Catriona wrote in the Heyer/Grand Sophy thread:
Sarah, can we do a thread on romances that we want to love, we should have loved, everybody else loves them…but that we can’t stand because something just left a bad taste in our mouths?
I like this idea for two reasons. No, three. First, we’ve done it before. But let’s do a new one. It’s been years.
Second: not enjoying a book that it seems like everyone loved or enjoyed can be an isolating experience, but as I’ve learned on the internet, you’re never alone in your likes and dislikes, no matter how outlandish they might seem. 0_o
And third: everyone’s buttons are different (woo, kinky!). What ticks me off may not bother you in the slightest, and vice versa. For example, and I’ve used this example before: there are many who are intensely bothered by historical inaccuracies in romances. I am not one of these people. The Duke can in fact drive a Porsche to Almack’s, and I’m fine with it. Whatever.
My hot button is stilted, unrealistic and awkward dialogue. If characters, like, for example, the Duke of Porsche, say things that real human beings wouldn’t say, and use cliches to the point that they don’t sound like actual people, I get really annoyed. Yanks me right out of the story and into Land of Crankypants. But the Porsche? Meh. Whatever.
I am not alone in that preference, but I do think that among romance readers, especially historical romance fans, I’m in the minority. And this is not to insult any author who busts her ass doing the research. Go on with your bad self – and your Porsche.
Catriona’s example is a bit more specific:
My example is As You Desire by Connie Brockway. Everybody is in love with this book and it always appears on people’s top romances list. I should love it – I enjoyed Brockway’s other books, I’m crazy about Egypt and archaeology and I love romances that are supposed to be funny and witty. It had everything going for it.
But I’m telling you, this book is like my own personal berserk button. To this day, I still can’t think about it or hear somebody sing its praises without my blood pressure spiking. My issue is with the way the author set up an “older” woman (I think she was in her early 30’s) to be the younger heroine’s foil. Basically, the older woman was rejected by the hero and pretty much every male in the book because she wasn’t as “perfect” as the seemingly smarter, blonder, younger heroine. I would expect this kind of ageism/blondeism in a book from the 1970’s, but this book was from 1997! This passage in particular, in which Marta, the other woman, sees the heroine at a restaurant, encompasses everything that bothers me about this book:
“I say,” Lord Ravenscroft suddenly breathed, “Now, there is a treasure worth coveting. Have you ever seen such a piece of tiny, golden perfection?”
…Marta followed the direction of everyone’s gaze to where Miss Carlisle’s progress through the room was marked by a wave of men scurrying to their feet as she passed.
To blatantly steal a phrase from you, Sarah: OH COME ON NOW AND I MEAN IT! Is this supposed to be a parody? Because it fails if it is. I ended up feeling whole lot more sympathy for Marta, while I wanted to bury Desdemona Carlisle headfirst in the sand. Normally the perfect, blonde, child prodigy, men-literally-fall-at-her-feet woman is the RIVAL, not the heroine.
Maybe I’m letting this bother me way too much…. But somewhere deep down, it grates on me that the heroine has to be this drop-dead gorgeous, “oh save me” frail young creature. I often wonder why people loved this book so much when I, who was much closer to Desdemona’s age when I read it, was so bothered by the discrimination against the older, more experienced, more capable other woman.
I got to wondering, is this just a case of me finding it difficult to relate to the heroine, and seeing myself as a rival to her to the hero? Nah, I thought Harry was an idiot too. His famous “you are my Egypt” speech just made me cringe. I would’ve heaved if anyone said anything so ridiculous to me, but apparently a lot of readers disagree judging by the links out there:
I fully expect the pitchforks and torches to come after me on this one, but bring it! Catriona “Encyclopedia Hittanica” is ready!
Ok, I’m about to come off even more objectionably: I have never read this book, but now I’m so very curious.
So, what’s your book that everyone adored, but you couldn’t enjoy it? You certainly don’t have to limit your example or response to this one. No shame and no shaming, please! Bring on your least liked books that made you feel the most isolated in your lack of enjoyment.