Why I don’t read romance

Thursday, February 16, 2017 Permalink

It won’t surprise regular readers of my blog or social media devotees, but I thought I should declare…. at this time… the most romantic time of year, that I don’t read romantic fiction.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a snobbery thing. I have nothing against ‘genre’ fiction. I’m not the sort of person who refuses to read anything other than epic tomes by dead Russians. Or similar. Indeed, I tend to shy away from Literary fiction, with a capital L, cos it scares and confuses me and will most certainly leave me wondering what exactly I’ve just spent several hours of my life on.

I love lurve crime fiction, thrillers and novels of suspense. And recently I’ve even read a bit of women’s fiction. And… as it happens I find I can cope with romantic suspense. However… when it comes to ‘straight’ (as in ‘only’ not not-gay) romance I run for the hills. And I thought it was perhaps time to explain why.

1. The cliched will they / won’t they moment

I know this is terribly unfair of me because crime fiction and thrillers also generally follow a formulaic pattern. And I confess I eyeroll when reading them as well. ie. the fact the protagonist / hero / cop becomes the target of the baddie and is caught and almost killed at the end, BEFORE escaping or getting rescued.

But for some reason in romance fiction it seems a bit more cliched, as there’s the predictable… ‘he / she doesn’t love me / cheated on me’ type confusion before the almost-inevitable happily ever after. (I must note that I think the same about romcoms and have written about ‘the grand gesture’ before.)

2. The sex scenes

It’s rare that I find sex scenes palatable. They’re either full of flowery metaphors for…. well throbbing members and the like. Or there’s a sense of crassness which seems blunt amidst the narrative.

Interestingly, I embarked nervously on TJ Hamilton’s ‘Thyme’ series – because she was local (at the time) and I knew her. However… I found the enormous number of s scenes very palatable. Her main character Miranda is actually a high class hooker so the sex scenes are very pragmatic. Blunt and to the point.

3. False promises

I’ve written before about the ‘happily ever after’ which is drummed into us when we’re young. All fairytales (certainly when I was a kid) ended with those words. Indeed, I’m pretty sure Gone With The Wind and Casablanca remain famous as it was rare (once upon a time) not to end ‘happily ever after’.

Nevertheless… it’s here I mention that I ‘used’ to read romance. After I graduated from the Famous Five and Trixie Belden I moved onto Perry Mason and Agatha Christie, AS WELL AS Sweet Dreams novels (as a teenager) and my step-nanna’s Mills & Boon. In fact I think I was pretty much addicted to Mills & Boon on my Uni holidays and used to take note of the weird character names I could give my own children. (!!!)

I also read Barbara Taylor Bradford, Danielle Steel and even (egad) Victoria Holt (about which I can only recall developing a fear of quicksand).

So… I entered adulthood ready and waiting for this romantic love I’d been promised by almost every author I’d read. I waited for my happily ever after.

And it didn’t come. Even now I’m not sure if I consciously stopped reading romance – getting sick of the formulaic narrative; or if I grew tired of being promised something I’d never have. Or perhaps I blamed the books for heightening my expectations about love and relationships. Either way, it seemed just masochistic to endlessly read of others’ happily ever afters, when it seemed unlikely I was going to get my own.

So… there you have it. The many and varied reasons (well, three) I don’t read romance. You may well just recommend therapy. Or online dating (been there, done that, have the ripped and tattered tshirt).

It’s interesting though, that when I ‘accidentally’ delve into romance now there’s a sense of familiarity. “Ah, I remember this,” my mind and my psyche says.

And… this post is even more timely (not to mention ironic) because I have just (TODAY) won a ticket to the Australian Romance Readers Convention in Melbourne next weekend. I’m excited (though the accommodation and flights will mean I can’t eat for a month or two), but hoping I’m not stoned on arrival by fanatical romance readers!

Are you a reader of romance? Am I being unfair… blaming books for my singledom, when really I’m just weird and unattractive?

the-lovin-life-linky I’ve joined Leanne from Deep Fried Fruit and some other bloggers to help promote “ageing positively” and the Lovin’ Life mindset across the interwebz. You can link up via any one of us!

The Lovin’ Life Team includes:


35 Comments
  • Jo Tracey
    February 16, 2017

    It’s an interesting one- obviously I write women’s fiction & romance to a point, but fall short of writing genre romance. We know that a will end up with b , but we never see past bin night i.e. Into the messiness of life after the happy ending. There’s a reason for that – & here comes the spoiler alert- it’s not like it is in mills & boon. I devoured them when I was young & had to admit to a little disappointment when I started having real life relationships that were nothing like the novels. Having said that, I still love the escapist nature of them – the dissatisfaction comes when you begin to believe it can be real life.

    • Debbish
      February 16, 2017

      Ah yes… which is why they usually end with the couple finally getting together I guess. You don’t see the boring stuff that comes later!

  • charliegirl
    February 16, 2017

    I understand! I am the girl that is dumped, only a few months (or sometimes years) later to have *every* single ex come back admitting that I was the best thing for them. Too little, too late. The last time – with the (ex) fiance – it was like something in me just died. There were no feelings left except “fight or flight” instincts. I think growing up reading romance novels from the age of pre-puberty definitely heightened my expectations about love and relationships. I thought about those characters and me a long time. I decided even if I couldn’t have those things in real life, I would still enjoy their stories.

    • Debbish
      February 16, 2017

      It’s great you still enjoy them Charlie despite the real life crap!

  • Amy Andrews
    February 16, 2017

    Well…I’m not touching this for obvious reasons 🙂
    But I am thrilled you’ll be in Melbourne next week because it means I finally get to meet you!
    Can’t wait 🙂

    • Debbish
      February 16, 2017

      Absolutely!

      • rachael johns
        February 17, 2017

        I’m with Amy – except I reckon we might manage to convert you! x

        • Debbish
          February 17, 2017

          My flights and accomm are booked. I’m now focussing on the important stuff… what to wear! (Well, I want to only take cabin luggage so will attempt to pack light!)

  • Sydney Shop Girl
    February 16, 2017

    I do find myself craving a bit of romantic fiction every now and then. Not as often as I used to but I do read a bit when the urge arises.

    SSG xxx

  • leannelc
    February 16, 2017

    I don’t mind a romance novel, but I much prefer it when the romance is an element of a bigger and more encompassing story. I LOVE Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander series – big meaty books with lots of history and character development – but with a really strong love story woven through (mind you her Jamie fanclub is a bit OTT for my taste). I think too many Mills and Boon type novels can sicken the heart and soul after a while.

    • Debbish
      February 16, 2017

      Ah yes, I read a bit of romantic suspense and it’s the same there… the romance is just part of the plot and I don’t mind that. In fact I probably enjoy it!

  • Mystery Case
    February 16, 2017

    I’m trying to pull off a trip to Melbourne next week. I have a workshop and a play opening but a few issues on the ground here have the trip looking like mission impossible right now. What dates are you there?

    • Debbish
      February 16, 2017

      The Convention is 25 & 26th Feb. I’m looking at arriving on Friday 24th and leaving in the evening of 26th. Looking at flights at the moment. Convention’s on at Rydges in the city, so would stay there. It’s all a bit outside my current budget though so a bit of a stretch at the moment.

  • Kathy Marris
    February 16, 2017

    I agree totally with everything you say about romance novels. They are too sickly sweet for my liking and not at all true to life for most of us women. It isn’t a snobbery thing at all, I prefer realism, suspense, crime and true stories. I can certainly be romantic with my husband but I don’t necessarily want to read about it if that makes sense. 🙂

  • Denyse Whelan
    February 16, 2017

    I think I might have enjoyed one or two reads of romantic novels when I was a teen but I am more of a story about real life people kind of girl. That said I dont do mystery or thrillers either. easily scared! I think this is a fascinating post and I cannot add more than that. Interesting times ahead for you going to the conference!! Congrats. Denyse

    • Debbish
      February 17, 2017

      Thanks Denyse. With so many post-house-buying bills I’ve now had to blow the last of my savings to go. But I think I’d regret it if I didn’t. Plus I did win the free ticket!

  • pamela007
    February 16, 2017

    I read all genres – depending on my mood. Although, on saying that, I’m not keen on biographies.

    • Debbish
      February 17, 2017

      Ugh, I don’t read any non-fiction, but I’m aiming to perhaps try a few non-fiction audiobooks this year as I think I could cope with those on some of my work drives!

  • Johanna
    February 16, 2017

    I also avoid romance novels of the hearts and roses kind. Although I have to admit to trying to write Mills and Boons in my dark and tender past. When we lived in a caravan in the Maluti Mountains in Lesotho, miles and miles from anywhere I guess I was hoping my Prince would sweep me into a castle closer to suburbia one day!! He did. But Mills and Boon never published my novel!! #teamlovinlife

    • Debbish
      February 17, 2017

      Ahhhh… well you can’t expect ALL of your dreams and fairytales to come true Jo! 🙂

  • writeofthemiddle
    February 16, 2017

    I had my time in my younger days when I enjoyed romance novels – Mills & Boon and Danielle Steele but these days I don’t enjoy the stock standard pure romance novel. I don’t mind some romance intermingled with mystery and suspense or a historical drama or something else that gives some substance to what I’m reading. Just can’t stand the standard predictable wishy washy romance novels – blah! #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      February 17, 2017

      It’s weird – now that I’ve written this post, I feel vaguely defensive of the poor old romance novel… I think – like any novel – there are good reads and bad reads. I have read a few books recently which probably tip into the romance area (from women’s fiction perhaps – though I hate ‘having’ to define a book) and they’ve been complex and enjoyable.

      Having said that I think what I probably enjoyed about Mills & Boon back in the day is that they’re a great way to escape and some of the series I read now are like that… The Sue Grafton series, Janet Evanovich, JD Robb and so forth.

  • Lyndall @ SeizeTheDayProject
    February 16, 2017

    I agree with you Deb. I have a pretty strong grip on reality and find it hard to keep reading something which is too far fetched. I love your pic “Life is not a fairytale – if you lose your shoe at midnight, you’re drunk!” GOLD!! 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      February 17, 2017

      That’s a meme I see on Facebook every so often and I love it too Lyndall!

  • yinyangmother
    February 16, 2017

    I have never read romance novels, at least beyond the Sweet Dream teenage variety. I do remember Fabio as a romance novel hero but I never actually read anything with him in it. I must confess I don’t read that many novels at all (mostly on holidays), I’m a bit too much of a spiritual/philosophy/personal development junkie I’m afraid. Hope you enjoy your ‘romantic’ weekend away.

    • Debbish
      February 17, 2017

      Tee hee Kathy… well my flights and accommodation are all booked now and I’ve bought tix to the welcome drinks and awards dinner, so it seems like I’m going!

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    February 17, 2017

    I’m not into romance either. I do love me some chick lit though. Anything about women being women and doing women things. SOmetimes that sashays into romance, sometimes it doesn’t. But I like finding “new best friends” in the covers of a book.
    #teamlovinlife

    • Debbish
      February 17, 2017

      Interestingly I haven’t been enamoured with a lot of popular chick lit Leanne. I’m not sure why that is, though I guess some of the books I’ve read recently could be thus classified!

  • Janet Camilleri (@middleagedmama1)
    February 17, 2017

    Novels that are “just” about the romance bore me. I much prefer it if there is a strong storyline there as well about something else – a family relationship, career, travel, whatever.

  • Princess Fi
    February 17, 2017

    I am a Mills & Boon tragic. Not only do I read recent releases by current authors like Amy, but I delve deep into the past when heroines wore twin sets and pearls and heroes were not all million – I mean billionaires. They are my prozac. Safe reads that will take me to a place where bad things are only the preliminary to the Happy Ever After. I will also be at ARRC2017. I will be the one clutching a 1975 Mills & Boon like a security blanket.

    • Debbish
      February 18, 2017

      I might very well recognise that book Fiona! I hope to meet you there!

  • Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews
    February 19, 2017

    It’s funny, Deb, because a few weeks ago, I had a discussion post about unrealistic expectations due to consummation of romance novels and / or p0rn… And while I think that in some ways we may be swayed a little by what we read, at the same time, it’s the escapism that always gets me. And one of the reasons why I read romance, even being happily (not all the time!!) married myself, is to feel those feelings of newness. At the beginning of a relationship, it’s like all our senses are heigthened, and that’s partly what I search out in romance novels.
    I am pretty sure you’ll have a lot of fun in Melbourne next weekend, though. Romance readers are great people 😉

    • Debbish
      February 20, 2017

      And I think that ‘newness’ is why romance novels are usually only about the beginning, don’t you think? What comes after is far more complex!

  • Laurie C
    February 21, 2017

    We’ve been doing a genre study on romance, and I’ve learned a lot! I’ve always disliked romance novels, too, but one of the points made in our readings on the subject was that romance readers know that romance is a fantasy, just like mystery, thriller, espionage, Western, etc. fiction readers understand what they’re reading is fantasy, too. I found that romance is a much more varied genre than I gave it credit for, and found some romance subgenres that I really liked, e.g. humorous rom-coms, time-travel romance, and steampunk romance. I hope to hear more about your visit to the romance conference! Sounds like fun!

    • Debbish
      February 21, 2017

      Oh yes and I wanted to make sure romance writers and readers knew I wasn’t ‘dissing’ the genre and thinking less of it. I’m a genre-lover myself so don’t have lofty ideals about ‘literature’ etc…

      Bizarrely, for example, I don’t go anywhere near science fiction, fantasy, dystopian type novels and yet they’re some of my favourite TV shows (The 100, Firefly, Revolution, Buffy, Stranger Things, Continuum etc).

I'd love to hear your thoughts