A lot of my discussion posts happen to be based on current trends in my reading or trends I’m noticing throughout the blogosphere and lately I’ve been having issues with fantasy and dystopian books. Don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE them. I appreciate the action, adventure, and world building that they provide and they will always hold a special place in my heart, but I’ve been wondering if lately we as readers are being marketed books based off of their romances instead of the foundations of the stories themselves.
I love a good romance in ANY book. Of course I’m expecting (and hoping!) to see a good romance in most of the books that I read and I think romances add a great depth to any given book in any given genre. I tend to learn a lot about a character by who they choose as a love interest and how the two interact. My issue lately is that I feel like romance is taking over the non-contemporary reads. I love a good contemporary romance and hello, it says it right there — contemporary romance. I fully expect (and want) the romance to be one of the major plot points in those books… But I’ve been through a string of books lately that could have very easily been five star books, except for the fact that the romance seemed to take over the story, pushing a lot of the world building to the back burner. Then the world building didn’t reappear much until the latter half of the book when it was needed for plot twists or reveals or the history of a specific character. I know this is my personal reading preference, but for me? I need a lot of that world building up front. When I start a fantasy, sci-fi, or dystopian, I’m entering a totally new world. I don’t know the history of it. I don’t know the people. I don’t know the culture or the traditions and may not even know the language, and all of those things are really important to me in order to be immediately captivated by this new experience and this interesting place which admittedly, I’m always eager to explore.
Of course, I don’t need ALL of the world building right away. There’s a fine line between establishing a world and explaining as the book goes along and infodumping. I’m no author so I can’t say exactly how hard it is to toe that line because I haven’t attempted to do it. (Actually, I made one sad attempt during NaNoWriMo of 2012 and I wrote myself into a corner with both plot and world building so I’m gonna say, it’s pretty hard!) I guess what I’m saying is, I feel like a romance should be interspersed throughout the story. It should grow from beginning to end, whether that relationship was previously established or two characters are meeting for the first time. I don’t like when the heroine (as it’s usually a female in the books I’ve read) gets so overwhelmed with her current relationship issues (whatever they may be) that all of these amazing details about this new world that the author has created take a backseat. I always appreciate when an author is so skilled to mix in world building, plot, suspense, romance, and character development all in one and I honestly don’t know how they do it because it’s incredibly amazing when it all meshes so perfectly!
Part of it makes me wonder… Am I noticing this because it’s intentional? Is the market swinging toward heavier romance subplots (or in this case, becoming a main plot)? Are authors being swayed by editors and publishers and other industry professionals to amp up the romance? Or is this just a totally random thing happen to pick up with my recent reads?
Now, I know we all have different reading tastes and obviously that’s a good thing! Some of those books I ended up rating completely differently than I might have had the romance aspect not taken over the plot and dwarfed the world building. Is that a personal preference? Absolutely. But I’m also wondering if this is something that anyone else has noticed too. Those same books that I ended up rating lower because I felt so overwhelmed by the romance and underwhelmed by the world building, others really loved. I always feel like I’m missing something when that happens, but I can’t help but feel like the book had so much potential and I was just too blinded by this love interest and the drama that surrounded it that so many other things just got lost.
Obviously I can’t agree with everyone on every book — and frankly, that would be boring! — but I have to ask if anyone else has been feeling like they’re drowning in romantic drama lately. Are we (Readers? Authors? Editors? Publishers?) putting a larger emphasis on the romances in the books that we’re reading nowadays? Or is it just something that I’m feeling personally because I’m someone who is obsessed with world-building?