A Rant about Finicky MM Readers
This will probably get me in trouble, but I need to get it off my chest. I've been reading The Palisade (Lavender Shores #1) by Rosalind Abel. It's quite good. It's predictable in the best way possible (like, I just know that's going to happen, and I can't wait to see how they react).
Now, I'm not going to defend every single thing Rosalind does, and I'm sure she would do some things differently if she were to rewrite it after all this time and all the experience of writing a bunch of other books. So it's not perfect. That's not the point of this post.
I also get that everyone likes different things. People will attribute their likes/dislikes to various elements of a book without really knowing if those elements are the true causes. It's sometimes just hard to tell what worked, and what didn't work, if you haven't seriously studied the craft of writing.
(There's a wise saying any author should keep in mind: if a reader tells you the book didn't work for them, they're right; if they tell you why it didn't work, they're wrong.)
That being said, I just needed to rant about a few things I see a lot in romance reviews.
Let's start with sex. Sex is weird. It's performative. People are into the weirdest stuff that you'd never guess, even if you're their best friend. They say the darnedest things before climaxing. Trust me. I've seen it all.
So when I see a review saying the dialogue during sex wasn't in character, my first thought is: EXCUSE ME? You think you know how someone will act in bed because you've read about them for 50 pages? Both characters in The Palisade were pretty stereotypically macho, so "come for your man" is not out of character during sex. And even if it was, who are you to judge?
Second, readers need to get over their "no drama," "no angst," "no lies," "no secrets," "no miscommunication," etc. If it's a comedy, miscommunication is how humor is set up. If it's a straightforward romance, miscommunication is how tension is built.
Why are you even reading romance if you want none of the elements of a romance? Part of a romance novel is feeling like the characters won't end up together even though you know they will. All those things you think you don't want are the elements of the story that drive the plot forward.
I have no idea what the perfect romance would look like to these people. If you got rid of these elements, it would be two characters who meet and then endlessly gaze into each other's eyes lovingly and perfectly communicate their every thought for 200 pages until the story ended exactly where it began. Because how can growth or realizing their love or anything even happen if you can't include any of those elements?
People make "poor decisions." Get over it. To say the character wasn't acting "like a grown man" is ridiculous. Now grown men aren't allowed to make poor decisions? Especially when those poor decisions are clearly done in the interest of the plot for entertainment value?
Third, romance novels aren't realistic on purpose. So to include "it wasn't realistic" in your review as if that's a negative trait makes no sense. Of course the perfect small town they're in doesn't exist. We read romance to escape to these idyllic locations. Of course the setup was unrealistic. The whole point of romance novels is to have a fun little puzzle, where all the pieces come together.
No one wants a realistic romance novel. It would look like an episode of Girls. If you're looking for realistic, there are a million works of literary fiction out there for your consumption. Don't pick up a romance novel. The whole point is to be a fantasy to escape reality.
And to tie it all up, you can't have it both ways. If you want realistic and then complain about character inconsistencies, you're being hypocritical. Real life people are complicated and inconsistent. If you're a woman complaining about realism in an mm sex scene, well, how would you know what's realistic? (I know, cheap shot, but so is writing that in a review).
I'll reiterate that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and if you didn't like something, feel free to try to spell it out in a review. I have no problem with that (I've actually incorporated quite a bit of criticism from negative reviews into my own writing, and I think it has made me better).
But for goodness sake, I think some people are way too finicky and have set up standards that are impossible (and undesirable) to meet.