Our Love Notes

What Makes a Good Romance (Story, That Is)

What do you look for when you read a romance? Are you looking for an escape from reality? Are you looking for a fun book to read on the beach?

I look at covers to pick my books. No kidding. I look and find a cover that’s fun and quirky. That’s my first hook. But… after that? It’s game on. I want fun and tension!

I want a clear beginning, middle and end. I don’t want to read a bunch of “prep” or “info dump” at the beginning where I have to learn a lot of background on where the story is situated, how the characters look and act, etc. I want to get to the “meat” quickly. I want it to take off from the start and keep my interest.

The first chapter or two needs to set the pace for the entire book. If those chapters are slow, I might fall asleep, decide to do a chore instead of read (now that’s bad), or just put the book down and let it languish. I need a good hook! I need something that says “Read me!” and then allows me to experience characters who are fun, interesting, or weird. It doesn’t even matter which—and if there are some of each, more power to the author. I’m in.

Once I get to know the main characters, then I want to see what they’re doing and how they relate to one another. I want to see them get along really well, I want to see them clash, and I want to know a secret that at least one of them has that no other character knows about. That, to me, is the big key to a successful novel. I, as the reader, should know something that the characters don’t all know. It’s so much fun to read and see how the story unfolds, keeping that secret nugget in the back of your mind until it’s finally revealed.

The real fun really starts when the big secret is revealed (usually about two-thirds of the way into the story) and you get to watch everyone react to it, absorb it, and decide what they want to do with it. When an author nails this part, making everything fall into place like a big puzzle, it keeps me engaged as I watch how the different characters (who I know well by now!) act on their new knowledge and how it affects the storyline. By now, I’m living with these characters and know them well. They are like family, and I am excited to read about their escapades.

Finally, at the end, everything should get tied up neatly with a big romantic bow. We find out that the two main characters live happily ever after. (I’m rarely happy with stories that end with “not meant to be”. I always hope it will be a good ending, much like a Hallmark movie.) Don’t just end the story without giving me a good closure to everything. I want Happily Ever After. I don’t want to be left hanging; it’s just mean.

That’s what Romance means to me.

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