1. When reading romance, I want a good emotional connection between my MCs. I have no interest in an aloof, emotionless hero. If he is not actively overcome by his love for the heroine, I’m not interested. (Same goes for f/f or m/m romances; I want to feel the emotions from the start!)
I also want strong female characters. I love Karen Marie Moning’s books because all of her heroines are smart, educated, and competent. Many of them have advanced degrees or something similar that makes them powerful in their own respects. I do not want a weak damsel in distress, but rather a lady who can kick ass.
2. I have read contemporary, historical, paranormal, and science fiction romances. In my reading experience, science fiction has not worked as well as the others, mostly because of the necessity of too much world building. They might be great stories, but a good story with some romance does not make it a romance novel. As I mentioned above, I love Karen Marie Moning’s books, which are definitely romance, but which have a continuing thread of magic and lore throughout the novels.
3. I don’t think I have a specific preference for motifs. I think that each of them has ways to be interesting and complicated enough to make a good story. As Sarah writes in the Week 1 document, I’m not especially intrigued by soul mates or by a secret baby. I also don’t really like the “powerful man/powerless woman” trope, because, as I said above, I like a heroine who can kick ass without a man’s power to boost her up.
4. One way to twist dynamics in romance is to give women more power in stories, as I discussed above. You can have the alpha male without a powerless woman, and I think writers like Karen Marie Moning and Tiffany Reisz do a good job with this.
I also think writers can twist the powerless woman trope by not having all of the heroines be virgins. While I really like her books, Karen Marie Moning’s heroines are all virgins, and her relationships all have an element of “I am the only man you have known; I have claimed you as my own forever.” I don’t like the romanticisation of virginity, and I like novels that allow women to both have a sexual past AND find new, powerful love.