Why romance novels need likeable characters

I was talking the other day to my mom (the one that reads real books) about the latest novel I have read* and why the book frustrated me: Because of the heroine. She then asked me why it would be important to like the heroine. In most of her books some of the main characters are not likeable at all. This is a good point actually.

When it comes to literature it is sometimes not important that the main characters are just bad, ignorant, stupid, selfish … you name it. Sometimes it is even intended. However, when it comes to romance it is of the utmost importance that the reader can connect and likes the heroine and the hero. True, romance novels vary a lot. They can be full character studies, they can be a (more or less) reliable history lesson, they can take you away to parallel universes full of demons, vampires and – since Karen Marie Moning – even hot male elves**. The plot can be full of suspense or a deadpan, useless one. But what all these books have in common or should at least try to achieve is a decent hero and heroine in order to build up a decent romance story between them. This is why we read it after all. Well at least I do: I want to have my first crush with them, I want to be disappointed by them, I want to sigh with them, I want to laugh with them, I want to cry with them and I want them to live happily ever after.

Mom, if you are reading this – read romance reviews! In every single one of them at least a couple of sentences are dedicated to the characters and whether they are likeable or not. Furthermore, most of these reviewers come to the conclusion if they didn’t like the characters they didn’t like the book. Heck, if I do not like the heroine no way I am going to finish reading a book where she gets the hot guy. The same goes for the hero. If he is a douchebag naaah why spend time with him and watch (read) him treating the heroine in a bad way in order to end up with her anyway?

This is romance! This is pink ponies for the grown-ups! Give us likeable main characters. Make it bittersweet, put in drama and make it cheesy. It is okay if they have suffered some hardship and if they are a bit weird because of that, it is ok if some of their actions are not understandable, but please let them be at least a bit likeable.

* Arrow – review coming soon
** I didn’t believe the latter one was possible either before I read her books

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