First off I'll say I don't consider my self a romance writer, but I do write romance. Perhaps it's because I'm a hopeless romantic but I don't believe you can have a good story without writing about love.
That said I don't read too many romances. I did however browse that way and picked one up at the library the other day. It was from a well published and celebrated romance author so I figured it was safe. Boy was I wrong.
See I get the "escaping reality" mentality that surrounds this genre - people want an escape, something light and fun and has a guaranteed happy ending, I'm good with that, it's what I was looking for when I picked out the book I did. What actually bothers me about most romances is that the writers underestimate the power of love. Now hear me out - most romances are based on absurdly beautiful characters that fall madly in love and deal with the challenges of silly misunderstandings (usually making one person have to prove their undying love and like a puppy learning a trick have to prove themselves over and over to their partner), and then they take a honeymoon in paradise and live blissfully ever after with million of dollars so they can just spend all their days redecorating their house, taking more fancy vacations, and having amazing intercourse all the time...because after all, it seems like that is what their relationship is based on anyways.
When I read those I spend half of the book screaming at the characters or the author for being so stupid. They don't have real responses or emotions. They completely avoid logic and common sense. When placed in any semblance of real life they would be separated within a month, someone would be in jail, a mental institution, or having an affair, and all those bank accounts would be empty because you can't spend like that and never go to work... just doesn't happen.
The romances that I've loved are the ones who have embraced the power of love. They show the characters with all their flaws, heartaches, fears, etc. Instead of avoiding issues like betrayal of trust as a real factor in the relationships they embrace those things and delve into the complications of psyche and of life. Ultimately the two characters meet in the middle where all their strengths and weaknesses blend together as they work together to create their own paradise. That to me is what love is, it can't be one sided and it can't ignore the hardships of life.
Thoughts for you? What makes a good love story? Do you have a favorite?