bookish posts

Top Ten Tuesday: Preferences in fictional romances

This is a post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. You can find out more and follow along there!

This week’s topic asks about our preferences in fictional romances. This is a really interesting topic as it made me stop and consider my own preferences. Now I will say upfront as my librarian-ness compels me to: this is what I like reading. It’s not a moral judgment if you prefer reading something else, although it may mean that I don’t take your book recommendations. 🙂 Also, there are probably exceptions to all of these because really my number one requirement is that the characters are well written.

1. To start off, I definitely tend to prefer slow-burning romances, especially in series. Not so much the “will they, won’t they” that TV shows often play around with, or the Darcy/Elizabeth sparks flying trope. What I really mean is that I like it when the characters start off appreciating, or at least seeing, each other as people before they become love interests.

2. I often prefer it when the romance is not the main focus of the story, except when the story itself is meant to be a romance. I’m much more a fan of stories where the main characters are working for something and there is also some romance, than of the reverse. (Andrea Höst is really excellent at writing these, for instance.)

3. I’m also a fan of romances where one of the themes is choosing/saving each other. I understand people who really dislike it when female characters are damseled, and I don’t particularly like that trope either. But I do like it when there’s an exchange of care, because people do actually change each other and I don’t want to pretend otherwise. (So many of my favorite fictional couples fit here: Peter and Harriet, Gen and Irene, Howl and Sophie, Miles and Ekaterin.)

4. Sort of related to the last point, I like it when a theme is trusting each other, either right away or as a slow journey. (Let’s be honest, I’m especially a fan of the slow journey. I love stories–not so much of opposites attracting, but of people choosing to trust and love each other. See also number 1 on this list.)

5. When done well, I’m also fond of flipped or subverted tropes. For instance, I really enjoy Jared and Kami from Sarah Rees Brennan’s Lynburn Legacy books partly because Jared is fairly laid-back (and also totally a Gothic maiden) and Kami is driven and no-nonsense. This one is with a caveat that I like it especially when the flipping is done seamlessly enough that I don’t notice it immediately, when it looks completely natural.

6. I am not such a fan of the uninterrogated “it’s faaaate” trope. Sometimes when the story starts off with “it’s faaate” and then complicates the idea, I end up liking it, but in general the idea of characters whose destiny is to be in love with each other is not my thing. Then again, the idea of uncomplicated destiny doesn’t tend to be my thing either.

7. I also tend to prefer romance stories which are more a meeting of minds and hearts rather than physical attraction. Partly this is because I feel pretty strongly that physical attractiveness is not actually a marker of a person’s worth, and partly because I cast a skeptical eye upon “she’s so beauuutiful” as a prediction of lasting love.

8. In the end, it’s really all about characters and writing, as I said above. I want complicated, flawed, interesting characters in general, and especially when it comes to romance.

By Maureen LaFerney

My name is Maureen. I currently work as a library assistant in a public library in the Indianapolis area, and also just so happen to be a voracious reader. I frequently end up under a cat.

9 replies on “Top Ten Tuesday: Preferences in fictional romances”

I also love slow burn romance, instalove just doesn’t cut it with me. I also love your point about having more to a romantic relationship than just physical attraction because that’s so true. And your last point summarizes everything well. Too bad I wasn’t able to do TTT this week! I was planning to but then I crashed when I got back to the flat last night.

I mean, I’m okay with instant attraction or interest, but when it goes from complete stranger to “I would die for youuuu” in no time at all, well, no. Not for me, anyway.

I’m with you ALL the way! (As you might guess.) At this point, I’m particularly turned off by the super-hot guy trope where the female lead spends all her time mooning over his perfect jawline or whatever. That annoys me even more than the Uber-Beautiful Woman, probably because I read too many UF/Paranormals in a row with Super-Hot Guys And The Women Who Love Them.

Have you read Fortune and Fate by Sharon Shinn? It’d hit just about all these buttons. It’s the “fifth” in the series, but actually it stands alone, completely outside the main series arc, so I think you could read it separately, without reading the other fourfirst.

Hurrah! And yes, I know exactly what you mean by the super-hot guy trope. Bah. Give me Miles or Gen any day.

I haven’t read Fortune and Fate yet! Is it in the shapeshifter series? I have the first one out but haven’t started it (sigh).

Totally agree! I remember devouring romances like Crown & Court Duel (Sherwood Smith) when I was a teenager, but I get so impatient with rakishly attractive love interests now. I prefer relationships where people communicate, and laugh, and grow together. Like real life.

I notice Rachel Neumeier mentioned Fortune and Fate, which is funny because I just finished reading The Turning Season (also by Sharon Shinn). I loved the relationship that develops between two of the characters — it’s quiet and safe and caring.

I am planning to go read all of Sharon Shinn’s backlist except the Samaria books soon, so I’ll be looking forward to those ones! It sounds like there’s a little contingent of people who have very similar tastes, which is fun. I do still love Crown Duel & Court Duel, but I definitely know what you mean.

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