Confession: I’m a very picky reader. Once I find an author I like, I tend to stick with them until the end of time. But this isn’t to say I’m not open to finding new authors. I get tons of book recommendations, and though I give everything a try, there are many books that I start but never finish. Either they don’t hook me right off the bat, or I can’t get a real sense of the characters, or the plot just doesn’t do it for me. Not to mention suspension of disbelief. Sometimes I’ll be reading a book that is actually pretty enjoyable, but then one teeny thing will happen, something that I just can’t get past, and that’s it—the book has been ruined for me. That one teeny thing will linger in the back of my mind the entire time, whether it’s a decision one of the characters makes, a seriously unbelievable plot point, or sometimes, just one line that icks me out or makes me mad.
This year I did find some incredible new authors that I loved, based on recommendations from friends or the interwebs. I realized that all these books have several things in common, and so I decided to come up with a list of MUST-HAVES when it comes to my reading experience. Here goes…
1) Likable characters—they can be flawed, they can make stupid decisions, but if I like the characters, then I will forgive them anything! Their dialogue, personalities, quirks…there just needs to be something there that draws me to the characters, otherwise I won’t be invested in their story.
2) The Big Misunderstanding/Lack of communication—oh boy, this one makes me so mad. Yes, misunderstandings happen in real life, and I’m on board for ones that make sense. But if the characters are so obviously going out of their way not to address something that can easily be solved by asking one question, I don’t have patience for it. It’s a plot device I’ve used before, and it definitely works when there are valid reasons behind it, but if there is no reason why the characters can’t just communicate, I can tell that the author has purposely left an important conversation out just to get us to the black moment.
3) A good amount of sex scenes—not too many, not too few. The other day I read a 300-page book marketed as a “sexy romance” and it only had ONE sex scene, which I found very disappointing and confusing. I wanted the characters to get it on, and I couldn’t understand why they weren’t. There was no reason given. They just didn’t have sex. It was strange. And then I read a 400-page book where every other scene was a sex scene, many of which did nothing to advance the plot or character development. I found myself skimming the sex, which is not something you want to do in an erotic romance! If I’m reading romantic suspense or literary fiction, I don’t expect a gazillion sex scenes. But if the book is marketed as an erotic romance, give me the erotic! But give me a balance too, otherwise I’ll skim.
4) Please make sense—I like having good reasons for the characters’ actions. If they’re doing things I don’t understand, or that someone would never, ever do in real life, I get frustrated real fast.
5) Humor—This one is very important to me as a reader. I need some humor in a book, whether it’s light-hearted banter, or funny bickering, or a sarcastic character who makes awesome wise cracks. I read a book a few months ago where both the characters were so stoic and serious, I spent the whole time begging one of them to tell a joke or crack a smile. I need to smile or chuckle when I’m reading a book, no matter the genre, and I think even the darker genres work better when they include a few smile-worthy moments. If you’ve made me laugh out loud, that’s even better.
So, that’s it for my must-haves. I know every reader has their own criteria about what makes a book click for them, and I’ll admit, other readers are probably a lot more forgiving than I am. Like I said, I’m picky 🙂
I’m curious to know everyone else’s romance must-haves are, so feel free to share!
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