Book Burnout

One author used tags for every single line of dialogue. Every. Single. Line.

Another put commas in the strangest places. Like between the words “fuck” and “you”.

A third actually used a copy editor (thank you!), but forgot to turn Track Changes off, so the book still had all the strike throughs and additions.

A fourth didn’t use a copy editor and misused words (why on earth would you want to dangle vicariously from some goalposts?)

And don’t get me started on the heroes and heroines. So many bad boys with hearts of gold, who’ll change only for the heroine, and heroines who are good girls but with secret rebellious sides. Oh, and he’s always got an amazing dick and knows how to use it. Can’t be having bad sex now, can we?

Maybe I should have started off this post by saying I’m about to rant, but…well, I’m ranting.

I am tired, oh so very tired, of what I’m seeing in romance these days, especially among self-published titles. Authors who can’t be bothered to use a copy editor. Authors who insist on putting out the same story everyone else is writing, “but there’s a twist!” Romances that end on cliffhangers. I’m too much of a romance traditionalist to get behind this trend. If it’s a romance, there’s a happy ever after or a happy for now – your characters are together at the end, and the reader has some certainty they’ll remain that way.

A few weeks ago, I received an indie title for review, and it just pushed me over the edge. The story felt so familiar that I ended up skimming most of it because, oh, wait, I know what happens, because the author used the bad boy with the heart of gold and the good girl with the secret bad side and they had mind-blowing sex set up. It was the first time in memory I couldn’t bring myself to write a negative review because it wouldn’t have been fair to the author – I was too focused on all the frickin’ sameness to point out what it was about that particular story that wasn’t good.

Motorcycle club books. Fighter books. I’m-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-law books. Alphaholes and feisty heroines galore. Stepbrother books. And I have to say, I’m quite disappointed that trend is creeping into traditional publishing, too.

I. Am. Tired. Tired of this shit.

I want different. I want beta heroes. I want ordinary people doing ordinary things and getting themselves into the everyday hard patches and working through them. No more billionaires, domineering heroes passed off as protective, or crushingly tragic pasts that need to be kept secret. I’m done.

There are always exceptions to rules – if Karina Halle writes a wrong-side-of-the-law book, you bet I’ll give it a shot, because she knows how to write them *cough cough Javier cough cough*. Susan Franetti’s Signal Bend series has been a welcome respite from all the other MC books out there. I actually didn’t mind the cliffhanger in Leisa Rayven’s Bad Romeo because it made sense for the heroine’s character arc. Lilah Pace’s Asking For It pushed my boundaries and made me think, not doing it simply for shock value or because it was what everyone else was doing.

Hell, I’ve been guilty of doing some of these same things myself – Declan’s a domineering asshole, Nick (of the upcoming Game of Shadows trilogy) is a Mob guy. You could probably describe almost all of my heroines as feisty (actually, I’m okay with the feisty heroines. So those can stay. Though I’d really like to see the heroes stop admiring that about them and just accept it as the status quo).

This weekend I went through the samples I had on my Kindle. There were eighteen in all. Two were eliminated right away due to lack of copy editing. Two others went buh-bye because their stories were almost identical…and neither grabbed my attention. Two more were different, I’ll give them that, but still failed to engage me. A couple others I left to re-read later, including one from an author I’ve read before and enjoyed (but there was something about this one that bugged me). Of the remaining samples, I bought six and put two on hold at the library, one of which I would have bought had the library not just purchased copies, the other because it had a similar premise to two that I’d dumped, but hey, I could read this one for free.

Six might seem like a lot, but of those six, only two were self-published (Cocky Bastard by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland and All For You by Laura Florand). Of the original eighteen samples, over half were self-published. To me, that’s a not-so-good sign about the state of indie romance these days.

Or maybe I’m just reading the wrong books. Maybe I’m getting drawn in by the pretty covers and the blurbs that kinda sorta tell me what the book’s about but in the end it doesn’t quite match up. I’m branching out – two of those six were m/m and O.M.G. am I looking forward to them – but maybe I’m not branching out enough?

Or maybe I just need a break from reading romance because I’ve worked myself into such a negative state that it doesn’t matter what romance I read, I’m still going to find something wrong with it.

Yeah, that might be it.

In the meantime, I’ll take recs for beta heroes and everyday people facing everyday problems.

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