I've been reading a lot of free romance ebooks recently -- or renting them from libraries. Anything contemporary or New Adult that I can get for free-- and doesn't instantly put me off (firemen, military anyone? ugh). I'm learning what I like and don't like in this genre. First, likes:

  • witty dialogue. That seems to be key to a connection between the characters. If they can't talk to each other then how believable is the relationship? Brenna Aubrey is good at this, and Courtney Milan's new contemporary Trade Me has an hilarious scene where our heroine "negotiates" with her billionaire boyfriend's father to break up with him....The boyfriend seems to enjoy it as much as we readers do.
  • getting inside the heads or points of view of both hero and heroine, even if the book stays in the third-person. I still want to see them through each other's eyes sometimes, somehow. The above-mentioned books are good at this too, though Aubrey takes it to another level by writing whole books in the heroine's POV and then the hero's.
  • relationships that don't start immediately with sex....

Then, dislikes:

  • too many drinking scenes (what's with that? and it's usually the women, as a cheap way to get the so-called good girls to loosen up. That offends me.) Contrast that with the elegant solution in a recent episode of Netflix's House of Cards, where Claire Underwood hints at a secret to a journalist during a "meeting" while she is donating blood. She starts to feel woozy and says things she would never normally say -- BUT the situation is unexpected and surprisingly credible and she only suggests the secrets. She doesn't come right out and declare them!
  • too much graphic sex or physical description. Sorry, but oohing and aahing over the size of his tool puts me off. It's cringe-worthy.
  • dirty talk, unless it advances the relationship. And men who call their women "baby." And women who like that. Or even tolerate it.
  • writers who think men saying "I'm being an ass" (or the equivalent) excuses them from all kinds of sexist bullshit (like jealous rages, possessiveness, etc). One such annoying scene occurs in Monica Murphy's first billionaire book, Crave: Archer ends with insisting Ivy take his name when they marry, then thinks "I'm being an ass" while she backpedals to bow to his every whim. Because she loves him, natch.
  • writers who think falling in love = getting married, as if no one might want to check out living together first? in a contemporary romance?? Why can't moving in together be the new HEA?
  • heroines who are too insecure and clutzy (like Bliss in Cora Carmack's Losing It:. Why does Garrick love her? What's special about her? She doesn't know either. I liked that book, but still...).
  • books with vague titles so I can't remember afterwards what they were about or who was in them.... ie In Too DeepThe Courtship, some of the titles mentioned above, etc. Whether phrases designed to set up a series or nouns designed to suggest sex or romance, these books become a blur after I've read them. One writer who is good at avoiding this is Loretta Chase (Vixen in Velvet, etc-- those titles are suggestive and yet specific enough to remember the stories). This is one reason why I decided on just using the heroines' first names for my series.

Whoa -- I have a much longer list of dislikes than likes! Hmmm.  Any advice? Lower my standards? To be continued....