I am an unashamed romantic, but it's not all I'll read. When I write, I need a thread of romantic plot running through the story. It doesn't have to be the main focus, but it's there. And that's what I like to read, too. I grew up with Disney and I crave the Happily Ever After. I can see the poetry in a tragic ending, but they always leave me empty--like it's unfinished. And I know there are plenty of people who crave those stories, prefer them, but I'm not one of them.
Now, before I start rambling off in a different direction, defending both points of view on romance, happy endings versus the tragic, Iliad type endings, I'm refocusing this blog on this:
R-mance versus X-mance.
R-mance. I mean full on romance--wooing and falling in love and seduction. Candlelight, flowers and mood music, essentially. These type of books would most likely be rated R in movie format. They focus more on the romance, the building of feelings, the feeling of feelings, the expression of feelings. Of course there's sex--usually there's one or two scenes fleshed out (pun intended), but a lot of them are "off camera".
X-mance. Full on, almost nothing but sex. There's the instant burn of attraction, the sudden hit of lust and the characters fall into bed together within the first fifty pages. Or, once they get it on, they get it on in every chapter for the rest of the book. And these books would for sure be X rated in movie format. There'd be no showings on HBO or Showtime, either--no discrete covering of lower body parts. It's the opposite of the R-mance, if anything there might be one or two scenes "off camera".
Here's the rub: X-mances being hyped out as romance, when most of them should fall under erotica. Except, erotic might not even be the right genre for them. They're sort of stuck in the middle.
Maybe I read too much too fast--it feels like there's been an inundation of X-mance books and a severe lack of real R-mance books, and I'm feeling very frustrated.
Let's take a few examples of great R-mance books. R-mance books tend to be best sellers and stay at the top for a while--they're the books that get passed on and on and on because of all the feels. They're talked about a year later, five years later, something I pick back up again because I want to feel it all again.
The best example (except for me the movie format hits me better than the book) is The Notebook. Yes, we have the epic scene in the rain, stumbling into the house soaking wet and pulling off stockings. But the book is about Noah's love for Allie--from teenage, summer romance to nursing home, Alzheimer's affected, love you till we die. I'm for Noah the whole movie, charmed by his youthful pursuit of the snooty Allie, watching him pull her out of her shell and falling into the kind of love parents put down as puppy love but roots so deep within Noah's soul he refurbishes a house because of what he knows it would mean to Allie.
A lot of great, popular, self-published examples for me are Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, Easy by Tammara Webber and Slammed by Colleen Hoover. These books sky-rocketed to the top and stayed there. Slammed doesn't even have a lick of sex in it--a lot of angst, desire and kissing. But it's all about the forbidden, how love happens whether you want it to or not, whether it's right or wrong. Beautiful Disaster gets us all with the bad boy--the reformed rake, if you will. Sleeps with every willing female until he finds THE ONE. And he pursues her and (spoiler alert) gets her. Then there's Easy which I love for the fact that there's more going on than the romance. The hottest scene in the book is when Lucas sketches Jacqueline--fully clothed. You can feel the electricity spark off them as you read it. Yes, a lot of that is good writing, but it's also the tease, the building of anticipation.
A recent read that I loved was Love Like the Movies by Victoria Van Tiem. The best part of this book is it takes the most epic scenes from our favorite romances--the guy pursues his girl using her love of rom-coms, puts her into recreations of these scenes that we've all fantasied about partaking in. It's a perfect R-mance, maybe even PG-13 because there's not a lot of dirty talk and the only sex scene is very mild, which doesn't mean it's not poignant.
All this could be person preference. I want to see them fall in love, fight for that love. Yes, that could happen while they're getting sweaty between the sheets, but my problem with X-mances are the lack of anything that could really build a relationship outside of whatever surface they're doing it on--and it's usually a wide variety of creative surfaces. This frequently pulls me from the story because I'm trying to visualize the feasibility of some of the positions and surfaces. Yes, the couple could go at each other non-stop, but when they're not connecting elsewhere I find it very hard to buy their professions of love as anything more than lust and attraction.
Am I against a good sex scene? Nope. Sometimes they're perfect and exactly where they're supposed to. It's just these X-mances get read by me so much faster because there's so much sex for sex's sake that there's very little else to the book and I skim through it, they leave me, um, unsatisfied.