Thursday, February 18, 2010

category romance is apparently not for me

I've never been a category romance reader. I have very fond memories of my grandmother, whenever she came to visit, bringing four or five contemporary category romances with her. She'd read them over the course of her visit, and tell me about them when I asked. I remember one about skiing, where snowblindess played a role. She was greatly amused by how the main characters always noticed each other's eye color, even at great distances. I'll always have a soft spot for the distinctive covers of category romance because of her, but even as I became a romance reader many years later, I've never tried her favorite part of the genre.

A few weeks ago, I decided to read a few, and see what I thought. So, over the last week or two, I've read a few contemporary category romance, and I'm coming to the conclusion that they're just not my thing, grandmother notwithstanding. I read a few by Jill Shalvis and Kathleen O'Reilly, after seeing lots of recommendations for them on SBTB and DA, saying they're some of the best authors writing today. And they just don't do it for me. I don't care much about the characters, I'm not compelled by their problems, the story leaves me unmoved, and the happy endings don't give me the warm fuzzies.

I think the problem is that they're not funny enough for me , and there's nothing in the story but the romance. I know that's a weird complaint to make about a romance--that there's only romance in it--and yet, that's the problem. In historical romance, the language and setting, when well done, become a character as well. In a witty/funny romance, there's the wit and humor competing, hopefully harmoniously, with our main couple. I love Jennifer Crusie's early category romances, mainly because they're so smart and funny, and really sharp in the best way, but I haven't come across other category romance that works as well as hers (for me, at least). I'd love to have people tell me about other greats, but I'm absolutely not interested enough in more of the variety I read, to keep trying in the genre on my own. In a paranormal, there's the whole paranormal aspect, which keeps me interested, even when the relationship problems themselves are pretty mundane. But in a straight (not in the queer sense, but in the sense of straight delivery) contemporary, it's all the same crappy problems I or my friends have in real life. I don't read romance to read about other people dealing with intimacy issues, troubled childhoods, etc even when there's a happy ending promised for the main characters. Or so I've discovered. Yeah, I'm not a fireman, or dating a fireman, or a social worker, or a movie star, or whatever. But I'm not comforted and intrigued to read about their problems, mainly because their problems are my problems. To be fair, I stay away from what I consider straight historicals as well. If they're not funny, or otherwise edgy, they're probably not for me. Issue books--I'll mostly leave them alone. I'd rather read about improbabilities, whether it's werewolves or people who can always come up with a bon mot on demand.

It's not that there aren't contemporaries out there for me. I loved Lisa Kleypas' recent contemporaries. I like most of SEP's stuff. And of course Jennifer Crusie is a huge favorite of mine. Kleypas is about as close as it comes to straight contemporary for me, and I can't really say why her books work for me when so much else doesn't. Maybe it's because they're always something over the top about her books, be it the extreme wealth or crazy issues, that it reads to me as enough of an improbability that I enjoy it.

Anyway, if I have acquired any readers, and you've got suggestions for contemps I should seek out, let me know.

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