Musings on Romance books

Okay, so over the last several months, I’ve made an effort to read more Romance novels because, well, when one wants to write in a genre, one should consider reading in said genre. Most of the books I’ve checked out have been in the gay romance category, though I’ve got a couple now that are firmly in the hetero category. I’ve started developing a list of pet peeves and things that I like as I read.

One thing I’ve noticed–there are way too many green-eyed protags in this line of fiction. I must have read at least twenty stories this year alone and I’d say that at least fifteen of them had one partner with green eyes. I’ll admit, if I hadn’t gotten into reading this genre so frequently, one of my own characters was destined to have that perfect, amazing shade of green. But since it really seemed to be all over the place, I switched it out for another color.

Another issue I’ve got: don’t ever reference women when the scene is male on male. I’ve seen it in a couple of works and I find the tactic damaging in a few ways. If I’ve chosen a story for it’s male/male potential, an analogy that includes a woman is jarring. Like, I understand that if the person identifies as male and so the description includes anatomy typically associated with women, but that’s not what I’ve discovered. Instead, it’s telling me about this guy with a cock feeling all flushed and exposed ‘like a maiden,’ or ‘soft like a woman.’ These references often happen when one character is submitting to another, or is the ‘catcher’ in the relationship–therefore reinforcing many of the stereotypes in the gay community and adding a flair of misogyny to the process. How is it misogynistic? By keeping firm to the idea that women belong in the non-dominant role in the bedroom.

There was one selection of heterosexual short stories that I read which almost turned me off from the genre. A majority of the women seemed to be waiting for the guy to complete her world and a couple of them glorified a relationship that did not see them as equals. (Sorry, if the guy has everything prepared and essentially ‘claims you,’ that doesn’t speak of much equality to me.) They didn’t even seem to really care so long as they got the guy and seemingly got to do what they wanted for the time being.

A positive that I’ve discovered is that I really do like this kind of fiction, when it’s done right. I’d read stories that had romantic elements to them before, but never really embraced the genre–outside of reading some Laurell K. Hamilton. I’ve become enamored of Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series and I’ll keep reading in hopes of finding several others that I like as much. Seeing two characters flirt and fall for each other? It’s a thrill.

However, if the language usage or characters are too awful, even the flirting can’t save a book. I ranted earlier this year about Ally Blue’s Oleander House, and I’ve got another book to add onto the list: Olivia Cunning’s Double Time. This book’s apparently #5 in the series, but it’s the first I’ve read. I’ll give it points for not making me wonder too hard about the other books. Without looking online, I never would have realized that it was that far into the series.

Her style is very matter-of-a-fact, with far more sentences that are telling of the action than outright description. “Partner A did this and Partner B did that.” While the style isn’t the most engaging in the universe, most of her word choice is actually fine. I wish there were a few more emotions from characters beyond ‘wanting Trey’ or ‘wanting Reagen’ or ‘wanting Ethan’ or ‘so horny,’ but okay, it’s an erotic romance. There’s going to be plenty of wanting to sex it up.

The part that bothers me the most about Double Time is the portrayal of bisexuality. First, there’s Reagan thinking that Ethan was gay when she caught him with a man. Never mind that they had been dating for a long time, she sees him with a guy and just assumes gay. (Although a plot point I still can’t understand is why Reagan continued to have such a close relationship with Ethan after feeling so betrayed by him. I get that they’d be roommates stuck in a lease, that happens all over the place, but the cheating had wrecked the romantic relationship so completely that I can’t understand why he was still her best friend.) Yet Reagan’s assumptions aren’t the worst part of this.

See, Trey and Ethan are both bisexual males. That’s all fine, but it’s their need for having both a man and a woman. Neither is satisfied without getting their hands on both sexes within a given time frame. Despite Trey wanting to put Reagan first, he’s spent much of this novel complaining about how he didn’t have a man–first Brian, and then random other men, and then he got latched onto Ethan a little but only because it had been several weeks since he’d had a cock in him. Having one character be compulsive in needing to have both sexes is a trait/flaw, but the discussion of bisexuality throughout the book heads straight into the ‘bisexuals are greedy sluts’ trope. Since Ethan takes this up too (citing his need for men as the whole reason he cheated on Reagan in the first place), it sets up a unilateral belief that bisexuals must want sex from multiple genders all the time.

All in all, I was just sharing some thoughts about reading in the romance section of the library. Even though there were complaints throughout this post, I’m learning a lot about the genre and I wouldn’t stay in these books if I didn’t have a curiosity to see how the story turns out in the end. Anyone have some Romance novels to recommend?

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