiar, but that's part of my frustration with romance as a genre: I feel it sometimes excludes certain readers.
If you've read one of my books, you've probably got an idea of what I'm looking for in a romance. I like longing looks, anticipation, two characters wondering if their feelings for one another are compatible or incompatible. I don't mind swearing, but I don't like a lot of explicit and steamy material in my reading--or in movies, TV shows, or video games, for that matter. A great example for me is Game of Thrones. I love that series, but sometimes the explicitly sexual or violent material turns me off. I'd argue that implied sexuality and violence can be even more effective than showing what's happening in explicit detail, but I'm one person, and that's just my point of view. I know other people feel differently, and that's part of what makes the world great. Imagine how boring it would be if everyone liked the same things and behaved the same way. Who'd want to read a book about that?
When I write a romance, though, I focus on the elements that interest me. This means that I'm going to let some readers down, and while I regret that, I also accept it. We humans are subjective creatures, bringing our experiences and expectations with us when we consume media, so it's inevitable that the thing one person hates is the thing someone else loves. If you boil it all down, what I'm saying is that if you're looking for racy, steamy romances, my books are probably not for you, but I know there are a lot of talented, amazing authors writing what you're looking to read. I'm hoping I can reach the readers whose tastes are similar to mine, the readers who like romances where the love scenes either take place off camera or do not contain explicit content. Swearing happens in my books--more frequently in some than others--and sometimes violence, but there isn't explicit sexual content because it's just not my thing.
What kind of romances make me swoon? Well, Jane Austen is my gold standard. Most of the drama that takes place in her romances has to do with complicated human emotions, prejudices, and societal expectations. One of my favorite Jane Austen scenes ever is when Anne Elliot receives Captain Wentworth's letter toward the end of the novel. There is so much restrained passion in that letter that it never fails to turn me to a puddle of goo. It's the height of romance for me. And it goes without saying that I love it when Darcy proposes to Elizabeth. And don't even get me started on Mr. Rochester's speech to Jane Eyre about how he's afraid he'll bleed internally if Jane goes to Ireland and the string connecting them is snapped. Wow.
For more contemporary examples, I sometimes wish I could eat Stephanie Perkins's novels. Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door both made my little heart go pitter-pat over and over. I also adore Rainbow Rowell's books, all of them, probably because I'm a gamer/Harry Potter/fanfiction geek, so books like Fangirl speak to me on so many levels, and I know lots of people like the D&D gamer characters she describes in Attachments.
These are the kinds of books I love to read and the kinds of books I love to write. For anyone who's read my books and finds they don't provide what they were looking for, I do appreciate you giving them a try, and I appreciate your reviews. For anyone who has tastes similar to mine, I hope you'll find exactly what you're looking for in the pages of my books.