Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Full Disclosure (Oh, that should totally be a Romance Title)

One of the things I've been pondering lately is the place of tropes in romance novel reviews.  This is part of a larger discussion about how you deal with being an "out" romance novel reader.  Do you grin and act sheepish and go "its my embarrassing pleasure but I know its tripe?"  Are you dismissive, "I just need something completely mindless sometimes?"  Or do you defend the genre and insist that there is merit in good romance novels?  I've always been the defending type and have argued to friends that there are good romances and bad romances like any other genre.

Which is a lot of the reason why I review them.  I do have expectations for decent writing, well characterized protagonists (where do you think the phrase "too stupid to live" comes from), plotting with a good pace and avoidance of too much exposition.  But I've long realized that reviewing romance is not always straight forward because similar to our sex drives, our romance drives do have individual likes and dislikes that are somewhat unique.

This is where tropes come into play for me.  By trope I mean a particular theme or event that drives a book. In the day (can you say Kathleen E. Woodiwiss?) when sex was rarely explicitly consensual and heroines needed to be rescued, I really really liked the "she runs away from him for his own good and has his baby but he never knew until he finds her again and its revealed" trope.  I know, even in the day, that other smart romance readers hated this trope.  HATED IT.  What can I say.

So, I have recently discovered that I really enjoy the military trope.  And if a book has a trope that particularly appeals to me, I do think I am less discerning when reviewing it.

I think as you read reviews of romance novels around the interwebs you need to be aware that yes, there are criteria that separate terrific books from horrible gag inducing tripe.  But part of the review process is biased; is unique to the reviewer. A reviewer who doesn't acknowledge that is claiming an objectivity that is only really possible when giving an opinion on politics.

(Did you see that clever use of sarcasm?  Huh, huh?  See what I did there?)

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