Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Revenge of the Romance Novel

I don't read a ton of romance, though not for any particular reason.  I've never taken the time to develop the tools to find the ones I'll like, not the way I can flip through a science fiction novel and tell from the back cover and the first 5 pages whether it has a shot of being up my alley.  I mean, there's still a margin of error, but I know what to look for (personal stakes presented immediately, female characters, minimal stimming on the technology).  I don't have a toolbox like that for romance, so I don't bother going there very often.

But lately, I've been reading a lot of fanfiction (weirdly, and maybe I'll talk about that later), and I've been thinking that part of that is the really intense focus on romance.  So maybe what I needed was a real, official romance novel to gt me back on the reading track.  And then this Mary Jo Putney book, Not Always a Saint, came up on Netgalley, and I've heard of MJP, and maybe she was recommended to me?  Anyway, I should try that, right?

Sigh. The frustrating thing is that I like romance novels.  I like a little steam, a little smolder, a little will-they-won't-they-but-of-course-they-will.  But apparently I have very specific requirements of my romances--namely, that they have some kind of action plot (or subplot! subplot is fine!) to carry things along.  When two people are just living their lives and falling in love, I find it kind of boring.

Not Always a Saint is about a doctor who is low level nobility and likes to help the poor who accidentally becomes heir to a big estate (think Matthew of Downton Abbey) and realizes he needs a wife who can back him up on that.  His sister, the heroine of a previous novel in this series, starts taking him around to parties.  Meanwhile Jessie is mourning her much-older husband, and realizing that his unexpectedly leaving his estate to their young daughter means that the hereditary male heir of the title is going to be making her life really difficult unless she can find another powerful husband to protect them.  They meet, find each other agreeable (and hot! don't forget hot! but also agreeable) and decide to mate--I mean, wed.

I want to love this--the rationality, the grown-ups using their words and talking to each other about their decisions!  But the threat to Jessie's daughter from the thwarted heir is too sporadic.  Daniel saves her from not one but two random dangerous moments (fell into a pond! runaway horse!) to get things heated up.  His main problem is that he's inherited a big estate, poor baby! 

Even the attraction didn't grab me.  He sees her from across the room and his whole body feels like it's on fire and every fiber of her being does something and then they want each other. 

I feel so mean.  I don't think this is a romance thing, though--I think this was Not My Book.  I was asking it to do a job that it was not cut out for.  I'm sorry, book.

And in the meantime, if you know of a good historical romance novel with some action, let me know.  I could still use something steamy to read.


EMM said...

Try The Duchess War (my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1261992143)

Lianna Williamson said...

Once again, you are my sister from another mister. I love (and write!) romance subplots. For me, romance is like garlic, or cinnamon; it makes almost anything tastier. But most of the time, Romance-with-a-capital-R novels feel like a whole bowl of garlic (or cinnamon). For me, the distinction between "she has to do x, AND she's falling in love at the same time" and "she's falling in love, and at the same time x is going on" is huge.

This is not a flaw in Romance, obviously. Just my own weirdly specific preference.