One of the reader discussion groups at this year's RomantiCon convention was "Recipe for Success", hosted by authors Fran Lee and Amber Skyze. They solicited reader opinions on "the most important ingredients for a breathtaking, satisfying romance" (with emphasis on erotic romance).
As always, there was wide diversity of opinions, but consistency in basic areas.
The five most important elements in a good romance:
- Hot, delicious sex
- Strong romance
- Believable plot/conflict
- Strong, engaging (and enjoyable) characters
Humor was appreciated.
About half stated that sweetly poignant moments were essential to their enjoyment of a novel.
Plots were expected to be unique, not simply makeovers of overused situations and reworked “same-old, same-old”, and have believable world building.
Many stated that the author's voice was important.
Sensual content: Two-thirds of the participants stated that they liked to see a delicious, hot buildup of tension between the H/H. About half stated that instant hot sex was good, but most of these also liked “slow buildup”. The general consensus was that the sex must be hot and intense when it did occur, but that slow and seductive was appreciated as well. Most participants made it clear that the sex must fit the story. No one wanted gratuitous sex just tossed in. The sex had to be part and parcel of the plot, and be steamy. One said “must be breathtaking and memorable”.
Heroes: The overwhelming majority wanted alpha heroes who were strong and tough. Roughly half added “flawed” and “bad boy”. A few added “tortured” or “smart”.
Heroines: Saucy and sexy. About half liked heroines who exhibited tomboy tendencies, were wicked, strong, and/or flawed. About one-fourth liked their heroines to be ultra-feminine. A few participants added “smart”, “smart and independent”, “witty…keeps hero on his toes” and “tortured”.
Genres: When presented with a list and asked to indicate all their preferences, almost all marked Contemporary. Over half also chose Paranormal, Vampire, Shifter, historical, BDSM, Erotic, GLBT, Cougar, Ménage, or “all of the above”. Erotic, Cougar, and Ménage were most notably chosen. Sci-fi/fantasy was included in about one-third of the responses.
Book length: A majority of participants preferred novellas or short novels, but about half said they also enjoyed full length novels.
When asked what made the participant re-read the same book over, most responded that they liked to go back and re-read the good parts, memorable sex scenes, or the hilariously funny parts. They liked to re-read the places where the characters began to build their relationships, and a good percentage liked to go back to the scenes that really “touched” them.
One person stated that she found that each new reading revealed even more than she had found in the prior reading. One person stated that she almost never re-read a book, but that she does search for more by the same author if she liked the book.
As Fran said afterwards, "The responses were gratifying in that every single participant reinforced our impression of the deep sense of individuality in our readers. We found that our readers (and the participating reviewers and authors) are discerning and share a taste for high-quality books that leave them emotionally moved. Not willing to sit back and simply accept what is offered out there, they were most willing to step up and tell us what they wanted."