Over the past few years, since I fell onto my romance writing path I’ve read MANY, MANY, MANY romance novels. I tried to guess a number, but I can’t even begin to calculate how many. I’ve read (and listened to) the greats: Nora Roberts, Robyn Carr, Susan Mallery and popular writers like Kristen Higgins, Brenda Novak, Jill Shalvis as well as much newer, up-and-coming writers – too many to name.
I don’t have a favorite writer. I don’t have a favorite book. But throughout all of my “market research,” I’ve found what I love about a story and what elements I can do without.
I love a good series, especially the type where the character’s storylines carry over from one novel to the next. It’s common to get small glimpses or cameos of characters from the previous novels, but I like it best when the previous characters are still front and center or just off to the sides as a new romance evolves in the subsequent books. Robyn Carr is especially skilled at this with some of her amazing series. I particularly enjoy her Thunder Point series – in part because it is set on the Oregon Coast a place near and dear in my heart.
Strong supporting characters like sassy friends, brothers or a tight friend group make for great dialogue. Even minor characters with strong personalities are entertaining. One of my favorite series for these reasons include Nora Robert’s Boonsboro Trilogy.
I enjoy a story where the hero, the male lead, seems to be driving the story even more than the heroine. Most stories are pretty balanced, while some are clearly following the female’s point of view primarily. But those that dig in deep to the man’s point of view are some of my favorites. As predominantly women writers (and readers) I love a good romance when you feel as though you are in the mind of a man. Kristan Higgins does this well. Also the more vulnerable and emotionally available the man the better in my opinion. Everyone loves a good alpha – but I’ve read enough bad boy/tough guy stories already. Rooting for a good beta or underdog is a treat.
I enjoy the friends to lovers trope, sometimes the enemies to lovers can be fun and of course, small-town stories are great. I don’t typically care for first-person accounts. Also, I could do without the surprise pregnancy stories. I’ve been known to put a book aside as soon as I get wind of the “oops didn’t use protection and got pregnant” stories. Especially if this happens the first and only time the lovers meet. Ugh – use a condom already!
Obviously, these are my opinions only. There are plenty of readers out there who clearly enjoy this pregnancy trope – why else would there be a gazillion of those books out there. The good news is there’s a great variety of stories out there – something for everyone!
I would love for my stories to be out there someday. Who knows, maybe my stories would be just what a reader was looking for.
What are you looking for in a good romance novel? I’d love to hear your thoughts.