Everyone knows romance readers re-read. It's a constant theme on romance forum comment threads and even Goodreads has a box on its review form that asks how many times you've read the book in question.... I'm sure the Romance Writers of America has relevant statistics on this, but let's consider it proven. I haven't usually been too prone to this. I used to keep paperbacks of books I loved and carried them around through several years of moving before realizing that I reread them so rarely there wasn't much point in holding on to them. Now with most of my reading on ebooks it's much easier to hold on to a permanent library -- and re-read old favorites.
Since I write New Adult these days, I recently re-read Elle Kennedy's Off Campus series, Penny Reid's Elements of Attraction, Courtney Milan's Trade Me... and found I liked the books even better the second time around. They were filled with complicated characters, witty dialogue, and hot sex scenes. They also had more conflict than I usually allow myself in my own books. I realize I have a hard time making my characters suffer-- and maybe I go too easy on them in the books. My stories tend to be serious, but not angsty; the relationships mostly respectful, or even friendly, from the start. Could that be a problem?
Penny Reid's Elements of Attraction were a particular eye opener because those books are so good and those characters (both of them) go through hell to be together. Their situations are extreme, maybe, but so is their emotional connection and when Martin and Kaitlyn are forced to break up their suffering is real and intense. Reid really puts them through a wringer in the last two books, but their happy ending feels earned. And she never sacrifices their eccentricities either: at the end of three volumes, Martin can still be a "jerkface bully" sometimes and Kaitlyn is still something of an oblivious weirdo. But Reid has shown how much they need and deserve each other. In fact, how well they "mirror" each other, to use her words.
That series is also one of the few first-person, single POV books I've read that makes sense in that form. Usually when I read a book in that format I miss the hero's POV (whether third or first person), but here we never get Martin's perspective and it works because it keeps us in Kaitlyn's awkward head. She doesn't know what to make of him, so neither do we. She can't always read the social signals around her, so neither can we. It reinforces the character's complexity and heightens the uncertainty around what might happen next.
These recent re-reads make me wonder about going waaay back to my earliest romance favorites -- like Julie Garwood and Linda Lael Miller-- which I haven't re-read in decades. I'll give that a try next. To report!