Most of us have the usual suspects when it comes to our romance (and other) reading. We have our favorite subgenres, authors, settings, tropes, etc. Usually, that’s fine, even great. Then there are the other times, when eyes wander, and attention turns. Sometimes, mama (or papa) wants a little strange….
Normally, we know what we like. Maybe the word, “billionaire,” will turn our head whenever it appears on a cover. Maybe it’s something else, like “duke,” or “vampire,” or an element of cover art. full moon, maybe, a rearing horse, a swath of plaid. Maybe it’s a cover model, or a particular category line. Maybe it’s a character name. Maybe it’s a certain style of cover art. Whatever it is, we know that, when we see that particular element on the cover of a book, no matter what else it contains, we are probably going to like it, because of that one thing. So, we get the book, we read the book, we probably like the book, maybe even love it, and either put it on the keeper shelf, or pass t along to like minded friends.
There is a certain amount of comfort, even stability, in knowing what we like, knowing where to find it, and how to keep an eye open for when we might spot it in the wild. That’s the thing about the wild, though. Anything can happen out there, and anything can be a gateway into trying something new. Maybe it’s a shiny new cover on library or bookstore shelf, or the glimpse of that same image on a book review website, or, maybe, it’s something a bit more…pedestrian.
There we ae, going about our daily lives, not even thinking about other peoples’ reading habits (though let’s be honest, we can’t help noticing when someone has a book, even more if it’s something that ticks our boxes) but then…something happens. Sometimes, it’s visual. We see the cover, we note the title, and something piques our interest. Sometimes, it’s verbal. A friend or family member mentions a book they’ve read, or are reading, and that starts a flicker of interest in us.
Maybe it’s only that a usually reticent friend is actually talking about a book, period. Maybe they’re not the biggest reader, but there’s something special about this book, and their interest becomes our interest. Maybe this is the umpteenth book of whatever sort that they’ve been reading lately, and that pattern is kind of intriguing. What do they like this much about this author, this genre, this setting? Maybe they’ve never read a book like this. Maybe they never, ever read paranormal, but now they’re all about shifters or ghosts (or ghost shifters?) or a diehard contemporary fan is reading historical. An inspirational devotee is suddenly into erotic romance, or vice versa. Maybe you can’t figure it out in discussion, or turning it around your own mind, but open the pages and get some first hand experience? Ohhhh, that’s the deal.
Maybe it’s something that you never thought could be combined. Amish vampires? An LGBT romance with a strong inspirational thread? Yep, these exist, and countless other combinations as well. Historical period to historical period time travel? It’s not the most common thing in romancelandia, but it’s out there, and it’s the rare reader who isn’t going to be at least a little curious about how two great tastes taste, when combined. Sometimes, it’s as delicious as chocolate and peanut butter, and other times, well, it’s like stuffing a baked potato with cotton candy, but at least you can say you’ve tried. Who knows, maybe Highland vampires might become a new favorite, and make one wonder why this isn’t a bigger sort of thing.
Sometimes, the curiosity comes from the general buzz of the internet, or fellow readers in real life. New book comes out, everybody’s talking about it. A little curiosity is only normal. However many thousands of readers can’t be wrong, can they? Sometimes, yes, they can, but, more often, there is some element of what appeals to such a wide variety of readers, that it can give a hint as to what’s causing the frenzy. It could also explain the scorn, as there are always those books that everybody seems to hate, and can they really be that bad? Sometimes, yes, but other times? Other times, they’re not bad, only misunderstood, and, on further exploration? Hooboy, there is some good stuff getting a bad rap. No way to tell without actually trying, but that’s part of the fun.
Nobody can read everything. That’s probably not even logically possible, but most of us, while we do have our favorites, also have assorted feelers set out for what might end up being our next all time favorite. Like a small child is wont to pick up anything they see and pop it in their mouths, there’s a sense of wonder and excitement involved in sticking a toe outside the norm. If we don’t like it, we never have to read it again, but taking that first taste? Super hard to resist.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you ever get a craving for romance novels that fall outside of your usual tastes? Are you a dedicated contemporary reader who gets a sudden urge for knights and ladies, or werewolves and vamps? Do you pride yourself on staying up to date with new releases, except for that one time when nothing but vintage Harlequins would do? Pull up a chair in the comments section and tell us allllll about it. There’s room mat this table for everybody.