After 4 years of expanding my “romance repertoire”, I’ve come to realize that my biggest book-crushes (my most intense reading experiences) involve the relationships that were not easy. Not easy for the main characters sure, but not easy for the reader, too. Obviously speaking, the author’s intent of a romantic relationship between two characters is there, yes. But there’s something about it that’s… subtle. Subconsciously, I find myself agonizing over the when? Wondering, “what if… never?”
Mind you, many of the books that we’ve enjoyed have that “hard to get” theme (and encompass a few, if not many of the qualities I’ve listed below). The push and pull (girl resists bad-boy, or bad-boy resists girl), the break-ups and make-ups. Sure! Many have given me a few nice shivers.
But there’s just something *extra* when it comes to the book-guys (and their stories) that I totally fell for. I can’t actually put my finger on what has me so deeply entrenched in some, and not so much in others, other than, I LIVE it with them. Sure the “hard to get” has to be there (if not, it’s too easy), but with my favorites, there was that extra “oomph” that made me believe it, pine for it and worry about it.
What is that oomph, exactly? I don’t exactly know.
Is it the extra detail in a simple touch, nudge, or glance (and not just straight to the *big* kiss)? Is it the laid-back exploration of the “friendship” stage. The casual bouts of flirting that gives the main character hope and then right back to the nonchalant “friend” status? I kind of (really) like it when I, as the reader through the heroine’s eyes, rightfully questions if he’s “just not that into me”. The possibility of misconstruing an interaction?
Is it the realistic internal musings that remind me of my own thoughts from back when I was dating? Seeing him carry on his interactions with other “romantic possibilities”? The tension, the struggle, the emotional heartache? Whether self-inflicted due to insecurities or for more obvious reasons, I need to relate to it.
Angsty but not overly so. Something where I can say, “Oh yes! I KNOW exactly what she/he is feeling!”, and I do it throughout. It plays out in a way that I’ve seen (or experienced) before and I connect 100%. Even if it has it’s moments of “over-the-top” (after all, this is fiction ), the reasoning behind the angst is sound. Sound enough that it doesn’t distract me from my initial connection (mind you, I’ve indulged and enjoyed some over-the-top soap-style angst, but I’ve enjoyed it on a more “spectator-level”).
Oh!! And it’s the character’s themselves. Real. The way they think, speak, interact (in front of their friends, in private, in their heads) the little nuances in each person’s individuality is there. Their personalities and the way they interact, flirt, fight… shrug each other off, cling to each other… I can see them. They’ve been carefully (and lovingly) developed. If there are some personality cliché (ie: bad boy behavior), they don’t overly distract me. Sure, there are always some clichés (after-all, they exist for a reason) but I’m not bothered by them because the characters are not caricatures of themselves. They are real.
It’s a combination of many things. And it’s pretty much… all of it.
It’s in the build-up. The author’s detail during that crucial development of her characters and their story, is as important as the potential romantic relief. And oh yes! Can’t forget that clever twist that I didn’t see coming. Or that I did see coming, and yet still managed to surprise me. There have been some twists that took me from really enjoying a book, to shocking me into “5-star-loving” the book (many thanks to those “evil genius” authors).
Speaking of surprises… I know I crave more “like” my favorites, but what makes one a standout is when it surprises me, even in it’s familiarity. Shocks me out of my “familiar” zone and has it’s own “voice” despite similar qualities. One where I don’t find myself continuously comparing it. I just find myself living it.
I have a few favorites that cinched their #1 spot for me because of the eloquent writing, the attention to detail, the depth and the beautiful (or the gritty) love story. They were allowed to develop on their own time. I also love a clever reveal. That kicker that made me spontaneous jump up from my seat, with a sudden surge of adrenaline, and set me pacing (while simultaneously reading). Now THAT will get me every time, and I can name a few right off the top of my head that had me physically reacting (all for different reasons) and had me shouting my love for them from my blog’s rooftop.
And maybe it’s even more than that? There’s just something in the writing. There’s just *something* about that book. Magic? LOL!! I dunno, but let’s just say there’s a certain magic in the author’s storytelling, and it has me wondering if it actually happened. Not just that I lived it, but that the author has. This is her story. Whether it actually is or it isn’t, I take in as such. I believe it.
So that’s what I’ve come up with.
My favorite book-crushes have burned themselves into me. Had me suddenly reading in slow motion as my mind reeled from what I was experiencing. Had me immediately re-reading a section or chapter to experience it again (or to make sure I read it right). Staying up all night because I couldn’t put them down. I was addicted. I was re-living the scenes in my dreams. They had me in a love-haze for days. Had me not wanting to pick up another book right away because there’s no way anyone could compare at that moment (unless it was another in the same series and then I was DEVOURING it to continue living in that world). My favorite book-crushes have set my book-crush bar so high, that it is rare to find another that makes the “group”.
And I’m so thankful to have experienced that kind of reading intensity. It is because of that awesome feeling (my addiction to that romance-read rush) that has me so in love with reading as a whole. Each new book I pick up has that potential. That in itself is my personal adventure. And when I come across that gem, I ride that feeling for days.
So many of you already know my favorites, but just for fun, I’ll list ‘em again, here. After-all. I’m still wholeheartedly addicted and it bears repeating.
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire <—- I’m starting to believe that Travis will forever be my #1. I’ve found a few that have made the #1 spot with him, but I guess he’s #1-plus! I dunno… there’s just something about Travis. He’s got all the “typical” bad-boy stuff but he just does it best. When he’s bad he’s totally believable. The fact that every girl wants him (and how he behaves with them)… totally believable, and when he’s emotional. GAH!!! MY HEART! Basically he is one intense guy and I felt every moment of this book.
Lying Season (Experiment in Terror #4) by Karina Halle <— another totally believable cocky, arrogant guy that is so sure of his hot-self and (don’t tell him I said this) he has every reason to be (but can be such a JERK, too!!) I love it. Another one with that “real-guy” feel (not the perfect knight in shining armor, or at least, not our typical). The attraction is there between the two (obviously) but through the heroine’s eyes, oh we were crushing on him so much harder. This was a nice case of he loves me, he loves me not. And I love it. And what made this one that much better was the slow (but wonderfully consistent) build-up of that attraction through each book in the series. Talk about a delicious potential relationship tease. The author teases us alright, book after book BUT she always gives us enough to keep it eciting, addicting and have us anciously devouring the next book, hoping to get to that next level. This is one of my all-time favorite series ever, and to have experienced it in detail, in length through the entire series (not just in one book)… to have lived it as the heroine did, each day, week, month… WHOA. Perfection. I think I almost prefer a budding crush/romance over the length of a series than just in one (well… that is… IF the series is complete or almost complete. Tee hee! Nothing worse than getting to that crucial stage, dying for more, and realizing you have to wait). GAH AGAIN!
In fact, here’s a little snippet from a conversation on Facebook about how delicious a series romantic development is (using this series as an example):
Lisa: I love the way Karina is handling the tension between the two. If they got together in book one it wouldnt be as fun as it now. I am dying for them to hook up but love books that move slowly, he makes me angry sometimes but it just adds to my love for these books. Karina is the best.
Maryse’s Book Blog: YES!! Me too, Lisa! I love the building tension from book to book. Each book explores the romantic angle a little more but teases us and leaves us pining, just like most people do when they are into someone they work with but don’t tell them right away. Angsty fun, but realistic, too.
This one feeds that need, friends, and DEX is also at my #1 spot.
Sidenote: “Urban Fantasy paranormal series” have alot of that. Romance (or romantic potential) that progresses in every book but is not the focus. Therefore, we get to experience a nice drawn out crush with moments of relief but just enough to keep us wanting more. Those were what got me hooked on reading. That desperate urge to find out if the next one was going to “finally be it”. I LOVE THAT!
- Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampire Mysteries) series by Charlaine Harris (Eric, anyone? Wow… the first half to 3/4 of that series was just fantastic for me).
- Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning – Barrons or V’lane? The triangle itself was enough to keep me going, but Barrons is the baddest of ‘em all and was impossible to pin-down. Mostly a jerk and then… The sexual tension is through the roof in this one, but OMG does the author make us work for it.
- Night Huntress Series by Jeaniene Frost – Bones. It was obvious they were into each other, and even when you think it’s finally good… OUCH! Fantastic!
Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens —> Kellan ranks right up there with Travis, for me. Totally different personality but… emotionally, the depth of his heart and his addiction to that one girl, addicted me. He’d sacrifice anything and everything for her. When he loves, he loves INTENSELY. When he hurts he lashes out, attempting to find solace in his old “player” ways. OUCH!!! But!! OMG he’s just sooooooo … amazing. Practically perfect overall. This is an example of one that could get over-the-top angsty, but totally worked. It was so well done that I didn’t care that it drove me crazy. The author took her time with this one and I could tell. This was about exploring the buildup (perfect!!) every emotion (perfect!), every subtle touch (perfect), every intense connection (OMG SO PERFECT!!). I was HOOKED from start to finish.
- Slammed (gasped in delighted shock at a certain reveal, and it also made me cry uncontrollably)
- The Sea Of Tranquility (was emotionally addicting, darker… and also made me smile like crazy and gasp at the beauty of it as a whole)
- The Edge of Never (swooned, smiled like crazy and sobbed even worse – full body tremors!)
- Lying Season (had me swooning, shocked and furious – I got up and started pacing)
- Flat-Out Love (exciting reveal! Had a physical a-ha!! moment while I was brushing my teeth and had me jump out of my seat with the reveal)
- Hopeless (I saw stuff coming and it still managed to surprise me. GASPED at how clever I was for figuring it out, and gasped again when I realized I hadn’t guessed the extent of it)
- The Host (sobbed like crazy, took a funny movie break, and sobbed like crazy again when I picked it back up. I was in physical pain for a portion of it.)