Yes, I’ve tried reading them.
No, I still don’t like them.
I’ve always been a “Rah! Rah! Girl Power!” sort of reader. I became frustrated quite young with the woman as plot device: Our princess has been stolen (as if she’s an inanimate object), you must go on a quest to save her! Or the woman as set decoration: Look how lovely our princess is! Or even just as a reason for character development: Now I’ve learned to love a woman, I will become a better man!
I wanted the princess to save her own self! I wanted the princess to save the prince!
Then I found myself at college. In a dorm room. With a chick who loved romances. I mean… they were everywhere. Those thin little Harlequins with the damsel gazing up at the muscular man. Bleh.
Then, one day, I ran out of things to read. (This is the definition of a nightmare for a reader) So, fine. I grabbed a Harlequin.
The story can be summed up as follows (disclaimer – this was more years ago than I care to admit, just in case you want to tell me that romances aren’t like this. They were. I read them):
The Girl – demure, shy, quiet, pretty in a way no one really appreciated.
The Guy – cocky, confident, manly, attracted to the Girl mostly because she’s not interested in him.
Circumstances threw them together! She hates him! He hates her! She can’t stop thinking about him! They end up in a barn, or an elevator (I can’t recall offhand). They fight, they call each other names! He slaps her! They kiss! They make love! Then they end up apart, they pine for each other, then they end up back together.
I mean… seriously.
A few weeks later, I once again have nothing to read. So, in desperation, I tried again.
This time she was sassy and bold and pretty in a way no one really appreciated. He was still cocky. They ended up in a barn, or an elevator or… maybe it was a boat? They fight, he slaps her, they kiss, they make love, they end up apart, they pine, they end up together.
I probably read a half-dozen of her Harlequins. They were all the same story, as far as I could tell. And the part where he slaps her and then they kiss bothered me to my soul.
I swore never to read another.
I suppose what I want out of a romance makes it not be a romance any more. I want excitement and adventure. I want… I want “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” (The Princess Bride) And if it gives me all that, then maybe the kissing parts aren’t so bad.
And now? Now I have promised my fellow Purple Ink Writers that I’ll write a Paranormal Romance.
My characters might even end up in a barn.