I didn’t read all that much contemporary romance in 2014, especially considering how popular it is at the moment. For some reason, whenever I brought up a list of review books, I rarely found it was the genre I was in the mood to read.
Rereading what I’ve typed, it sounds resoundingly negative. I’m not sure if that was my intention or not…
However, for the most part, I figure I’ve turned away from the genre a little because of:
- The misogyny. Oh boy, but contemporary romance has become sexist! I blame it largely on the popularity of the Twilight series, which spawned a slew of sexist young adult books. Which created the horrifically anti-woman new adult genre. Which has had a massive influence on contemporary fiction in general. Heroines in this genre too often spend as much time hating other women as they do agonising over their relationships. Far too many of them have abusive female relatives and no female friends. The main conflict in the relationship more often than not is a beautiful blonde (always blonde!) ex-girlfriend who tries to break hero and heroine up.
I don’t want to spend my leisure time reading books that insult women.
- The repetition. Publishers often actively look for tropes. The small town cowboy. The Plain Jane who doesn’t feel worthy of the hot man (cue the nasty blonde ex!). Tropes are great – I have my favourites (reunion stories!). However, I’ve started to find too many books read exactly the same as others.
- Further on common themes: the same professions popping up over and over. Some days, reading through the Harlequin/Mills and Boon listings show that about 99.99% of contemporary romance heroines are either wedding planners or bakers. The men are all cowboys or former Navy SEALs (or former Navy SEALs who have become cowboys). It’s boring. It’s stopping me from even giving books a chance.
- The issues. The last few years have seen a huge shift away from stories involving suspense of any sort, but nothing has moved in to fill the gap. I’d like to see characters tackling some more creative issues. If a mundane day in my everyday life is more interesting than what the characters are up to, then what is the point in the book? Even regular, everyday people go through extraordinary experiences. Contemporary romances should tackle them more often.
- The sex scenes. Sex is not a story. The ever-increasing dependence on lengthy sex scenes in this genre is letting authors get away with abandoning any semblance of a plot. Of course I’m generalising a little, but I’ve started skipping most of those scenes because after a few books they start to feel samey to me.
I’d like to read more contemporary romance in 2015. I’m hoping to find some more original ideas. I’m hoping I won’t be DNFing so many books because of the sexist tone. I think the genre needs an overhaul, and I hope to see it soon.